Steve Schmidt was a GOP operative for many years, who recently ‘defected’, believing Trump to be a threat to liberal democracy and the American Experiment. In a wonderful episode of “Stay Tuned with Preet” this especially stood out.
For audio, start at around 38:00. I’ve attempted to transcribe this because I think it is so accurate and so chilling (with slight edits to clean up grammar for the written page).
(Coming out of a discussion about the role of fear in politics and policy)
Question (Preet): What circumstances have to be present for the message of fear to win out over the message of hope? Is it about the messenger, or is it about something else?
Answer (Steve Schmidt):
Let’s look at what Trump is doing right now. There are five specific things, behaviors, that I think are deliberate and are not accidental.
First thing is that Donald Trump incites fervor and creates a cult of personality, through mass rallies and constant lying.
Second thing is he scapegoats vulnerable minority populations and assigns blame to them for every complex problem the country and the world is facing. Guatemalean children for instance.
Third thing is he alleges conspiracies — that there is an active conspiracy hidden and unseen, the deep state, that is harming.
Fourth thing, the victims, his base. He creates a sense of mass victimization. You turn on Fox News, there is no higher virtue in Trumpistan than being a victim. What Trump understood distinct from Sarah Palin, who always cast herself as a victim, is that victims will never pick another victim to lead them. They need a leader to validate their victimization, and that’s what Trump does.
Last thing is he asserts the necessity of exercising powers that heretofore, no one ever imagined an American President claiming he could exercise, for the purposes of protecting the victims against the conspiracy and the scapegoated minority populations. He requires in exchange only one thing: The subversion of personal sovereignty, your intellect, and objective truth itself to submit to this idea. That truth is what the leader says is true. Truth is what the leader believes is true, no matter what evidence is plainly before your eyes.
And that is happening in the country for 40% of the population right now.