President Trump’s top health advisers attended a White House event with protective masks, though the president himself did not wear a face covering.
The deluded QAnon cult chugs on as an implicit threat on Donald Trump’s behalf. And the president has rewarded its fealty with at least 131 retweets.
I have no hope that Donald Trump will ever behave like a president of all 50 United States. But I ask one simple thing from him and his son: Please stop trying to get my fellow Americans killed.
It’s impossible to keep track of all the norms Trump is petulantly stomping on as he runs for reelection amid the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
As the American death toll from COVID-19 has moved closer to 100,000, he has fired inspector general after inspector general, the only independent watchdogs inside the executive branch. His lawyers have argued before the Supreme Court that this president should essentially be immune from all prosecution and oversight, denying taxpayers the right to know whether he’s even a taxpayer. And @realdonaldtrump has gone into overdrive with his wild tweets and rhetoric, which he has to know could make his more unhinged supporters think he’s hoping they’ll get violent.
And some seem to be getting the message!
Trump’s troubling QAnon retweets
Detroit real estate agent Robert Sinclair Tesh has been arraigned on a terrorism charge after he made what authorities determined were credible death threats against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel. We can’t say for sure whether the man behind the alleged threats was a Trump fan. But he does appear to be a fan of the conspiracy theory known as QAnon, having used hashtags associated with the movement.
This arrest ties together two of the most dangerous threads of what rhetoric professor Jennifer Mercieca describes as Trump’s “argument ad baculum” in her forthcoming book, “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.” These “appeals to the stick,” or implicit threats of force or intimidation, are “used by a demagogue to attack and overwhelm opponents,” Mercieca writes.
Trump has literally incited Michiganders to rise up against their governor with a “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” tweet that former Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord called illegal. And he has cheered on the so-called protesters who’ve garnered national attention by flooding into Michigan’s Capitol brandishing firearms, something you’d never be allowed to do at an NRA convention when Vice President Mike Pence is speaking.
But it’s the connection to the QAnon movement that’s most troubling about this arrest.
While there are always oaky traces of a death cult inside the Republican Party — “pro-lifers” fulminating for unnecessary wars and executions — the calls to sacrifice American (especially older Americans) to “the economy” have become audible as the death toll from COVID-19 has risen.
But QAnon is a literal death cult. It imagines crimes, often cannibalism and pedophilia, that would justify the arrest and even execution of the president’s opponents and enemies. And it’s also a domestic terror threat, according to liberal fake news sources such as the FBI.
What Republicans don’t get: Donald Trump is our biggest obstacle to coronavirus recovery
Either violent people are attracted to this fantasy — which originally touted Trump as an all-powerful crusader bound to take down international child sex rings and now seems more interested in spreading COVID-19 misinformation to justify Trump’s panoply of failures — or individuals who are into Q just happen to enjoy making criminal threats or killing a family member with a sword.
Of course, the big joke of all this is that Trump is the guy who started a teen beauty pageant, and several former contestants said Trump walked in on them while they were in various states of undress. And the one big name child sex offender this administration has arrested — former Trump playmate Jeffrey Epstein — died mysteriously in the custody of Trump’s Department of Justice, an unresolved crime that stinks of a real conspiracy.
Still, the deluded QAnon cult chugs on as an implicit threat on Trump’s behalf. And the president has rewarded its fealty with at least 131 retweets.
Tickling death cult bone of dad’s fans
Anyone paying any attention knows that when Donald Trump Jr. makes a joke about former Vice President Joe Biden being a pedophile, he’s trying to tickle the death cult bone of his dad’s fan base. And when Don Jr. pretends to back off by then reiterating the charge, he’s showing that he has learned his daddy’s “I’m not saying; I’m just saying” rhetorical trick of paralipsis.
Mercieca says that’s what demagogues use “to circulate rumors and accusations, to ironically say two things at once, and to build a relationship with supporters.”
I get the desperation.
The Trumps’ best attempt at digging up foreign dirt on Biden resulted in impeachment and the revelation that Biden was actually leading the international community’s efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine.
They haven’t found any attack on Biden yet that tanks him the way they smeared a woman for using personal email. And older voters are telling pollsters that they may be abandoning Trump. (Maybe because they’ve heard that some Republicans think they should stop complaining about COVID-19 and start dying.)
Trump impeachment intimidation: Weaponized Twitter feed, die-hard fans who get the ‘code’
This is all bound to get more intense as Trump feels the risk of losing the one job in the United States that prevents him from being indicted. The question is how many people the Trumps are willing to take down with them.
The president’s steaming rhetoric may have influenced his superfan Cesar Sayoc, who was convicted of mailing bombs to 13 Trump opponents — including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The only thing that saved us from this Trump fan carrying out one of the worst terror attacks in American history was his incompetence.
But as Trump’s election proved, competence isn’t necessary for success.
So please, Mr. President, stop trying to get us killed. COVID-19 is bad enough on its own.
Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of “The GOTMFV Show” podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP
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