When Donald Trump threatened the life of senate minority leader Mitch McConnell last Friday (and yes, that’s EXACTLY what he did), Trump was using his baffling yet considerable power to persuade. Trump was calling upon his gang of fanatics to murder McConnell — and he knew it.
Trump wrote in his failing social media platform “Truth” Social that “He (McConnell) has a DEATH WISH.” When he wrote those words Trump knew that it was just enough to get the message across without actually saying it. People responded to it pretty much the way he wanted them to and, the fact that he never printed a retraction, proves that the message was received exactly as he intended.
As shocking as it may sound, Donald Trump wants certain people dead. So he takes terrible risks with their lives and stands back to see what will happen. Sometimes what happens is one of his fanatical followers will try to murder someone on his behalf, like when Ricky Shiffer, 42, attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati with an AR-15-style rifle and a nailgun after Trump publicly disparaged the FBI for serving him with a search warrant. Trump is okay with that. In fact he loves it.
We know this is true because of what almost happened to Mike Pence during the January 6 insurrection. During the rioting Trump tweeted disparaging comments about Pence when the Vice President refused to use his position to try to decertify the 2020 presidential election. Trump was glad and he said so when the mob of MAGA crazies threatened to hang Pence. He said that Pence deserved to be hanged.
For some reason, Donald Trump can get ordinary people and certain Republican politicians to destroy their lives and reputations in his service. Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Lindsey Graham and Kellyanne Conway all had fairly ordinary reputations before Donald Trump came along. They have forever linked themselves to him and his toxic cult. Their reputations rise and fall with his reputation and they don’t seem to mind that sooner or later Trump betrays everyone who follows him. That devotion is useful to Trump. He uses it to, among other things, threaten people with death.
This bizarre power that Trump has over other people baffles normal people like you and me. We see him the way he really is, the way most Germans saw Hitler. Many Germans followed Hitler willingly and many more were too terrified of him to pretend not to follow him, but the net effect was he had a powerful hold over them and it was deeply puzzling. Much like Trump’s hold over so many Americans.
So remember, when Donald Trump appears to be threatening the lives of people, as he does from time to time, it’s exactly what he’s trying to do. It’s not an unfortunate turn of phrase or a misunderstood allusion. Trump really does want them dead, and he’s aware that, even if they aren’t murdered, his words will have a chilling effect on them and others and they will be less likely to criticise him.
You can bet there’s some, drooling, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging MAGA cretin out there who, when he read that Trump said McConnell has a DEATH WISH, his eyes went glassy and his jaw went slack and he said “Yes, Master!” It’s a power Trump has over the weak-minded, and it’s time we acknowledge it and call it what it is. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.