Robert Reich: Lawless Trump Demands Law And Order On Campuses – OpEd


Trump this week urged college presidents to be tougher on students protesting the war in Gaza, calling them “raging lunatics.” He continued: “To every college president, I say remove the encampments immediately. Vanquish the radicals and take back our campuses for all of the normal students.”

Trump’s law-and-order message about the protests is at odds with his lawless presidential campaign — which is centered on his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, that the January 6 rioters were “patriots,” and that Biden is behind Trump’s current federal and state prosecutions. 

On Tuesday, Judge Juan M. Merchan, who is presiding over Trump’s trial for election fraud, found Trump in contempt of court for attacking witnesses and jurors and warned he might jail Trump if his attacks on the judge, prosecutors, and witnesses continued. 

Trump does not rule out the possibility of political violence around the election. “If we don’t win, you know, it depends,” he says. He claimed on Truth Social that a stolen election “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

“He’s in full war mode,” says his former adviser and occasional confidant Stephen Bannon. Trump’s sense of the state of the country is “quite apocalyptic. That’s where Trump’s heart is. That’s where his obsession is.”

This morning, President Biden, commenting on student protests around the country, said “peaceful protest is in the best tradition of how Americans respond to consequential issues,” but noted that “there is not a right to cause chaos” and “it’s against the law when violence occurs. Destroying property is not a peaceful protest.” 

Biden is working behind the scenes to get humanitarian aid to Gaza and stop Netanyahu from ordering an attack on Rafah. I wish he would condition further aid to Israel on a ceasefire in Gaza. 

When voters tell pollsters they think Trump is “stronger” than Biden on foreign policy or the economy, the “strength” they feel comes from the emotions Trump stirs up — rage, ferocity, vindictiveness, and anger. These emotions are connected to brute strength.

Trump gets attention because the media lives off emotive messaging. The more charged the message, the more likely viewers will stop scrolling. The fiercer the words, the more likely readers will take notice.

Everything Trump says and posts is designed to spur an emotional reaction. His anger, ridicule, and vindictiveness are intended to elicit immediate, passionate responses. They don’t inform. They don’t truthfully explain. They just stir up. 

Biden projects strength the old-fashioned way — through measured leadership. But mature and responsible leadership doesn’t break through today’s media and reach today’s public nearly as well as brute strength.

So what’s the answer? Not for Biden (or his Democratic allies and surrogates) to abandon facts, data, analysis, and reasoned argument.

The best response is for Biden to continue the hard work of governing, including putting maximum pressure on Netanyahu to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Biden and other Democrats must draw the starkest possible contrast between Trump’s unhinged childishness and Biden’s competent adulthood.

Rather than sell Biden’s policies, sell Biden’s character. Rather than dispute Trump’s arguments, condemn his temperament.

And ask Americans the following question: Do they want a sociopathic infant at the helm again, or a sane grown-up?

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He 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." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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