Trump threatens Sanders with mob violence

Over the weekend, Donald Trump’s campaign got so far out of hand that both Jonathan Chait and Matt Yglesias — who had previously been Trump apologists encouraged by his platform’s divergence from GOP orthodoxy — came around and admitted that Benito Orangini’s success is at this point terrifying.

Following a series of protests, including one in which thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters (without direction from the Sanders campaign — that will matter in a second) shut down an entire event in Chicago, Trump said that he would seek to press charges against protestors removed from his rallies, and reiterated his suggestion that he would pay the legal and/or medical bills of supporters involved in violent altercations on his behalf. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Trump also tweeted out a hoax video claiming that a protestor who attempted to rush the stage at a rally in Kansas City had ties to ISIS.

And then on Sunday morning, Trump posted this:

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Given the context — Trump linking protestors to both ISIS and the Sanders campaign; Trump promising to cover his supporters’ risk; Trump’s supporters having already been shown to be more than willing to commit acts of violence in crowds — it’s really hard to see this as anything less than a threat to Bernie Sanders’s physical safety. He has created a narrative in which his supporters don’t have to do very much work to tie Sanders to ISIS itself, and at he’s about half a tweet away from pointing at Sanders and saying “git ’em.”

That’s horrifying.

As I wrote last month, the uniquely dangerous thing about Donald Trump isn’t his immigration policy or his tax plan or his stances on the Middle East. As Chait and Yglesias have argued persuasively, to the extent that he has policy positions, they are equally or in some cases less dangerous than those of his opponents. What makes Trump different is his complete indifference to democratic norms concerning press freedom, legitimacy of opposition, use of force and rule of law. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio may think that LGBT people are sinful and that we need to go to war with Russia, Iran and Syria all at the same time, but journalists can cover them and protestors can protest them without fearing for their lives. That isn’t true of Trump, who seems delighted by all of this.

Trump’s undermining of democratic norms is nothing new, but it’s escalated of late. His campaign is now able to look at video evidence of its campaign manager physically assaulting a member of the (conservative!) press and “call bullshit.” Trump has repeatedly linked violent outbursts on his behalf to love of country, and recently responded to requests to condemn that violence by emphatically endorsing it while claiming it isn’t his fault. Lots of observers assumed that as Trump got closer to locking up the Republican nomination, he’d pivot away from his vaguely reactionary platform and start pitching himself as a less-than-crazy negotiator for the general election. He has done the opposite.

Donald Trump just threatened to send an angry mob of (let’s be honest, probably armed) “patriots” to retaliate against the candidate he’s taken to describing as “our communist friend.” Lovely. I can’t imagine what could go wrong.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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