THERE is an idiocy about current political discourse that allows core issues to be diverted into a “them and us” debate.
This is then overlaid by an intellectual coarseness that crowds out rational thinking and frustrates real scrutiny.
And with social media as the clearinghouse for hateful diatribe and odious opinion, we now have an echo chamber where bigotry feeds off falsity, mistruth and sheer fiction, polarising debate as it leaks its poison into the mainstream and emboldens the fringes.
At the extreme is the President of the United States. Trump, and his late-night Twitter account, acts as a lightning rod for legitimising abhorrent views that would normally be kept behind closed, if not padded, doors.
And unforgivably, in a week where two African-Americans were gunned down in Kentucky, when pipe bombs were sent to prominent liberals, and 11 members of a Pittsburgh synagogue were slaughtered as they worshipped, Trump simply used the human tragedy as his rally-call ahead of the mid-term elections.
Never mind the facts about immigration or that Trump was asked to stay away from the scene of the Jewish massacre but barged in anyway, attracting scores of protesters bringing needless mayem to a place of mourning.
The man is a boor. A divider. He provokes hate. He demands attention. And he lies.
Trump doesn’t want to govern all Americans. How could he, he hates so many; the liberals, the immigrants, the feminists, the disabled, the so-called illegals. He mocks, he panders, and he plays to the lowest common denominator.
And yet, he is the elected president and this week in the mid-terms, democracy will likely cement his position.
His views are shared by many – he endorses a certain perception of the world – and he represents something that we should all fear – the growth of debate grounded in division and a bombast that fetes ignorance and ignores truth.
You only need to look at his language about the so-called migrant caravan – a convoy of asylum seekers including many women and children heading towards Mexico or the US border from Honduras. “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
Trump’s words are a chilling echo of Robert Bowers who complained about immigrant “invaders” before turning his guns on the people inside the synagogue. Trump didn’t make Bowers pull the trigger, he didn’t create the “haters” but tone matters, truth matters, and he is an enabler of hate.
And if all ‘haters’ need is to believe that something is true, even when it isn’t, then all politicians have to do to attract popular support is to invite people to imagine what could be true – and then allow that falsehood to feast on fear.
Hours after the synagogue massacre, Trump was the headline act at a Republican rally in Illinois, where he said: “If you don’t mind, I’m going to tone it down, just a little bit,” he said.
“Is that OK?”
The crowd shouted back: “No.”
And, my heart sank just a little bit further.