Peter Wehner writes: “I think you’d have riots.” So said Donald J. Trump last week, when he was asked by CNN what he thought would happen if he arrived at the Republican Convention this summer a few delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win outright and didn’t set forth from Cleveland as the party’s nominee.
It is stunning to contemplate, particularly for those of us who are lifelong Republicans, but we now live in a time when the organizing principle that runs through the campaign of the Republican Party’s likely nominee isn’t adherence to a political philosophy — Mr. Trump has no discernible political philosophy — but an encouragement to political violence.
Mr. Trump’s supporters will dismiss this as hyperbole, but it is the only reasonable conclusion that his vivid, undisguised words allow for. As the examples pile up, we should not become inured to them. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” Mr. Trump said about a protester in Nevada. (“In the old days,” Mr. Trump fondly recalled, protesters would be “carried out in a stretcher.”)
Of another protester, Mr. Trump said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” In St. Louis, Mr. Trump sounded almost wistful: “Nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.” About protesters in general, he said: “There used to be consequences. There are none anymore. These people are so bad for our country. You have no idea folks, you have no idea.”
Talk like this eventually finds its way into action. And so on March 10, a Trump supporter named John McGraw, was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct, after a protester was sucker-punched as he was being hauled by security guards out of a Trump rally in North Carolina the day before. When interviewed afterward Mr. McGraw said, “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
And Donald Trump’s reaction? He said he was considering paying Mr. McGraw’s legal fees. “He obviously loves his country,” Mr. Trump added, “and maybe he doesn’t like seeing what’s happening to the country.”
Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.
Mr. Trump’s comments, startling in a leading presidential candidate, have raised widespread concern about the path we find ourselves on. But concern about political violence, mob rule and unchecked passion is hardly new in American history. [Continue reading…]