The Consequences of Rhetoric

Recently, the US state of Colorado invoked a clause in the Constitution to bar Donald Trump from running for president in that state. Even more recently, Maine followed suite. Whilst Colorado tends to vote Democrat, Maine can potentially go either way, so there might be a greater impact on Trump’s 2024 presidential bid. Ultimately, the Supreme Court – presently a conservative-leaning court – could strike down both bans, so the gesture might ring hollow, but if the bans are upheld, it will trigger even more Republican outrage than there was before.

This outrage is misplaced. Some Republicans are wise enough to see through Trump’s smokescreens and see that his inflammatory rhetoric, and pre-emptive poisoning of the well, was an attempt to derail democracy. Many are prepared to accept Trump’s rhetoric, and as we saw on a day of violence on the 6th of Jan, 2021, many of his more extreme supporters were prepared to subvert the democratic process to get the result they wanted.

Make no mistake. Trump may not have outright called for a full-scale insurrection, but he planted the seeds of anger well before the election, with insinuations that there would be fraud, and his more rabid supporters would always swallow his fire and brimstone, without hesitation or question. Even after a commission from Trump’s own people found no evidence of voter fraud in Georgia (a pivotal state in the election battle), Trump continued to badger the Republican official Brad Raffensperger to ‘find’ votes, and his refusal to graciously concede defeat is akin to a spoilt toddler, being told ‘no’ for the first time.

Is it any wonder that some of his more radical supporters, enflamed by Trump’s firebrand preaching, took matters into their own hands? Trump called upon people to ‘fight like hell’, and you just knew there would be fanatics passionate enough to interpret that literally.

Words matter. They carry consequences, just as much as actions do. In a polarised, passionate political arena, the wrong choice of words can carry effects, as we saw on the 6th of January, 2021. Some play down whether or not those events were truly an insurrection, but there were people trying to storm the Capitol Building, in order to stop the formalising of Biden’s election victory. A small insurrection perhaps, but an insurrection nonetheless.

I am prepared to suggest Trump did not deliberately set out to create such circumstances, but his ill-conceived word choices, and his months-long poisoning of the well campaign, and his lack of grace, certainly contributed. As a result, there are now consequences, via Maine and Colorado. Those consequences may not actually stick, but they are symbolically important, albeit maybe reckless in their own right. US politics (to be fair, a lot of politics all over the world) is incredibly polarised. There is a huge ‘us versus them’ mentality, and not a lot of room for compromise, on either side. It is a miracle anything gets done. Trump can certainly use the bans to further fan the flames, and given his historic tendency to have no regard for the consequences of his words, he will probably do so. Where that leads, I dread to think.

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