I’m sitting here, maybe half an hour into Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Kansas City, Missouri this Saturday night, and it’s been one non-stop protest after the next. Trump has barely been able to speak. The police take a protester out, Trump starts talking, then 30 seconds later another protester stands up and shuts down the speech again.
It’s a smart tactic, and it is in fact the way protests should be done. You don’t all stand up at once. You come out in dribbles, annoying the heck out of the speaker as time goes on. And Trump is definitely looking annoyed, and he’s entirely off-script, just rambling at this point. (He actually started saying he wanted to “ruin the protesters lives.”)
The question being asked on Twitter and elsewhere is whether these protests are helping or hurting Trump. And my answer is, both.
The protests are helping Trump with his own followers. They love a martyr, and it’s not like they’re not already aware that Trump panders to racism, homophobia, sexism, and openly mocks people with disabilities. So the fact that people are protesting Trump’s prejudice and extremism probably won’t have an impact on his supporters. In fact, the protests probably endear his supporters all the more.
But perhaps the target for the protest message isn’t — or shouldn’t be — people who are already going to vote for Trump. Perhaps a better target is undecided voters; and just as importantly, the Republican party leadership who, to date, have been awfully lukewarm on taking Trump on, or down.
While some people feel that protests are feel-good things that succeed by simply being. Meaning, the mere existence of your protest is a “good thing.” It’s really not. Protests, like any political act, should be done for a reason. And the judge of the worthiness of the act is to what degree it furthers some larger goal.
In the case of the anti-Trump protests, the larger goal is stopping Trump. But I’m not sure that’s going to happen by scaring his current supporters. It’s going to happen by convincing undecideds to vote for someone else, and by convincing the Republican party leadership that they need to step in, now.
And as much as these non-stop protests tonight might be revving up Trump’s base, it’s also reinforcing the message that the guy and his campaign are a mess.
What could the protesters do to up the ante?
1. Non-stop protests at every single Trump event from now until he drops out of the race, or beyond. The way things are going, I can’t imagine the protests are going to slow down.
2. Target the message away from Trump, and towards his GOP opponents — Rubio, Cruz and Kasich, asking them why they’re not standing up and saving the party and the country — and pose the same questions to the RNC leadership. At this point, the only people who can help is the grasstops, aka the GOP leadership, including their presidential candidates. None of them, to date, have taken Trump on nearly directly enough. And even though Rubio, Cruz and Kasich are now criticizing Trump for inciting violence, they all still said they’d support him as the candidate. So, why should Trump listen?
3. It’s intriguing that the other communities slurred by Trump, especially people with disabilities, aren’t protesting to the degree the black community appears to have, at least in Chicago last night. I know from personal experience that people with disabilities make awfully effective protesters. The media loves them, and they tend to make their target cringe. After Donald Trump openly mocked that NYT reporter with a disability, making fun of the way the man talks and moves, there should have been non-stop protests by people with disabilities at all of his events, at the RNC headquarters in Washington, DC, and even perhaps at the GOP Congress. That would get the party’s attention.
It’s a high-stakes game. These protests could help cement Trump’s support in Ohio and Florida. And if that happens, the game is over, at least in terms of Trump getting the nomination unless the party steps in. But at this point, there isn’t much choice. The Republican party has made clear that they’re not willing to do what it takes to take Trump down. And unless someone forces their hand, this man could become our next president.
And at the very least, the GOP needs to pay the price for creating and enabling this monster.
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