The numbers have lately taken a turn in a Blue direction: Trump approval numbers, down; chances of a Democratic House majority, up. It seems this past week’s news of hate and violence has moved opinion against Trump and his complicit Trump Party.
The moveable part of public opinion, it seems, has grasped something that some in the pundit class have lately struggled with concerning Trump’s “responsibility” for the actions of some unbalanced people on the angry right.
Excellent MSNBC hosts have acted like the good, fair-minded liberals they are in bending over backwards to declare that, of course, only the perpetrators of violence are responsible for their actions.
Which is an entirely unnecessary caveat: responsibility is not something that ever needs to be wholly apportioned. It’s not an all-or-nothing matter. The whole idea of “incitement” as a crime shows a rather basic truth about human events: each one is the product of many factors, and responsibility for destructive actions can be shared by many.
Causality need not be visible to be inferred in terms of probability and foreseeability.
Here’s a metaphor for Trump’s relationship to the pipe bombs sent to a dozen or more Trump himself has targeted, and the mass-killing of Jews in the Pittsburgh synagogue.
Mold spores are always around. If the weather is dry, they remain merely latent. But if the humidity gets high enough long enough, suddenly those mold spores will break out in florid fashion. (I lately returned home from a trip to discover to my alarm just how true that is!)
Likewise with the bigotry and hatred that are always present, at least in dormant fashion, in the American body politic. When the political climate is healthy, that hatred breaks out into violent action only seldom. But if the political climate changes into a kind that encourages the growth and expression of hatred, then the spores of bigotry, xenophobia, and hatred-driven violence are far more likely to break out into expression and action.
And so it has been since Trump’s voice has dominated our political discourse: hate crimes have increased significantly across the board.
It might look like bad luck for Trump and his allies that these most dramatic and troubling hate crimes — assassination attempts by pipe-bomb directed a former presidents and other prominent Trump opponents, the slaughter by automatic weapons of elderly Jews innocently practicing their faith — should take place at a time immediately leading up to an especially crucial mid-term election.
But it’s not. It’s karma all the way.
This period is not only a time when big elections — largely a referendum on Trump — are looming. It’s also a time when Trump has upped the amplitude of his hate-mongering as a deliberate strategy to gin up his base for that election.
He really has nothing else to offer now, what with his other campaign winners like “Only I can …” make things right, improve your lives, make America great again, having lost credibility when so little has been accomplished for the people in two years of the Trump Party controlling all the major levers of American government.
So Trump turned up the “humidity” in the environment for the spores of hatred, centering his attempts to rouse his base with hate-filled lies about the Caravan of desperate people heading this way from Central America. (See my piece, “Don’t Choose Hatred” from last week.)
Trump might have preferred that the hatred stay contained in the hearts of his designated voters, rather than spill out into dramatic crimes that would upset many Americans (and expose the spirit behind Trump’s politics– “by their fruits you shall know them”).
But this is what happens when one plays with fire. Such passions of hatred and war can break out of control.
This is what happens when one makes a bargain with the Devil. The work of evil will advance, while the goals of the one who made the bargain might be defeated by the very brokenness he has summoned forth.
This is how karma works.
If the American people can hang onto this dawning realization — Trump’s whole political currency is about division, hatred, conflict, breaking things — for one more week, a Blue Wave will be Trump’s deserved punishment for his toxic politics.