Violence is never magical. It is known by its origins. It always has a context. It obeys the law of history in that it possesses causes and effects: the delusions of mental illness; the impulsive, unthinking desire for instant payback; a struggle for power; a calculated revenge; the belief in one’s status as a victim combined with resentment and a desire for a cleansing.
Mr. Trump believes in violence as both solution and catharsis.
He believes in violence against protesters. He encourages his supporters to attack them.
He would kill the wives and families of ‘terrorists’.
He believes in torture as both reprisal and as counter-terror. In speaking of ISIS he said that, to “compete with [this] vicious group of animals” we will have to go beyond waterboarding into much darker places.
His stream-of-consciousness preaching to his believers emphasizes the paramount importance of anger. Trump’s logic goes something like this: Anger comes from being abused. That abuse suffered at the hands of (take your pick depending on the moment) — liberals, the elite, Blacks, Mexicans, Women, Muslims, Chinese — is an injustice. The solution to such injustice is twofold: I know the answer — strike back, begin now on whomever is closest, and elect me.
Like the Puritans from whom he descends in the most jagged of lines, Mr. Trump considers himself one of the Elect, a kind of truth-telling prophet who decries how impure and “soft” and “weak” we have become Then he names the enemies. He always names the enemies for he must always have a target against whom punishment must always be promised.
He preaches the removal of restraint, both moral and legal. His rallies demonstrate the triumph of spectacle and a kind of frat-boy messianic fury.
His policies are absurd. They violate economic sense, are cruel, and promise the creation of a police state. He is cunning but not intelligent. He is superb at wielding cruel comedy as a weapon. He appears to believe in nothing except himself and in the exercise of raw power.
He is calling forth the storm — for the release of infernal forces always present in American life — blood-lust and the pleasures of the mob — but kept under some imperfect control by our fraying sense of civility and by law. He is calling forth the storm, and there may be enough energy in that whirlwind for him to ascend to the White House.