The Atlantic

The Left Needs a Language Potent Enough to Counter Trump

The president’s rhetoric is dangerously populist in nature, and the left doesn’t know how to fight it.
Source: Bryan Woolston / Reuters

This article was updated on August 18, 2019 at 3:08 pm.

Perhaps it isn’t possible to establish a direct connection between the El Paso massacre and the president. Anticipating that Donald Trump would be held responsible, the killer insisted in an online rant that his own white-supremacist views predated the 2016 election, and that blaming the president would be “fake news.” Perhaps the killer’s denunciations of a “Hispanic invasion” and of Democratic politicians using “open borders” to achieve political power resembled the president’s language by sheer coincidence. Perhaps the killer’s retweets and shares of Trump’s Twitter posts can’t be laid at the president’s feet.

Terrorism in America isn’t state-sponsored, and Trump isn’t the kind of strongman who orders his followers to commit acts of violence. He’s like a boy who starts tossing matches near a gasoline spill to see what happens. He rouses ugly emotions and lets the chips fall, in the belief that he’ll come out on top. At a rally in the Florida Panhandle he raised the specter of the Border Patrol turning violence against migrants: “We can’t let them use weapons … I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

Having set the image loose, Trump could only smile

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