For all of his bluster and bigotry, Donald Trump has again proven he’s the most skilled player in the presidential election.
On March 11, the Donald Trump campaign canceled a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago, citing safety concerns stemming from hundreds of demonstrators who had filled the arena, resulting in violent clashes between protestors and Trump supporters.
At face value, this came across as a win for the protestors.
“Our whole purpose was to shut it down,” said Ja’Mal D. Green, one of the leaders of the protest, in an interview with CBS.
Cheers of “We stumped Trump,” could be heard throughout the arena following the rally’s cancellation.
So the plan indeed worked, and the protestors were loud enough to drown out Mr. Trump’s particular form of demagoguery.
But it seems that even when Donald Trump loses, he finds a way to win.
What many of Trump’s detractors overlook is his remarkable ability to manipulate controversial situations to his advantage.
To date, Mr. Trump has attacked or insulted war veterans, women, Hispanics, people with physical disabilities and many more. These are things that would have shattered any other candidate’s ambitions to become president, and yet Mr. Trump’s campaign continues to thrive.
The protests in Chicago are yet another example of this phenomenon. While the Trump campaign is responsible for the violence at the University of Illinois, it’s ended with Donald Trump looking like the offended party.
There is a long and documented history of Mr. Trump encouraging violence against protestors.
So if fighting should occur at one of his rallies, it’s to be expected. Mr. Trump should absolutely take part of the blame.
But complications arise with Chicago’s events when you take the protestor’s intentions into consideration.
No matter how justified the protestors’ rage and frustrations are, they came en masse to Donald Trump’s rally in the hopes of causing conflict. And while it’s impossible to know for certain, it’s likely that the violence was in part instigated by the protestors.
That’s all Mr. Trump has needed to frame the story as one where his peaceful supporters were set upon by angry protestors looking to incite violence.
Following Chicago’s events, Mr. Trump has gone on numerous media outlets and cable news stations to speak out against the violence committed upon his supporters.
“They want me to tell my people please be nice, be nice. My people are nice,” Trump said in a TV interview. “They were taunted, they were harassed by these other people.”
That’s a distortion of the whole truth to say the least, but it’s convincing enough.
If undecided voters were to watch footage from Chicago, they’ll see the exercise of the First Amendment thwarted by furious protestors engaging in violence.
And that’s damaging to everyone trying to peacefully speak out against the genuine hate being expressed by the Trump campaign.
Donald Trump has cast himself as many figures throughout the campaign: a straight-talker, a grassroots leader and a fighter.
This is the first time he’s cast himself as the victim. It’ll be disheartening if Chicago has people believing it.
Harry Sayer is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.