We live in an era of road rage and cyberbullying so maybe it shouldn't surprise us that all decorum seems to be lost on the presidential campaign trail, too. Tuesday night in Albuquerque, the lid blew off the pot. Outside a Trump rally, protesters broke thru barricades and stormed the arena. They threw bottles and burning t-shirts at police who responded with a barrage of pepper spray and smoke grenades. Inside the hall, it wasn't much better. Some members of the crowd held up signs and were forcibly removed.
On Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter, saying, "The protesters in New Mexico were a bunch of thugs who were flying the Mexican flag. The rally inside was big and beautiful, but outside, criminals!" This chaos was an amplified version of a Trump rally in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, when police were brought in to calm testy protesters. It all points to a potentially troubling trend of over caffeinated rhetoric inciting crowds into bad behavior. And it's not just Trump.
Supporters of Democratic Candidate Bernie Sanders were criticized when they disrupted a meeting in Nevada, hurling insults at the party chairwoman and even threatening her life. Sanders was taken to task by critics for not condemning those supporters strongly enough, and for hinting there could be trouble at the democratic national convention. By historic standards, we're living in relatively calm times. So why are so many people so mad? Boston College History Professor Heather Cox Richardson(@HC_Richardson) and Boston College Sociology Professor Charles Derber joined Jim on Wednesday night to discuss.
Richardson compared the recent violence to the 1880's and 1890's. "In both eras, what you have is people from the outside who are trying to gain power by convincing supporters that the current government is illegitimate." She said she is not surprised by the anger. Derber said that "the system seems broken," and that the anger is coming from the 99%. "Underneath it is not at all calm," said Derber. He compared the fighting and violence in the streets to 1920 and 1930's Germany, and the rise of right wing populists. "I think we're seeing something similar," Derber said.
Richardson said that in the short term we are looking at violence. "People are very unhappy," she said. In the long term, she said, "people recognize they've got to re-legitimize a political system." She called Trump a wild card, and the next few months a wild card. Derber said that we are in for something we haven't seen in a long time. "We don't have an historical parallel."