The Phoenix Arizona Republic, which in its more than a century of publication has never endorsed a Democrat, has done so this year, backing Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump. The endorsement was positive for Clinton as well as a negative commentary on Trump.
But in recounting the chain of events that led the Republic to its startling change this year, Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas began with a specific incident from last November:
". . . when an African-American man was beaten at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama. As Boas recalled, Trump, at the lectern, following the man’s beating, said, 'Get him the hell out of here.' Shortly afterward, Trump went on Fox News and said of the man, 'Maybe he should have been roughed up.' This prompted a series of editorials in the Republic that were critical of Trump. 'We found, in that event, the bass notes of authoritarianism,' Boas told me. 'It kind of raised the siren or the alarm for us: that this is a dangerous type of behavior we’re witnessing here, somebody who would incite political violence.'”
Authoritarianism, the strongman approach to government this country was founded in opposition to, has a number of components, but one of the most basic is the use - and the threat of - violence by people in power against the political opposition. That has been the main course for every tinpot dictator in human history, from the beginning of civilization right up to know.
And Donald Trump encourages, incites, even revels in political violence, in a way no major political figure in American history has done before.
Trump himself, of course, has denied this: "I certainly don't incite violence," he said to CNN in March, after he cancelled a Chicago rally after threats of violence had surfaced.
But the site Mashable, in an article published a few days later, noted that "Trump, however, has a history of calling for violent acts against those who protest at his events that goes back until at least August of last year."
Only days after the Chicago incident, Trump said in St, Louis, after another protester surfaced, “You know, part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?"
Days after that, he said in Florida - speaking of another incident of audience violence - that "The audience hit back and that's what we need a little bit more of."
Then in North Carolina: "In the good old days this doesn't happen because they used to treat them very, very rough."
And so on, and on, and on.
Democracy has survived in America in large part because we - metaphorically - check our guns at the door. We may argue, but we don't beat each up because of which candidates we support.
Thanks to Donald Trump, in 2016 that is changing. And he most certainly is inciting it. - rs