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As of now, Donald Trump is leading in the American presidential race and there seems no way to stop him. He just keeps getting stronger and stronger, while Hillary Clinton keeps getting into more trouble, much of it of her own making.
Clinton now actually polls behind Trump in some surveys. But to damage her run even more than it already is, angry demonstrators at Trump rallies are just what the strategists ordered.
There's no more surefire way to alienate the majority of Americans than to noisily disrupt a Trump rally. Trump, of course, immediately labels the protesters "thugs" and "criminals" and most Americans would probably agree. The media attention they can be sure of getting will alienate moderate Americans without whom Hillary can't win.
Just look at the good work some louts among the protesters are doing for Trump, as described by the Associated Press on May 25:
"In one of the presidential campaign year's more grisly spectacles, protesters in New Mexico opposing Donald Trump's candidacy threw burning T-shirts, plastic bottles and other items at police officers, injuring several, and toppled trash cans and barricades.
"Police responded by firing pepper spray and smoke grenades into the crowd outside the Albuquerque Convention Center.
"During the rally, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was interrupted repeatedly by protesters, who shouted, held up banners and resisted removal by security officers.
"The banners included the messages 'Trump is Fascist' and 'We've heard enough.' Trump lashed back at protesters, tweeting Wednesday: 'The protesters in New Mexico were thugs who were flying the Mexican flag. The rally inside was big and beautiful, but outside, criminals!'"
I assume both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns have already forthrightly repudiated these tactics, for what it's worth. The Democrats must convince middle America that they have no part in such violence. But it won't be easy to reverse the damage already being wrought.
This becomes a serious problem for those who are quite properly spooked by a Trump presidency. But how can he be opposed effectively without ending up hurling burning objects at cops? We know it's likely that anyone who tries to disrupt a Trump rally, even if only by shouting loudly or hoisting a banner, will be attacked, often physically, by Trump supporters, and things will degenerate from there.
We also can be confident that media coverage will be most damaging to the protesters, not to the Trumpeters, even when Trump himself goads his people to attack protesters.
Sure, this is cosmically unfair. How is it possible Trump doesn't turn some of his supporters off by this reckless provocation of his more aggressive backers? You may as well ask why his entire campaign doesn't alienate all Americans. You may as well ask how come his critics, who seem to me ubiquitous, have failed to puncture his high-flying balloon. The fact is he's on a roll, and no one knows how to stop it.
To the contrary, Hillary Clinton's troubles have just begun. Much worse is yet to come. Trump has not yet made her his primary target, and heaven knows what he'll accuse her of when he really gets going. And she is so widely disliked and mistrusted, even by many in her own camp, that she's highly vulnerable to anything Trump says, however preposterous.
Beyond Trump, there's another wild card that will shortly come into play, one with almost infinite resources and equal determination. I'm referring to the "Kochtopus," the picturesque name given to Charlie and David Koch and the astonishingly rich and powerful gang of extreme right-wing billionaires they have quietly organized over the past few decades. They have already wreaked havoc among Democrats and undermined any number of progressive causes.
This record is meticulously documented by the New Yorker's Jane Mayer in her terrifying new book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.
Mayer shows how the syndicate that the Kochs have organized has been responsible for everything from the emergence of the Tea Party to the charge that Obama's health-care act provides for "death panels" to the widespread denial of climate change across the United States. The Kochs and many of their allies are themselves oil billionaires who hate environmentalists, government regulation and paying taxes. If Trump is dangerously unpredictable, Koch and his plutocratic pals are only too predictable.
Read the book for yourself. And watch the video. Sure, they'll ruin your day. But we all need to be aware of the epic far-right conspiracy that Mayer, followed by others, has unearthed. These guys are just waiting with their billions to destroy Hillary Clinton, as soon as the candidates are formally named.
They will, as they always do, use smears, lies, distortions, fabrications, fear-mongering -- whatever it takes, or costs. The Kochs and their fellow conspirators are pledged to spend no less than a cool $889-million fighting the Democratic nominee this year.
This is a fraught moment. Trump is leading in the polls. The extreme right wing, led by its many billionaires, has mobilized its almost infinite resources to help defeat Hillary Clinton. And if other Americans try to protest, they end up inadvertently aiding the Trump campaign.
Trump as president is now not only possible but likely. Like many Americans, the world watches, horrified but helpless.
This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.
Image: Flickr/Gage Skidmore
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