News & opinion by Robert Reich
(BERKELEY, CA.) – If Robert Mueller finds that Trump
colluded with Russia to fix the 2016 election, or even if Trump fires
Mueller before he makes such a finding, Trump’s supporters will
protect Trump from any political fallout.
Trump’s base will stand by him not because they believe
Trump is on their side, but because they define themselves as being
on his side.
Trump has intentionally cleaved America into two warring
pro-Trump and anti-Trump. And he has convinced the pro-Trumps that
his enemy is their enemy.
Most Americans are not passionate conservatives or liberals,
Republicans or Democrats. But they have become impassioned Trump
supporters or Trump haters.
Pro-Trump Republicans keep him
Trump spins giant conspiracy story
Polls say 37 percent of Americans approve of him, and most
disapprove. These numbers are the tips of two vast icebergs of
Trump has forced all of us to take sides, and to despise those
the other. There’s no middle ground.
The Republican Party used to stand for fiscal responsibility,
state’s rights, free trade, and a hard line against Russian
aggression. Now it just stands for Trump.
Pro-Trump Republicans remain the majority in the GOP. As long
Trump can keep them riled up, and as long as Republicans remain in
control of at least one chamber of Congress, he’s safe.
“Try to impeach him, just try it,” Roger Stone,
Trump’s former campaign adviser, warned
last summer. “You will have a spasm of violence in this
country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”
That’s probably an exaggeration, but Trump (with the
assistance of his enablers in Congress) has convinced his followers
that the Russian investigation is part of a giant conspiracy to
unseat him, and that his enemies want to replace him with someone who
will allow dangerous forces to overrun America.
Sure, this paranoia is based on the same racism and xenophobia
that has smoldered in America since its inception. Trump’s
strategy is to stoke it daily.
Sure, American politics had polarized before Trump. Trump’s
strategy is to exploit and enlarge these divisions.
Talking to true believers: the
Russian probe all
“a plot to get rid” of him
A few months ago I traveled to Kentucky and talked with a
of Trump supporters.
They looked and sounded nothing like traditional conservative
Republicans. Most were working class. Several were members of labor
unions. All were passionate about Trump.
Why do you support him? I asked. “He’s shaking
Washington up,” was the typical response.
I mentioned his lies. “He’s telling it like it is,”
several told me. “He speaks his mind.”
I talked about his attacks on democracy. “Every other
politician is on the take,” they said. “He isn’t.
He doesn’t need their money.”
I asked about his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
They told me they didn’t believe a word of it. “It’s
a plot to get rid of him.”
By making himself the center of an intensifying conflict,
grabs all the attention and fuels even greater passions on both
Sucking the oxygen out of
America: another Trump
It’s what he did in the 2016 election, but on a far larger
scale. Then, he sucked all the oxygen out of the race by making
himself its biggest story. Now, he’s sucking all the oxygen out
of America by making himself our national obsession.
Trump received more coverage in the 2016 election than any
presidential candidate in American history. Hillary Clinton got far
less, and what she got was almost all about her emails.
Schooled in reality television and New York tabloids, Trump
how to keep both sides stirred up: Vilify, disparage, denounce,
defame, and accuse the other side of conspiring against America. Do
it continuously. Dominate every news cycle.
Fox News is his propaganda arm, magnifying his tweets,
and lies. The rest of the media also plays into Trump’s
strategy by making him the defining controversy of America. Every
particular dispute – DACA, the “wall,” North Korea,
Mueller’s investigation, and so on – becomes another
aspect of the larger national war over Trump.
It’s the divide-and-conquer strategy of a tyrant.
Democracies require sufficient social trust that citizens
the views of those they disagree with as worthy of equal
consideration to their own. That way, they’ll accept political
outcomes they dislike.
Trump’s divide-and-conquer strategy is to destroy that
So if Mueller finds Trump colluded with Russia, or Trump fires
Mueller before Mueller makes such a finding, the pro-Trumps will
block any consequential challenge to his authority.
Nothing could be more dangerous to our democracy and society.
B. REICH is the
Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of
California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for
served as secretary of
labor in the Clinton administration and Time magazine named him one
of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century.
Reich has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock,
The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage
and most recently Saving
is also a founding editor of The
American Prospect magazine,
chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts
and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary
INEQUALITY FOR ALL.