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Trump's favorite tactic: criminalizing his critics

This past week President Donald Trump went after some of his favorite targets. Within the span of a few days, he lash...

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 3:50 AM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 3:50 AM

This past week President Donald Trump went after some of his favorite targets. Within the span of a few days, he lashed out at migrants in Central America who are seeking legal asylum in the US, dismissed his predecessor as "Cheatin' Obama," brought back his false claims about voters committing massive fraud in the 2016 election and went after a few of his most-hated news organizations, including CNN and the Washington Post. "The Washington Post is far more fiction than fact," the president tweeted Sunday morning.

None of this is new. The rhetorical barrage of anger is a prime example of the president's favorite political tactic -- he classic wartime strategy of vilifying, criminalizing and dehumanizing the "enemy."

In times of war, it has been common for presidents to drum up public support for a military operation by rallying the nation against an evil that lurked overseas. Sometimes it hasn't taken much effort by a president to make this case, such as with Adolf Hitler in the early 1940s. Other times, such as with Saddam Hussein in 2002 and 2003, the commander in chief faces a much bigger challenge in trying to prove that an enemy represents a direct threat that requires military action.

This tactic has been central to the President's method of political combat at home. Often using catchy monikers to make his case, President Trump goes all in when he rips apart a target, with the goal of making certain the public can never look at that person or institution the same way again. By the time he is done with them, Trump's hope is that the public won't trust an individual or organization, won't believe anything that they say and will fear them as threats to the republic.

Since showing that he could do this to his Republican primary competitors and then Hillary Clinton, Trump has stuck to this playbook. His vitriol has been intense and he has been willing to go to extreme lengths -- stretching the truth or making things up -- to generate fear and anger.

Take the legal and unauthorized immigrants who have constantly been in his crossfire. Rather than focusing on simply selling a hardline policy toward our borders, the president has set out to spread fear about the problems he says undocumented immigrants bring to the nation.

Although he occasionally acknowledges the important contributions of immigration to our economy and society, Trump is much more interested in talking about the darker side. From describing incoming Mexicans as rapists and criminals to constantly warning of the threat of MS-13 to our suburbs to falsely charging that immigrants behind some kind of massive voting fraud to claiming that "American" jobs are being stolen, Trump has tried to turn those coming into our country into a devious invading force that undermines our security and safety.

Rather than pushing back against news stories that are critical of his administration, the president has gone all-out in attacking almost the entire news media, outside of Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, as being totally illegitimate. In his rhetoric, the news industry can't be trusted. He claims they spread false information and hire people who are consumed with bringing down his presidency.

The term "fake news" has now become a permanent part of the political lexicon. He has targeted several individual leaders of news organizations to try to make them villains in the public mind, perceived as carrying out a grand conspiracy against his White House.

The FBI and the intelligence agencies are not only wrong in their assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to President Trump, but they are run by evil actors who want to take him down.

He has vilified specific agents and agency leaders, such as James Comey and Andrew McCabe, as being partisan hacks using the tools of law enforcement to promote false information. He has used the emails between agents as evidence that the agencies are making decisions based on politics. And now he is going after special counsel Robert Mueller and his team in a similar way.

While this kind of overblown rhetoric is common in foreign policy and can cause immense harm, the consequences are extraordinarily damaging when it comes to domestic policy. Most important, the social groups and organizations that are the target of his ire will suffer long-term effects. Because the blasts are coming from the president of the United States, someone who commands passionate support from broad swaths of the electorate, his accusations will stick in the minds of many voters.

The attacks will outlast his presidency. Dangerous social biases against groups like immigrants will shape how parts of the electorate approach law, politics and their own communities. Law enforcement operations will be seen as illegitimate even when they are desperately needed. Many Americans will automatically disbelieve high-quality journalism.

This kind of warlike mentality also makes political compromise that much more difficult. Given the intense partisan polarization that we already face, this is the last thing that our Republic needs. At some point, when one half of the public sees the other as criminals or villains, negotiation becomes impossible.

It becomes more difficult to reach any sort of common ground, and the will to enter into discussions disappears. The level of trust the other side will have for the GOP, moreover, vastly diminishes after being on the receiving end of this bombardment. A president who loves to polarize and divide will amplify the deep divisions that already have taken root in our political system.

The attempted criminalization and dehumanization of his opponents is one of the most distinct elements of Trump's political style and could be one of the most lasting consequences of his presidency. The targets he leaves behind won't be able to recover quickly from the damage he has inflicted. And America's road to recovery from extreme polarization will be more remote than ever before.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 341862

Reported Deaths: 7533
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23783441
DeSoto23180283
Harrison20365329
Rankin15307290
Jackson15087251
Madison10917227
Lee10674179
Jones8969169
Forrest8621159
Lauderdale7839243
Lowndes7016151
Lamar696289
Lafayette6535124
Washington5589139
Pearl River5141152
Bolivar4949134
Oktibbeha491698
Panola4766112
Warren4709127
Marshall4691106
Pontotoc446273
Union432579
Monroe4322137
Neshoba4268181
Hancock423788
Lincoln4171116
Pike3650113
Leflore3619125
Tate352888
Alcorn349574
Sunflower347194
Adams340588
Scott340176
Yazoo338575
Copiah323468
Simpson322090
Itawamba314180
Coahoma313385
Tippah304768
Prentiss297863
Covington291883
Leake284675
Marion283681
Wayne276143
George270551
Grenada268888
Newton261564
Tishomingo239370
Winston236584
Jasper229548
Attala225973
Stone225337
Chickasaw218760
Holmes199274
Clay196754
Clarke186280
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181232
Smith178935
Yalobusha171340
Walthall145348
Lawrence141626
Greene139734
Amite136943
Noxubee134835
Perry133238
Montgomery132244
Carroll125931
Webster121032
Jefferson Davis116234
Tunica113427
Benton106225
Claiborne105031
Kemper102329
Humphreys100133
Franklin87723
Quitman84619
Choctaw82319
Wilkinson77732
Jefferson71128
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
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Friday we will see the hottest and most humid day of the week. We will see many areas top off in the 105 to 115 degree heat index. Some areas will approach 120. Very little chances for some isolated showers and thunderstorms for the late portion of the afternoon.
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