The US president’s extreme rhetoric appeals to his supporters. But they will lose interest because his aims are unattainable
First “Lock her up!” and “Build that wall!”, now “Send her back!”. Donald Trump’s record of using such slogans to normalise misogyny and stoke prejudice has become exhaustive, and ever more overtly racist. His Twitter feeds have even recycled content from extreme-right groups that historians of fascism like me consider deeply worrying. Yet this all proves tremulously popular. Academics who study fascism are well placed to see that Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip public persona is a carefully constructed device, designed to consciously and deliberately break liberal taboos, setting an example to others that they can do likewise.
The most recent ratcheting-up of his endorsement of racist language came this week, displaying once again the powerful relationship between the leader who seeks to embody prejudice in the pursuit of power and followers who convey this power on him in their millions. True to form, it started with a tweet. He told four congresswomen of colour to “go home”, fuelling outrage from many who were rightly incensed by this latest attack on decency in public discourse. Then, during a rally in North Carolina a few days later, he focused on one of these congresswomen, Somali-born US citizen Ilhan Omar.
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