Mass shootings have become a fact of American life, like Donald Trump’s hate
- Robert Delaney says US politics has been infected by the rancour that brought Trump to the White House
- The anti-China, anti-immigration Trump narrative is going strong, in spite of the latest mass shooting by an immigrant-hating gunman, he says
The blood had not stopped flowing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania over the weekend when US President Donald Trump turned the massacre into an election issue.
The Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people were killed by a gunman raging about immigrants, should have armed guards, Trump bellowed. It is a regular refrain we have heard from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) every time a psycho snaps and acts out the cultural ritual that’s now as American as apple pie and baseball: the mass shooting.
This bloodletting is so common now, we might as well cue The Star-Spangled Banner whenever the bullets start flying. As this American tragedy plays out, Trump is twisting it into a campaign message faster than gun-control advocates can trot out their arguments, because he knows American politics have devolved to the point where the loudest voice wins.
While Trump shouts down the entirely reasonable question of how many people must die before Congress will enact some controls on assault weapons, the NRA moves to get ahead of the controversy by spitting out the entirely unreasonable assertion that all Americans would be safer if more people were armed.
“Alternative facts”, which the American left and centre laughed at when White House communications adviser Kellyanne Conway first suggested they were as legitimate as anything objectively verifiable, now drive the narratives on any number of right-leaning, Trump-friendly media outlets, starting with Fox News.
Any historian, statistician, economist or sober-minded business executive will tell you that the US economy could not have become the envy of the world without immigration.
But Trump and his minions will tell you otherwise. When it came to making their alternative facts stick, they had a brilliant strategy: they would meld their fake news with a real problem that the Democrats were not addressing well enough.
For years, America shed manufacturing jobs – and with them the high enough salaries that allowed workers to buy decent homes and the benefits that would ensure comfortable retirements.
The problem was real, but the causes posited by Trump and the architects of his 2016 political coup – immigrants and China – were false.
Watch: China denies spying on Trump’s iPhone, suggests he gets a Huawei instead
Sadly, it doesn’t matter to Fox News-addled Americans that credible studies show American manufacturing jobs have also been lost to automation, and that the offshoring of jobs is an objective of corporate America. The Trump narrative also ignores the reality that recent immigrants – legal or not – take jobs that few native-born Americans want.
This is why Washington is now embroiled in an unwinnable tariff war with Beijing and why immigration – a pillar of American strength – is under sustained attack by people, including the madman who sent nearly a dozen Tree of Life congregants to their graves.
In the wake of the latest massacre, the rest of Trump’s Republican Party will offer their thoughts and prayers, a rote response as comforting as a slap in the face. They will also shush the gun-control advocates, saying it’s too soon after a tragedy to bring politics into the discussion, even though their leader has done just that.
And they won’t suffer for it. This is what American politics have come to, and this is why Democrats will not see the “blue wave” they are expecting in next week’s midterm elections. Appeals to the kind of decency and reason that prevailed before the rancour that brought Trump to the White House no longer work.
Blame it on a toxic mix of social media-driven manipulation, corporatisation, technological displacement and any number of economic and logistical factors that make it difficult for marginalised groups to participate in the political process.
Whatever the case, the result is a runaway infection in the body politic, for which the Democrats haven’t found the right antibiotic.
Before those who lost loved ones in the Tree of Life shooting could begin coming to terms with the tragedy, Trump had already resumed his usual attacks on Democrats from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Maxine Waters.
And so the blood continues to flow.
Robert Delaney is the Post's US bureau chief, based in New York