Unhinged politicians can dangerously normalise and weaponise the societal narrative and environment with their loaded rhetoric. Inflammable as the provocative political/partisan rhetoric can get, it can still be couched with innuendos, and indirect references, that offer cover to the wily politicians from direct blame for stoking the fire.

The carefully worded rants, or even telling silences when the onus is on speaking up, can goad the frenzied cadres into partaking unimaginable violence. Acts of vigilante violence do not happen by themselves. Someone, somewhere, is always behind creating a situation that incites people to take the law into their hands, and commit the most heinous and barbaric acts in ‘reaction’.

If it is not direct prodding, then the formulaic approach of suggestive words, dog whistling, whataboutery, or simply justifying portents of disharmony to a level that they spill over, are commonplace.

The likes of Donald Trump have pandered to weaponising the air with brazen vilifications, lies and manufactured-outrage at anyone having inconvenient opinions to him. He ostensibly seeks to save America from ‘wokes’, progressives (routinely deriding the intellectuals) and those whom he grandiloquently describes as having ‘destroyed history’.

Anyone who dares to dispute his opinions, or versions of the past, is automatically declared an enemy of the State. Trump’s patent anti-dissent playbook brooks no tolerance and insists on total, blind and absolute conformity.

All pretences of ‘internal democracy’ are thrown to the wind and anyone even ‘within’ the same party e.g., Nikki Haley, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Mike Pence, Dick Cheney etc. could be thrown to the dogs.

The net impact of such deranged politics was in full display with the January 6 Capitol attack or ‘insurrection’, with Trump trying shamelessly and desperately to overturn the election results. The calls to action had included statements like, “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”. Many of Trump’s mesmerised cadres had actually believed so.

Historian Jon Meacham had then presciently warned, “What you saw was the worst instincts of both human nature and American politics and it’s either a step on the way to the abyss or it is a call to arms figuratively, for citizens to engage”.

Sadly, years later, if the current popularity and unprecedented support for the unthinkable return of Donald Trump as the President of the United States is anything to go by, the after-effects of inflicting such pernicious and toxic hatred in society, is now well-entrenched and playing out.

Afterall, history and experience of other global democracies is instructive that the guardrails of democracy are not very strong, and the texture and character of societies can change for worse, permanently. Part of Trump’s populist and majoritarian appeal has been fearmongering and intolerance of the proverbial ‘other’ and the accompanying task of ‘othering’ in words and suggestions to act.

Trump’s undeniably dictatorial preferences militate against the societal norms of propriety, inclusivity, and the need for contrarian opinions. His grandstanding from the bully pulpit of the presidency to mock all opposition be it in terms of opposition parties, free media, liberals, minorities etc., was simply unrestrained. Somewhere the body politic and character of America was affected and regressing, seeing the intolerant ways of the leader.

One of the organisations that was inspired by the likes of Donald Trump was the far-right and conspiracy inspired cult, QAnon. It believed that Trump had been wronged by the institutions of checks-and-balances, and they therefore supported him, wholeheartedly.

Trump on his part has legitimised and encouraged the mumbo-jumbo of such cults by tweeting and retweeting hosannas in their support. People can get individually and personally so radicalised in their beliefs, that they do not even spare their own, much like Trump.

Recently a 33-year-old Pennsylvania man was charged with decapitating his own father, and posting a gruesome video seemingly showing him holding up the head. The man, a QAnon cult inspired savage, had held the severed head in a plastic bag to be that of a, “a federal employee of over 20 years, and my father” and added, “He is now in hell for an eternity as a traitor to his country”.

As QAon calls for ‘militias’ to kill federal officials, the man was deranged enough to do the same to his own father, with whom he had no other known issues.

The eerily familiar language, phraseology and syntax of such zombies, ensured that the video was titled “Mohn’s Militia – Call to Arms for American Patriots” and he went on to rail against the usual suspects of ultra-right wingers: minorities, migrants, Biden administration, LBGTQ community, Black Lives Matter movement, ‘far-Left woke mobs,’ whilst calling for public execution of FBI agents, IRS employees, US Marshals, federal judges, border control officers and more, supposedly for ‘betraying their country’.

Just who gave contextual wings to such thoughts of societal intolerance is not even a matter of conjecture anymore. The vital lesson that democracy requires constant care, moderation, and constant mobilisation, can perhaps never be overstated.

Sadly, in participative democracies the currency of ‘hate’ is always more powerful than the alternative option of ‘inclusivity’, that is often and increasingly derided as being weak, indecisive, and even surrendering. Those who often put electoral considerations above the consequences of their loose and inflammatory talk, usually do not care about the poison that gets injected, as they can conveniently deny any role in the outcomes.

But the fact is, that as thought leaders, many politicians knowingly persist with their divisive and polarisation agenda. The resultant outcomes like the incident now, are only inevitable. Amidst all the outcomes of rot, ‘othering’ and bloodlust, the chief instigator and protagonist of divide i.e. Donald Trump, will only emerge as even more heroic and popular.

Finally, the rejection of liberalism is not just limited to partisan ideology but encompasses the rejection of liberality in wider realms of social, economic and political spheres.

Regrettably, people like Donald Trump are no longer the exception but more of the norm, as Henry Kissinger once said, “Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation”.

Lt. General Bhopinder Singh (PVSM) is the former Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Pondicherry. Views expressed are the writer’s own.

Cover Photograph from The New Republic used to illustrate their main lead ‘Donald Trump Against America’.