Donald’s Trump’s “Second Amendment people” comment on Tuesday in Wilmington, North Carolina has the nation grappling to understand what he meant. Speaker Paul Ryan suggested this was a “joke gone bad.” As someone who attended Trump’s later rally that day in Fayetteville, I can tell you this is no laughing matter.
Trump’s campaign has been imploding since the conventions and his attacks on the Khan Family. National polls show Hillary’s lead growing and the numbers from must-win states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Virginia paint an even more grim picture for the Republican nominee.
For a narcissist like Trump who has taken so much pleasure in his poll numbers during the primaries and his triumph over a field of seventeen, this precipitous fall seems to have triggered a shift in his rhetoric.
In recent weeks, Trump has begun to suggest that the electoral system is rigged and a PPP poll released on Monday of his supporters in North Carolina showed that 69% of them agree that if Hillary wins, it will indeed be the result of a rigged system. For Trump and his core followers, democracy works if they are winning but when they start to lose, then the system is rigged.
So let’s return to the rally in North Carolina on Tuesday.
Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump painted the picture of an America where people can barely breathe, strangled by a corrupt and rigged system that is outsourcing their jobs to countries like Mexico and China while overburdening them with high taxes, excessive regulations, and forcing ObamaCare down their throats. To make matters worse, they argued that the true voice of America is being squashed by the liberal media and in a bizarre twist, framed the recent decision by the 4th Circuit on the NC Voter ID Law as an example of how their vote is being taken away.
To be clear, this is not a policy discussion but plays out like a WWE wrestling match with the same drama and feigned indignation. The crowd is usually whipped into a frenzy and cries out with chants of “Lock her Up” and “Build the Wall.” That kind of behavior was also on display at the other Trump North Carolina rallies I observed last December and in June.
It is amid this climate of desperation and futility that Trump inserts the issue of the Second Amendment. When he speaks of Hillary abolishing their right to bear arms, the gun is perceived as the last resource they have to protect themselves from the onslaught of a rigged system that is destroying America.
When Trump calls for the Second Amendment people to do something, he is framing the resistance as his own personal just war, a noble fight to save America. In this way Donald Trump is no different than some terrorists that call for the overthrow of a corrupt system and a return to the purity of the past, be it a Caliphate or a nostalgic fantasy of 1950’s America.
Though Trump will never exchange his gilded lifestyle for the rigors of the resistance, he is an incubator of homegrown violence in America. Over the past year we have been charting acts of violence committed by Trump supporters on our hate map. Also, the resurgence of White Supremacy groups who are backing Trump has been well documented.
While many fear what will happen if Trump wins, based on what I saw at the Trump rally this week, we should also be concerned about the increasingly more likely scenario of Trump losing. Given the desperate and hopeless picture that he paints of America, four more years may be too much for his followers to bear, and with their hero vanquished and the system “rigged,” an escalation of violence seems like a very real possibility.
Tim Eakins is the Director of North Carolina’s Voice