This article is a couple months old but I just came across it. Adam Serwer argues that the cruelty of so many of Trump’s policies is not merely an artifact or unintended effect, but is in fact the entire point in the first place. He points to many examples and compares them to photos of lynchings with white people standing around cheering and laughing.
The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track. This week alone, the news broke that the Trump administration was seeking to ethnically cleanse more than 193,000 American children of immigrants whose temporary protected status had been revoked by the administration, that the Department of Homeland Security had lied about creating a database of children that would make it possible to unite them with the families the Trump administration had arbitrarily destroyed, that the White House was considering a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students, and that it would deny visas to the same-sex partners of foreign officials. At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted…
The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty toward women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are smiling not merely because of what they have done, but because they have done it together.
This is entirely consistent with Trump’s obvious character flaw as a bully and the behavior of others in response to him being one. We’ve all seen this back in school, the bully on the playground picking on a weaker kid, finding some way to torment them. They aren’t doing it just for themselves, they are playing to the audience. And the audience is made up primarily of kids who wish they had the guts to be the bully, but they don’t. If that isn’t an accurate description of Trump and his supporters, I don’t know what could possibly be.