Bill Maher gave a warning during an interview with the Phoenix New Times, echoing something that I’ve been pretty sure since it became apparent that Trump’s candidacy wasn’t a joke — that we’re one terrorist attack away from Trump winning the White House.
Voting For Trump
Trump has made a name for himself on strongman rhetoric. Using this rhetoric, he’s appealed to a substantial population of Americans, because authoritarians are drawn to individuals who are “tough on [x],” where [x] is whatever they feel threatened by at the moment.
This appeal represents a dangerous undercurrent in American culture — that Americans are terrified little children who are scared of the world and want a tough-talking father figure who will protect them and promise them greatness.
Maher noted that during his interview with the Phoenix New Times, when he said that while he didn’t agree with Trump, if there was another attack, then Trump was almost certainly going to get elected:
No, I don’t agree with Trump, but, what I keep saying is, if there is another attack, especially, and maybe even without it, and the American people have to choose between that and a [Democratic] party that won’t even say the term “Islamic terrorism,” yeah, I could see them voting for Trump. Which is a horrible thought for everybody, worst of all, for Muslims.
Maher is right here, but he’s right for the wrong reason. He’s adhering to the straw man that liberal Democrats are somehow scared to say the phrase “Islamic terrorism,” and that the Democratic party won’t say it, either.
First, Democrats talk about radicalized Islam all the time. Clinton has brought it up; no, she’s never said “Islamic terrorism,” but is there any difference between a “radical jihadist” or “radical Islam” and an Islamic terrorist or Islamic terrorism?
Sanders, while not painting with a broad brush, nevertheless mentions specific terrorist groups, from Al-Qaeda to Daesh. The term here is “specificity.”
Maher is right all the same, and in part because the Democratic candidates may be perceived as weak on terrorism precisely because they insist on being specific. Humans don’t come with the intellectual facilities to manage a degree of specificity; we think in broad strokes, which is why stereotypes are so common. When an adult human is allowed to think, they can usually resist those stereotypes.
But an amygdala hijack eliminates higher cortical functions. This causes a demand for generalization, and Trump’s tough-guy appearance will get him elected in that instance since generalization and sounding like a badass while being an empty suit is all Trump ever does well.
Maher continued his discussion, noting that both sides have it wrong on the issue:
Trump talks about it like every Muslim is a terrorist, which is crazy. And the Democrats talk about it like it’s just this very small percentage, which is silly, too. And again, we can look at the polling. A country like Indonesia, 18 percent of the people according to the polls believe in honor killings. So what you’re telling me with that is that in Indonesia, a country which many people hold up as a moderate Muslim nation, almost 1 out of 5 people think when a woman is raped, we blame her and kill her for it. Yeah, you see, I don’t understand why the liberals get upset about that.
Maher is presumably citing from a Pew Research Poll, that shows similar results.
I’m not sure why he thinks liberals aren’t upset by that. I’m utterly disgusted by honor killings. And you know what? There’s 80% (4/5) of Indonesian Muslims who agree with me. That number is even higher in other Muslim countries — take a look at Kazakhstan.
Second, honor killings are murder, but they’re not terrorism, so that was a neat rhetorical trick but it was an empty one all the same.
Still, Maher is right. We’re probably one terrorist attack away from President Donald J. Trump. And just stop to let it sink in just how much power terrorists must have over Americans to pull that off. The amount of power they have over Americans, to influence their decisions and control their voting patterns, is almost as scary as a potential President Trump himself.
Feature image via Angela George/Wikimedia Commons