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Columnists

What You See and Hear Is What You Get

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.”

Maya Angelou died before Donald Trump came down that escalator to announce his poisonous agenda as a Republican candidate for president. She died before he was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States and became a threat to democracy. And she died before the January 6th insurrection, when that threat became a reality.

But her words were prescient, and they have never been more true, more relevant, and more critical than they are today.

A good friend has observed that we can’t blame trump for what he’s done to America. He has told us every step of the way, and in those instances, he has – ironically – told the truth. Rather, we should focus our attention on his followers – those who listen to the lies, the threats, the bullying, the alternative facts, the endless, shameless braggadocio – and support him nonetheless.

Where are the evangelicals when he compares himself to Jesus?

Where is Tim Scott when he compares his legal woes to the centuries of lynchings, Jim Crow, and wrongful incarcerations that African Americans have endured?

Where are the women when he is found guilty of sexual assault but insists he’s innocent because “she’s not my type,” when he prides himself on the overturn of Roe v Wade and the concomitant assault on women’s reproductive rights in this country, and when he stands trial for paying off a porn star for a one-night stand while his wife was recuperating from giving birth to their son Barron?

Where are the American people when he doesn’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election – again: “And if we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election.”

Where will they be after they read his latest interview with TIME magazine?

On April 12, Eric Cortellessa interviewed trump, asking pointed questions about a potential second trump presidency. Besides avoiding direct responses and engaging, instead, in rambling strolls down his memory lane during which he alternately whined and boasted and lied, trump said some pretty startling things.

When asked about his position on a federal abortion ban, trump repeatedly answered that it didn’t matter to him because the issue now belonged to the states. No surprise there. Abdicating responsibility is his hallmark.

Then Cortellessa asked, “do you think states should monitor women’s pregnancies so they can know if they’ve gotten an abortion after the ban?”

Trump’s reply? “I think they might do that. Again, you’ll have to speak to the individual states. Look, Roe v. Wade was all about bringing it back to the states.”

His refusal to take a stand may please his evangelicals but presents a chilling Orwellian possibility to many voters.

He has “vowed to launch the largest deportation operation in American history” on his first day in office by using local law enforcement and even the military. To this end, trump would overturn the Posse Comitatus Act, which states the military cannot be deployed against civilians. “Well, these aren’t civilians. These are people that aren’t legally in our country.” Describing the migrants as criminals and escapees from mental institutions, trump compared his tactics to those used in Venezuela. That’s comforting. “This is an invasion of our country. An invasion like probably no country has ever seen before… We have to do whatever we have to do to stop the problem we have.”

Asked if he agreed that anti-White racism was worse than anti-Black racism, he said, “if you look right now, there’s absolutely a bias against white and that’s a problem.” Really? In what sector of American life? Employment? Education? Health Care? Housing? Public Safety? But I’m sure the Proud Boys feel unfairly put upon. Stand back and stand by, fellas. You’ll be fine in trump’s America.

Other policies he would enact smacked of retribution, but perhaps the most egregious was from an interview with Sean Hannity. “He said, ‘Do you want to be a dictator?’ I said, ‘Only for one day. I want to close up the border and I want to drill, baby, drill.’” trump maintains it was a joke. When Cortellessa asked if he understood why many Americans perceived his words as suspending the Constitution… as contrary to our most cherished democratic principles?” trump replied, “I think a lot of people like it.”

And there it is – the dog whistle. The casual remark his minions think is cool, the joke that becomes a suggestion that becomes a rallying cry that becomes a way of life.

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