It did not take long for the Proud Boys, the right-wing extremist group known for hospitalizing protesters, to begin celebrating Trump’s callout during Tuesday’s presidential debate.
After being pressured to condemn white nationalists and racists by moderator Chris Wallace, Trump sputtered and eventually landed on telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Then, he said “somebody” should do something about Antifa and the left.
The message has been received loud and clear by the Proud Boys, a group which according to its own founder Gavin McInnes, is nothing more than a violent street gang that revels in beating and bludgeoning anti-Trump protesters.
Following Trump’s comments, the Proud Boys are now emblazing Trump’s words on their social media posts like a new, ominous logo.
The jaw-dropping debate moment from Trump was not just an acknowledgement of the Proud Boys as an organization, it was, as they are correctly reading it to be, recognition of their cause. You defend America, but on my command.
It’s easy and cathetheric to toss Trump’s words into the growing pile of examples of him “fanning the flames,” a euphemism we in the media have too readly used to label what should be obvious by now: that Trump is a desperate strongman and fomenting terror is one of his tools.
Just like former Vice President Joe Biden claimed the reins of the Democratic Party when pressured over his party’s most left-leaning policy ideas during the debate (“right now, I am the Democratic Party,” he said) — Trump is more than just the face of the Republican Party, he is the party, up and down the ballot.
A poll last week by the University of Massachusetts Lowell week found 92 percent of Republicans in Texas approve of Trump’s job as president. The survey was conducted as Trump made headlines for refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
And while elected Republicans gave some push back, including most recently voting for a bipartisan resolution in the House and Senate affirming a peaceful transition of power, the truth is the party base is closer to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), one of only five House Republicans to vote against it.
In Texas, GOP Chairman Allen West is joining Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and rightwing members of the Texas Legisture in sueing Gov. Greg Abbott to shorten eary voting.
In Harris County, Republican canidates and conservative activist are asking the Texas Supreme Court to limit in-person and absentee voting.
Abbott himself has unleashed his most loyal henchmen, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to tirelessly fight Democratic litigation to expand absentee voting, send mail-in ballot applications to registered voters, reinstate straight-ticket voting, and generally make voting easier during the pandemic.
In Congress, Sen. Ted Cruz has obsessed over Antifa and has even gone as far as fantazing about locking up U.S. leftists.
Like the Proud Boys, they are emboldened by Trump. Republicans may occasionally scold Trump for how he delivers his message, but they never disrupt the overall narrative he seeks to present of America, that is a lawless homeland that only less democracy and more confidence in the executive branch can cure.
It’s a shame the F-word — not the four-letter curse word, but facism — is such a taboo descriptor in our center-dominated media because we are running out of labels to accurately denote what Republicans are trying to do when they try to curtail democracy through the courts, legislation, misinformation and fear.
Somehow, especially after this month’s headlines and Tuesday’s debate, Trumpism just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com