One of the strangest things about the current political moment is the way Donald Trump is imbued with magical powers not just by his biggest fans but by his most-dogged detractors. Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) cuts both ways.
Here's the popular and prolific actor James Cromwell (whose career spans a recurring role on All in the Family to major parts in the Babe movies to HBO's The Young Pope) talking to Variety on the red carpet for an awards show:
"This is nascent fascism. We always had a turnkey, totalitarian state—all we needed was an excuse, and all the institutions were in place to turn this into pure fascism," Cromwell told Variety on Sunday night. "If we don't stop [President Trump] now, then we will have a revolution for real. Then there will be blood in the streets."…
"We're living in very curious times, and something is coming up which is desperately important to this country and to this planet, and that is an election, in which hopefully in some measure we are going to take back our democracy," Cromwell said. "We will have a government that represents us and not the donor class. We will cut through the corruption, [and] we won't have to do what comes next, which is either a non-violent revolution or a violent one, because this has got to end."
Even among actors, Cromwell is far to the left, with a rap sheet stemming from protests at universities, power plants, and Seaworld. But his rhetoric is of a piece with many on the right, who warn darkly that it's not them, you see, who will cause the problems; it's the people who are really alienated and fed up. Look, this sort of argument goes, I'm not saying I'm in favor of this, I'm just telling you what happens when people with grievances are ignored or dismissed without a proper hearing.
If people insist that everything in the world is about politics, we will always have endless political fights. Politics, after all, is mostly zero-sum, with one side winning and the other side losing. Perhaps more than any recent figure, Donald Trump gets this. He is constantly talking about winning and losing, getting new and better deals, and the like. As important, he keeps even his allies off balance by constantly shifting topics and focus. From a purely tactical perspective, he always pulls the topic of conversation back to himself, short-circuiting substantive conversations that might get away from him. Even after the synagogue shooting in Pennsylvania, within a few hours or days, Trump started attacking the media as the "true Enemy of the People" and prattling on about ending birthright citizenship.
The best response to Trump's general mode of discourse is to not take the bait and make everything about him and his personal preferences. There may be only two major parties in America, but the rest of the political spectrum is alive and well and the increasing number of us who are not represented by existing Republican and Democratic coalitions need to make our independent voices louder than ever. It bears repeating: Just 26 percent of Americans identify as Republican and just 27 percent of us identify as Democratic. Forty-four percent call ourselves independent.
The midterms are less important than Cromwell thinks, if only because there will be another election just a couple of years after. We'd all do well to remember that and stop playing Trump's game.
Note: Cromwell replied to an earlier tweet of mine with this. When the statement goes live, I'll append it here.
The blood of protestors. I was not calling for the left to violently attack—the quote was pulled out of a longer statement. I will be writing a statement to give context to that remark.
— James Cromwell
Not promoting violence, voting against it. You will never see me raising a fist. I'm a pacifist. My words were taken out of context. I'm worried about the blood of the dissent, protesters, more children shot at school, people shot while praying, for who they love and who they are
— James Cromwell