Republican National Convention Follows Witch-Burning Script

CLEVELAND—Amid unison cries of “Lock her up!” the Republican Party tonight attempted a witch-burning of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic rival to Donald J. Trump, the GOP’s presidential nominee. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whom Trump defeated in the primaries, even went so far as to link Clinton with Lucifer by means of a novel form of guilt by association — through the dedication in a book. And everyone knows the first order of witchery is consorting with the devil.


The book is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, in which, with a twinkle in his eye, the famed organizer acknowledged Lucifer as the first radical. (Alinsky did not, as Carson said, dedicate his book to Lucifer; it is dedicated to someone named Irene.) Hillary Clinton wrote her undergraduate thesis on Alinsky, and in the course of doing so, exchanged correspondence with him.

Much of the night was devoted to demonizing Clinton. Of all people, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was chosen to make the case “as a former federal prosecutor” for why the Democratic presumptive nominee is guilty of crimes and shenanigans. This, just days after Christie’s own close confidante, David Samson, pleaded guilty before a federal judge to one count of bribery for, as Salon’s Robert Hennelly put it, “shaking down United Airlines in his role as chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, a position to which Christie appointed him.” Not to mention the indictments of Christie’s aides in the Bridgegate scandal.

It all went according to the script laid out by Trump adviser and longtime Republican dirty-trickster Roger Stone, who yesterday said at a rally he co-hosted with conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones that the game for any successful political campaign is to first qualify one’s own candidate, and then disqualify one’s opponent. Jones, a vocal Trump supporter, has been tasked with painting Clinton as a criminal, a role he’s taken up with gusto.

For a less frothing-at-the-mouth spin on the theme, Christie constructed his speech as a legal indictment, prompting the crowd to shout “Guilty!” at various points in the litany of purported wrongdoings, ranging from Clinton’s use of a private email server for correspondence with her staff during her tenure as secretary of state to her conduct of foreign policy. He even laid the abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram fighters at Clinton’s feet, insinuating that she wanted it to happen. It was clearly a witch trial.

“You tonight [are] sitting as a jury of her peers in this hall and in your living rooms around our nation,” he said. When early in his speech, the crowd appeared to spontaneously launch into the “Lock her up!” chant, Christie said, “Give me a few more minutes; we will get there.”

If you’ve ever been to a sporting event, you know that when tens of thousands of people in an arena chant in union, that corporate conduct of energy is fearsome.

Walking around the streets of Cleveland, it’s hard to miss the gendered nature of the contempt for Clinton, what with the T-shirts for sale that read “TRUMP THAT BITCH,” or the frequent references to Trump’s cojones.  

The witch burnings that erupted periodically throughout Europe and in North America across three centuries were a church-sanctioned attempt to put down the power of female healers as the male leaders of Christianity sought to consolidate their power, ostensibly in the service of a single male deity. In God’s Own Party, the operatives behind Trump understand the power of that old historical reflex.

If it summons the sort of energy that borders on violence, so be it. Whatever it takes to put their man on top. That’s balls for you.

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