Trump in 2016: Us Against Them. Trump in 2020: Us Against Us.

Thanks to Janine Robinson for sharing their work on Unsplash.

It took almost four years but here we are.

Trump used to rally his base with innuendo about shadowy others who threatened America: Mexicans are rapists and members of obscure, violent gangs. A Muslim travel ban would keep out terrorists. Orphaning the children of parents fleeing Central America by locking them away and concealing them from their families would ensure that only Americans would receive benefits from paying taxes.

Where we are now was a gradual and incremental shift but it’s easy enough to look back and see it coming. After all, Trump made his mark on the political scene by questioning Pres. Obama’s legitimacy and refusing to acknowledge that Obama was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

We know the cascading inflection points ever since. Good people on both sides. Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio before he could be sentenced for what the U.S. Dept. of Justice called “sadistic punishments” of Latino inmates. Trying to shut down the NFL because Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in response to police killings of Black people. Calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas. Labeling a free press the enemy of the people. Saying the members of “The Squad,” four Democratic congresswomen, should go back to their countries although all but one were born in America. Calling Jews who vote for Democrats “disloyal.” Retweeting white supremacists. The list is endless and neither of us has that much time.

Now, as Poltico’s Michael Kruse, Renuka Rayasam, and Myah Ward note, Trump is no longer talking about us versus them. He’s ginning up the base by making it us against us.

You heard it in his recent convention speech. Democrats, Joe Biden, and anyone who opposes Trump’s aspirations of dictatorship are the new “them.” Here’s what Trump said in the speech.

  • Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens.
  • And this election will decide whether we will defend the American Way of Life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.
  • If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns, and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other Constitutional freedoms.
  • If the Democrat Party wants to stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters, and flag-burners, that is up to them, but I, as your President, will not be a part of it. The Republican Party will remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America Safe.
  • Always Remember: they are coming after ME, because I am fighting for YOU.*

It’s hard not to think of the well-known statement by German Pastor Martin Niemöller, who fought for Germany in WWI but denounced Hitler’s Nazism:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

We can’t let Trump’s attempts to turn us against each other prevail. Those of us who want a better America are not the enemy. He is not the protector of “good” Americans, or “the right” Americans, and or “patriotic” Americans. In fact, he’s not our country’s protector any more now than he was when he bluffed his way out of the draft by claiming bone spurs.

Refuse to give up on a better America. We can get there.

*Random capitalization was provided in the original transcript.

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