Friday, March 22, 2024

Take a cold bloodbath

 Donald Trump set off yet another firestorm over the weekend with a speech in which he threatened - or warned, depending on who you listen to - that America would suffer a “bloodbath” if he was not re-elected. People who are connected with insurrections and political violence would be well advised to avoid the use of the term “bloodbath” on general principles, but was Trump really threatening violence in this case? 

As is always the case, it’s a good idea to consider the context when you hear an alarming soundbite. You can hear an expanded version of Trump’s remarks from a rally in Vandalia, Ohio here and read the full context below:

“Mexico has taken, over a period of 30 years, 34 percent of the automobile manufacturing business in our country. Think of it, went to Mexico. China now is building a couple of massive plants where they’re going to build the cars in Mexico, and they think they are going to sell those cars into the United States with no tax at the border. Let me tell you something to China. If you’re listening, President Xi, and you and I are friends, but he understands the way I deal, those big monster car manufacturing plants that you’re building in Mexico right now, and you think you’re going to get that, you going to not hire Americans, and you’re going to sell the cars to us. No, we’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you’re not going to be able to sell those cars, if I get elected. Now if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole… That’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.”

Photo credit: Twitter screenshot from @bella9320

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This is a word salad, but the context of the quote is that Trump was talking about a return to massive tariffs and trade wars, which is bad enough, and then veered into how the US would experience a “bloodbath” if President Biden was returned to office. So the question is whether the “bloodbath” that Trump was referring to was an economic bloodbath stemming from Biden’s quasi-free trade policies or whether he was saying that his supporters would launch another insurrection if he lost another election.

One reason that the remark struck such a sour note is Trump’s history of violent rhetoric. We can go way back to 2016 when he talked about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and 2021 when his demagoguery and fraudulent election claims touched off the January 6 insurrection. More recently, in the same speech, Trump said that some immigrants were not human (“in some cases, they’re not people, in my opinion”) and he has recently called people jailed for January 6 crimes “hostages.” (And a shout out to Mike Pence, who is refusing to endorse Trump and is once again critical of him for the “hostage” remark.)

Trump does not shy away from inflammatory remarks. In fact, he leans into them. Given his history, there is also context for believing that the “bloodbath” remark was a dog whistle to the violent factions of the MAGA movement. 

Personally, I tend to think that Trump meant the “bloodbath” reference to be in the economic sense. The lead-in to the remark was clearly talking about the difference between his protectionist policies and Democratic free-trade policies. (That’s a phrase that I once never could have imagined that I would type.) The “bloodbath” is a clear reference to damage to the economy and the auto industry if Trump is not re-elected. 

Trump isn’t out of the woods if we acknowledge that the “bloodbath” comment was tied to his economic discussion. The sum total of his speeches gives plenty of good reasons to make sure that he is never allowed near the Oval Office again, even if this was not an explicit threat of political violence. I wouldn’t even allow him to take the White House tour. 

Beyond his violent and unpresidented [sic] allusions to political violence and racist imagery, Trump’s delusional economic ideas are bad for the country. MAGA does not understand that “tariffs are taxes,” as even Grover Norquist admits, and taxes are paid by the end user. In the case of taxes on imports, that means tariffs are taxes paid by American consumers. 

If we flashback to the Trump years, we are reminded that Trump’s tariffs represented one of the largest tax increases on Americans in decades. The tariff wars with… everyone… brought on a manufacturing recession before the economy went off the pandemic cliff. Whatever revenues were reaped from the tariffs were offset by the massive bailouts that Trump paid to farmers who were being driven out of business by retaliatory tariffs on American exports. 

And Republicans cheered for it all. 

And yes, President Xi does know Trump. He knows that Trump is not the China hawk that he claims to be. 

Trump’s recent TikTok flipflop has demonstrated to Xi that Trump is not principled. He has a price. 

Xi also understands that Trump is politically weak. Even if he manages to win re-election, he will have little support in Congress for reigniting the tariff wars. And even Republican support is likely to be tepid since a fair share of the Republican caucus still has free-trade roots hidden somewhere beneath their Trumpist facade. They won’t cross Trump, but they won’t wholeheartedly support him either. 

Trump doesn’t seem to be explicitly threatening a literal bloodbath in his Ohio speech, but it’s also not out of the question that he actually would do this. After all, he’s done it before. On at least one occasion, Trump warned if he was indicted that the result could be “potential death and destruction” in a Truth Social post last year.

The media should accurately report Trump’s statements and their context, but MAGA shouldn’t be surprised when violent imagery is understood to be a violent threat. That’s especially true given the recent history of the movement. 

If Republicans don’t want Trump to be associated with violence then they should pressure him to tone down his rhetoric (as if any remaining Republicans would dare to criticize Trump). The problem is that Trump uses hate-filled and extremist language because it gets him media coverage, and then he can turn around and attack the media for its bias. For Trump, it’s a win-win. 

Trump’s threat to reignite the tariff wars just when the world economy is recovering from the pandemic is bad enough. That should be the focus of the reporting on the Vandalia rally, but that would require more research and explanation on the part of the press and deeper reading on the part of the American public. 

Tariff ‘splainers don’t get clicks, but breathless articles about how Trump openly threatens violence do. We get the media coverage that we deserve. 

But ultimately, the media wouldn’t be able to report, with or without the correct context, Trump’s latest alarming comments if Trump didn’t keep saying outrageous and even dangerous things. Yes, the “bloodbath” comment was about tariffs, but it also wasn’t. 

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TUCKER ON TAIWAN: Speaking of China, Tucker Carlson made the case for abandoning Taiwan, saying, “It’s far away and honestly, who cares?”

From Racket News

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