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By Peter Baker
NEW YORK TIMES
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — The show onstage might well have been called Fox & Friend. As President Trump wrapped up the midterm election cycle with a late-night rally in southeast Missouri on Monday, he was joined by a trio of conservative media rock stars.
Introducing the president as he stumped for Republican candidates was Rush Limbaugh, the radio host who was born and raised in Cape Girardeau. Then after Mr. Trump took the microphone, he invited two Fox News personalities, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, to join him on stage, where each also delivered a short speech backing the president.
The line between the Trump White House and Fox has always been a little blurry, but in that moment at least, the fusion of president and network seemed complete.
The strangest political campaign in U.S. history – which may well determine what the country will be like in the foreseeable future – will end tomorrow when, hopefully, a record number of voters in a mid-presidential term election turns out at the polls. Although his name isn’t on the ballot in any state, it is clearly a referendum on President Donald Trump.
The question to be decided is the extent to which Americans are willing to assent to the course this most divisive of presidents has set for the country. Will future generations ask why we didn’t stop him when we had a relatively easy opportunity to do so?
Beyond the emotions of the moment we see early signs of the much more invidious threat that Mr. Trump poses.
The campaign rallies that have been the focus of his electioneering, for instance, have been well choreographed occasions for a hodgepodge of demagogic bombast. The Washington Post, which has kept a running count since he took office, recently reported that the President made more than 1,100 misleading or blatantly false statements while barnstorming during October alone. Assembled supporters were cued to cheer and wave professionally-produced slogan signs after nearly each one. There’s no question that President Trump is both an effective and a persuasive public speaker. Imagine him at some future time haranguing a similarly enthusiastic capacity crowd in one of the large football stadiums.
Mr. Trump many times has demonstrated he is a bigoted racist. Blacks, Latinos and Islamists are favorite targets of his stereotypical hatred, but he isn’t loathe to spread it around among others he deems ethnically undesirable or objectionable at any given moment.
He is prone to advocate violence, preferably in his view to inspire others to carry it out. He’s equally ready to disclaim any responsibility for the logical consequences of tough talk. He isn’t big on displaying empathy, but will reluctantly mouth platitudes when needs be and then go right on talking that way.
In recent days there have been three significant examples which portend real danger to American democracy. Mr. Trump has demonstrated willingness to chip away at the Constitution by using executive fiat to eliminate its provision for birthright citizenship. He has misused his authority as commander-in-chief by ordering units of our professional military to the southwestern border on a political fool’s errand to counter a non-existent threat from people seeking traditional asylum. And he stands not very far from behind state-level supporters willing to compromise their public obligation by weakening citizens’ voting rights of American Indians, blacks and other targeted people.
If there is any tendency to brand these comments as unduly alarmist, consider that it was President Trump himself who just a few days ago declared publicly and with considerable pride that he is a confirmed nationalist. It’s not necessary to hunt for hidden meanings for that word. A cursory brush with world history of the past century or two tells what happened to the freedom of those who fell under the sway of movements identified by that title.
Be sure to vote tomorrow. Before doing so apply some serious critical thinking to the choices you’re about to make.
Delaware voters can do their part by returning TOM CARPER to the Senate and LISA BLUNT ROCHESTER to the House of Representatives.