Recently, the FBI thwarted a militia’s plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has faced lots of antagonism from far-right political agitators over the measures that she has imposed to try and control the spread of the Coronavirus in her state. The revelation of the plan to violently attack this duly elected governor of a U.S. state has not put a dent in President Donald Trump’s consistently belligerent rhetoric targeting Whitmer. At a rally in Michigan on Saturday, Trump expressed support for a chant of “Lock her up!” targeting Whitmer that erupted among his fans.
To be clear: there is zero legitimate reason whatsoever that Whitmer would face criminal prosecution. Trump — and many of his allies and followers — are simply hoping for the punitive criminal prosecution of their political opponents, as if the president imagines himself to be some kind of dictator-in-training. The repetitive nature of these kinds of outbursts from the Trump team does not erase the fact that the rhetoric constitutes an appalling affront against the rule of law in the United States. The Trump-led far-right seems to be at least partially hoping for the establishment of some kind of Trump-led autocracy in the United States.
In Michigan on Saturday, Trump bellowed to the crowd:
‘You gotta get your governor to open up your state, okay? And get your schools open — get your schools open. The schools have to be open, right?’
Subsequently, Trump’s rally attendees began chanting “lock her up!” while the president looked on approvingly. As the chant went on, he approvingly commented to “lock them all up.” The “lock her up” chant targeting Whitmer erupted a second time during the same rally. Watch the initial incident below:
Trump says "lock them all up" as his fans direct "lock her up!" chants toward Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the victim of a kidnapping/assassination plot recently hatched by Trump supporters pic.twitter.com/8a41Ca07FX
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 17, 2020
This unhinged rhetoric is a bright red indicator of a push for dictatorship and authoritarianism in the United States. Trump and his allies seem ready and willing to trample the rule of law in the name of their political movement. Whitmer is, of course, far from the first individual who the president and his allies have targeted with these demands for some kind of punitive prosecution, as if Trump wishes that he were able to apprehend political prisoners at will. Past targets for this kind of rhetoric include Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama.
"If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, I think everybody would've been in jail a long time ago, & I'm talking with 50-year sentences…people should be going to jail for this stuff…this was all Obama. This was all Biden": Trump suggests Obama & Biden should be in prison pic.twitter.com/MOwPvpYRu4
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 14, 2020