Much has already been written about President Donald Trump’s racist taunts against four first-term female congress members.
No-one should have been surprised that as Trump began his re-election campaign, he would target and bait people of colour. This was how he won in 2016.
Back then he incited against Mexicans, Muslims and refugees, in addition to the “fake news” media.
As the entertainer/performer-in-chief, his campaign rallies are more like a stand-up comedy than political speech-making.
He taunts opponents, making crude jokes at their expense; he conjures up threats, preying on his audience’s hatreds, fears and insecurities; he makes outrageous (and often fabricated) boasts and false promises that he has no intention of fulfilling; and he complains bitterly about the suffering he must endure because he alone is fighting an establishment that impedes his efforts at every turn.
There is a political agenda to be sure, but for the most part his rallies are a performance to mask that agenda.
In this regard he’s not unlike Benito Mussolini – a supreme actor who also held his rapt audiences in the palm of his hand, as he had them laughing, cheering and chanting in anger.
When Trump first began his run for president in 2015, the Republican establishment had contempt for him and his antics.
But after it became clear Trump had defeated his opponents, Republicans made what can only be described as a Faustian deal with the presumptive nominee.
If he won, they would be in a position to get what they wanted most: More conservative judges, a revamped regressive system of taxation, sweeping deregulation that would roll back decades of reform and undoing most of President Obama’s progressive agenda, including the GOP-hated “Obamacare”.
In return, the GOP would not only remain silent in the face of Trump’s peccadilloes, they would also subject themselves to the humiliation of actually trying to defend his words and behaviour.
There were those Republicans who believed (or maybe hoped) that after entering the Oval Office, Trump would become more presidential. They were mistaken.
If anything, his behaviour became more erratic and provocative. His bizarre claims, his inflammatory tweets and some of his executive orders have continued to generate outrage.
His recent North Carolina rally was initially organised to divert attention from the scheduled congressional testimony of Robert Mueller, which the White House assumed would be embarrassing for the president.
Trump knows how to turn attacks into a rallying cry for the faithful and he again focused in on Mexicans, Muslims and the media.
Some of his supporters may find it liberating that his taunts and insults of “undesirable” foreigners give them permission to behave undesirably.
Hate crimes are up and law enforcement agencies, which once focused resources on “Muslim extremism”, have to confront the growing threat of white nationalism.
Through it all, the President seems not to care about his impact on the country and its politics.
Compounding this has been the Trump administration’s obstructionism in the face of legitimate congressional inquiries.
He has refused to release his tax returns; allow inquiries into whether his businesses have profited from his presidency; explain how he overturned a decision by the intelligence community to deny security clearance to his relatives; explain why he fired the FBI chief investigating Russian meddling in US elections; and justify why and how the Commerce Department sought to change in the way the census was conducted.
The President has also refused to allow administration officials to testify before Congress.
A few weeks ago, after Trump tweeted that he might seek to change the constitution so he could run in 2024 for a third term, one commentator asked: “What would Donald Trump do if he lost this election in 2020?”
Would he leave office gracefully? Would his supporters accept the verdict of the majority? Or would their anger and resentment lead them to protests and violence?
These are worrisome questions, but the fact they are being asked should be cause for concern.