Trump’s rhetoric of hate

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There is nothing original about Donald Trump, least of all his rhetoric of hate. Nor is there anything original about his followers who feed on it. Invective can be addictive. Its narcotic appeal has antecedents in both history and literature.

Hitler used it in his speeches. They began quietly, then slowly built to a shouting crescendo of offended outrage. Those in his many audiences described the effect as “electrifying” or “mesmerising.” Orwell used the “Two Minutes Hate” in his novel, “1984.” The Two Minutes Hate is a period set aside each day for office workers and party functionaries to vent their repressed, existential rage, animated by the screeching noises and provocative images on the telescreen.

In short, resentment, outrage, the primitive need to punish, all can be encouraged and even manufactured for popular consumption and used to manipulate the masses. Anger is for sale to any willing buyer, and the more they get the more they want.

Some people enjoy being in a perpetually pissed-off state. It’s a condition I don’t share but have observed. It’s an odd but common sociological phenomenon that some people love to hate. Is it therefore any wonder that people who love hatred now wear red hats? These days hatred is hat-red.

Trump’s obsession with hate isn’t feigned. People who know him affirm that hatred and the vengeance his hatred engenders has alway been a daily feature of his life. Richard Branson tells the story of a long-ago luncheon, long before the 2016 election, where Trump spent the entire occasion ranting about how he would take vengeance on some people who refused to lend him money. Branson’s several attempts to change the topic came to nothing. Trump would not be distracted. He was monomaniacal.

Trump discovered that his raging antipathies were popular with Republican crowds. Republicans have long been conditioned to hate by their own party and Fox News. Trump’s rhetoric of hate is catnip for people for whom hate comes naturally, and it’s little wonder that the Republican Party has long been the party of choice for such people.

Because hatred isn’t rational, it’s easy to sustain with lies so transparent that a child could see through them. While the rest of the world saw Joe Biden’s recent 68 minute State of the Union address as a triumphant miracle, Trump declared it the worst SOTU in American history, and his slavering cult believed him. When historians called Trump the worst president in history and Biden one of the best, Trump proclaimed himself one of the best presidents and Biden the worst, and his slavering cult believed him.

Putting it technically, hatred is the stuff of the reptilian, primitive parts of the brain, the brain stem, the limbic region and the amygdala. Rational thought belongs to the frontal lobes, where hatred is tempered by reason and the higher functions including anger management.

People who think with their reptilian brains are susceptible to cults, to conspiracy theories, to rallies, to slogans, to simplistic us-or-them formulas. People who tend to think with the calmer, rational parts of their brains tend to be independent. They arrive at similar conclusions without recourse to rallies and the mentality of the mob.

If elections were decided by the majority then our work would be done. Joe Biden would win in November by a landslide because, thankfully, people addicted to hate and who love Trump on that account remain a distinct minority. But because the election will almost certainly be decided by a potentially thin margin in a handful of battleground states, our path to victory is not so assured.

The three Great Lakes states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the three Southern/Sunbelt states of Arizona, Georgia and Nevada are the battleground states most likely to pick the next president of the United States. If you are voting in any of these states, your duty to the survival of American democracy and its role against climate change is critical.

I believe we will win. Trump has offended too many people. The effective repeal of Roe v Wade, Mike Pence’s recent announcement that he will not endorse Trump, Trump’s 88 extant felony charges and the disastrous Republican Congress has had a huge negative impact on many Republicans. Independents and a large contingent of Republican voters have already indicated they will vote for Biden. Trump’s prospects look worse than they did in 2020.

But given the enormous stakes this is no time for complacency. No matter how slim Trump’s chances may be, they will always be too large under the circumstances. Dark forces are at work on his behalf and we must remain circumspect.

I will be casting my vote in the last state in which I lived, Pennsylvania, a battleground state. Everyone I know in Pennsylvania will be receiving emails from me encouraging them to get out and vote for Joe Biden in November. My financial contributions will all go to Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party. I will do everything humanly possible within my capacity to see to it that Joe Biden carries my state.

I encourage you all to do the same, because it’s too late for rational argument to reach those who think with their primitive, reptilian brains. It’s too late for those who are spellbound by Trump’s rhetoric of hate. It’s now time to mobilise the rest of us, the ones who think rationally. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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