The 2016 US Presidential Elections seemed like a nightmare… until the 2018 midterm elections

Published: November 3, 2018
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Eleven people were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018. PHOTO: GETTY

On October 27th, Robert Bowers walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh with an AR-15 rifle and three handguns and committed a mass shooting of worshippers, killing 11 people and injuring multiple others. In a country that has had its fair share of mass shootings over the past several years, this ranks as amongst the deadliest attacks against the Jewish community to ever take place on US soil.

The attack took the lives of worshippers, both young and old, including 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, while a Holocaust survivor was fortunate enough to avoid this shooting as he was late to the congregation. When President Donald Trump visited Pittsburgh in the aftermath of the attack, rather than unequivocally condemning the attack, he went on to make the incident all about himself. The conversation surrounding the attack soon divided itself on partisan lines, with pro-gun activists providing their usual hollow ‘thoughts and prayers’ and refusing to term this a terrorist attack.

This attitude is of course in stark contrast to the growing calls from Trump and the Republican Party to clamp down on illegal immigration as they denigrate immigrants and members of the Democratic Party at all opportunities. The synagogue shooting sadly constitutes the growing number of incidents in America where conspiratorial rhetoric is having a tangible effect on public safety.

A few days before the shooting, prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with the popular media network CNN, were sent all sent pipe bombs in the mail. After a scramble amongst intelligence agencies and a brief manhunt, the man behind the bombs was arrested. Yet another incident that made the airwaves in the same time frame was the shooting of an African-American couple at a grocery store in Kentucky, which has been designated as a hate crime after the shooter unsuccessfully attempted to storm a nearby predominantly African-American church.

This unprecedented scale of violence has occurred in the backdrop of an intensifying midterm election campaign that has seen President Trump and the Republican Party resorting to fearmongering tactics in order to rile up the party base and prevent the Democrats from taking back power in the Congress. For instance, the election season has seen many Republican candidates rely on immigrant bashing rhetoric, warning their constituents that the Democratic party favours ‘open borders’ and is ‘soft on crime’, which are blatant racist dog whistles.

Further, candidates like Steve King of Iowa and Corey Stewart of Virginia have openly praised white nationalists, whilst the leadership of the Republican Party has failed – and often refused – to rein them in from their divisive rhetoric. The refusal to rein in far-right extremist propaganda can thus be contrasted to the hypocrisy of many in the US to immediately blame immigrants, both legal and undocumented, for petty crimes and their supposed ‘burden’ to the US economy.

President Trump himself has increasingly bolstered this tone by frequently talking about illegal immigrants coming to the US and railing against Democrats and liberal opponents at any and every available opportunity. He has also indulged in peddling conspiracy theories with more fervour in recent weeks by tweeting and constantly talking about the Central American migrant caravan that is making its way towards the American-Mexican border.

Even though the caravan faces no threat to the US, the president has made it a point to bring it up during campaign rallies, press conferences and tweets, and encouraged his aides to keep the topic front and centre during political talk shows. He then followed this by talking about sending up to 15,000 additional soldiers to the Mexican border to help border agencies – more than the soldiers America sent to fight the Islamic State. He then announced that he is considering signing an executive order that would revoke birthright citizenship.

These recent actions and the rhetoric of hate have both in many ways contributed to the escalation in violence, with the perpetrators in the recent attacks all being influenced to a degree by the anti-Semitic, immigrant bashing, conspiratorial, and partisan rhetoric constantly propagated by the President of the United States and his party. After all, these perpetrators frequented Trump rallies or were part of the far-right circles on social media, leaving no doubt regarding their motivations and the influence of the political environment on them.

Such incidents have also been rising in frequency since Trump’s rise to power after the 2016 Election, and are unlikely to dissipate in the near future, even if the Democrats have a good midterm election and rein in some of Trump’s power.

Even if the Democrats succeed in the midterm, their victory will have to counteract the electoral losses for the Republican Party. An extensive campaign by the liberal political actors will be required, which focuses the public’s concern on substantive issues like healthcare, economic sustainability, rising inequality, climate change and the protection of civil liberties for marginalised groups. Only then can the Republican Party be forced to introspect and made to realise that their policies, actions and narratives have grave and dire consequences, not only for American democracy, but on the well-being of its diverse citizenry.

Talha Naushad

Talha Naushad

The author is a professional market researcher and a MBA candidate at the University of Iowa. He tweets as @redPak7 (twitter.com/redPak7)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmm, too bad the Democratic parties vigorous embrace of Open Borders and same sex marriage among other things turns off the American public!Recommend

  • Patwari

    Bullpucky. Democrats do not support open borders. And there are 50 states in the US.
    Each has it’s own constitution and it’s own state laws [as long as they don’t supersede federal laws]. So, check, before commenting. Since you are a Hindustani, and a Trump supporter, it’s understandable.
    Each state can decide whether it supports same sex marriage or not.
    Democrats are not joined at the hip to other Democrats. Like the Republicans are. Republicans, are brainwashed and always in lockstep with their higher masters, er,
    leadership. They are not independent thinkers. The party consists, basically, of old and middle aged white men and Hindus from Hindustan. Minorities, women are not welcomed.
    Democrats are for everyone. Minorities, LGBT, Transgenders, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, everyone, is welcomed.Recommend

  • Parvez

    As a distant observer this internal election is difficult to call……but the end result will be interesting simply because of Trump. He has, like it or not, put his stamp on the American Presidency …..and the Republican Party.Recommend

  • Patwari

    One thing is plain and simple for you to call. Robert Mueller’s investigation will be over and the results made known to all concerned parties and committees. Including, of course, US Congress..
    In case you did not notice or guessed, the first agenda will be impeachment of the misogynist, racist, bigot, White Supremacist, sexual predator, Nationalist, Father of the Aryan Nation,…occupying the White House.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Too bad you don’t carefully watch the US media where Democrats oppose THE WALL, Support Sanctuary Cities which protect illegal aliens, and VOTE IN LOCKSTEP WITH DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP!
    All can interested can look up voting records for confirmation!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Interesting …….IF he is impeached…..who will replace him ?Recommend

  • Patwari

    According to the law, the Veep,…Pence. And in the next presidential election, in 2020, there will be a lot of good, strong, Democratic Party contenders.
    Too bad your favorite pol, will be sitting in Trump Tower, with an army
    of lawyers, fighting, cases, indictments, etc. etc. etc.
    The Hindus from Hindustan, will be devastated, too. See, their nirvana
    just went south.Recommend

  • Patwari

    The sanctuary cities are meant to keep families together, escaping
    oppression and death in their own countries, not tear them apart, like
    Trump is doing.
    Taking 6 months old babies away from their mothers.
    By the way, there are 176,000 Hindustanis seeking asylum, in these sanctuary cities. Mostly from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, South Bharat, East
    Bengal. And Arunachal Pradesh.
    That does not includes Bharati asylum seekers under, DACA.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Do you think Pence will be an improvement on Trump ?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Well it looks like the Republicans have lost the lower house of Congree.Recommend

  • Patwari

    No. He was selected by Trump, because he is a weak and ineffectual,
    yes-man.
    You barely notice him in a room. No personality. Mediocre.
    Nothing like Joe Biden. Who has personality, charm and gravitas.
    Pence did not do much when he was governor of Indiana. He was a safe
    bet for Trump.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Exactly …… and from what I’ve been told he’s a super white supremacist. Not a good choice for POTUS. So my point is, don’t wish too hard for Trump’s impeachment …… frying pan into the fire situation.Recommend

  • Patwari

    So, you are saying let a bad man rule and cause havoc and destruction.
    And do nothing. Look the other way. Sorry, it does not works that way.
    This is what Trump does daily :- Lying, spreading racial hatred, misogyny, a constant stream of daily toxic bile. Disregarding treaties with sovereign nations. Calling his opponents names, plus many other bad things.
    Even the village idiot can tell you all about Trump. By now, the world,
    knows what Trump is. No secrets there. He is Putin’s puppet, among other things. But for some reason, you have a high regard for this man.
    So read the comment again, slow and easy. It is not written in an exotic ancient language, which may be hard to decipher. Like Aramaic, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Or Sumerian, or Akkadian.
    Rest assured there will be no from the frying man into the fire scenario.
    Pence was selected by Trump, because he has the personality of a doorknob. No chance he will turn into a firebrand preaching racial hatred divisiveness and misogyny overnite, simply because of change in his status.
    Plus the democrats are in charge of the House of Reps.. They will not tolerate any black feats by Trump or Pence…as the Republicans did.
    No chance, Trump can keep up his antics.The free ride is over.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Interesting once again…..so we both will have to wait and see if he gets impeached.Recommend