Donald Trump has gone so far off the rails with his remark that the U.S. should refuse entry to Muslims that even many Republicans are running from him. And now the question is starting to be asked, “Just how much of what Trump is saying does he actually believe?” He might believe every word of it, but there’s plenty of evidence that Trump, ever the businessman, is exploiting a market: the bigoted, know-nothing underbelly of the Republican Party, aka the Republican “base.”
As the Trump phenomenon was getting into gear, some Republicans were accusing him of being a Democratic plant — that he wasn’t a Republican at all, but was merely serving to mess up the GOP field. What’s more likely is that Trump decided to “go big or go home,” and double down on the dog whistle politics being played by Republicans in recent years. He threw away the whistle, and started saying out loud the things that others on the right have only hinted at.
CNN host Chris Cuomo called out right-wing commentator Matt Lewis on the December 9 edition of “New Day” over Trump’s remarks about Muslims. The conversation begins after a clip showing Trump supporters, and their explanations for why they back him.
Political reporter Ron Brownstein points out that Trump is saying things that no other Republicans will say, and that his support is not simply going to “melt away.” Host Alisyn Camerota agrees, saying,
Yes, yes, yes! I’m so glad that Ron is touching on that. Because that’s what they [Trump supporters] told me. They said, ‘We’re not going anywhere. They can try to get rid of Donald Trump, the party establishment can try to shunt him aside, we’re not going anywhere.’
Following that, Cuomo turns to Lewis, and hits him with a dose of truth: the Islamophobia, the fear of all things “foreign,” the bigotry among the GOP base didn’t start with Trump, but it has in fact been out there for years in right-wing media. All Trump has done is channel it. Cuomo says,
Well, what do you do, Matt? I mean, you know, you created it, not Donald Trump. I mean, you know, people can point fingers a hundred different ways. I think you just give it credit to Trump for capturing the zeitgeist out there. But, you know, you preached a lot of fear about Islam. You preached a lot of fear about how unprepared the U.S. government was. You preached a lot of fear about how inept government is. So now, you have people really afraid that there’s a huge monster out there. You’ve told them it’s coming and you’ve told them no one can stop it. So what do you do?
Of course Lewis deflects the criticism, and places the blame for the creation of the Trumpenstein monster right where he thinks it belongs — on President Obama. (Tell me you didn’t see that one coming.) But Lewis is less concerned about what Trump has been saying than he is that Trump will bolt from the GOP and run as an independent, taking his frightened, knuckle-dragging supporters with him, and giving the presidency to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
So who’s right? Are Matt Lewis and his right-wing media brethren to blame for candidate Donald Trump?
Here’s the video, via Media Matters:
Featured image via Media Matters/CNN screen capture