Taking in both the massive protests across the U.S. over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four now-fired Minneapolis police officers and Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments that followed, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman accused the president of trying to start a race war in America.
In his column for the New York Times, Krugman started off by pointing out that Minneapolis police union chief Mark Kroll appeared at a Trump rally last year where he thanked the president for freeing his members from the “oppression” of former President Barack Obama who he claimed ‘handcuffed” officers from doing their jobs.
According to Krugman, this should have been seen as a warning shot of what was to come.
“The events of the past week, in which the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody led to demonstrations against police brutality, and these demonstrations were met by more police brutality — including unprecedented violence against the news media — have made it clear what Kroll meant by taking the handcuffs off,” he wrote. ” And Donald Trump, far from trying to calm the nation, is pouring gasoline on the fire; he seems very close to trying to incite a civil war.”
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that America as we know it is on the brink,” he then warned.
Explaining that the preceding four decades have seen the rich successfully weaponize “white racism to gain political power,” Krugman stated that it is no surprise the country is being torn apart — with the help of Donald Trump.
Writing that, “it requires willful blindness not to see what’s going on,” the columnist pointed out that the president’s policies — particularly when it comes to trade — have hurt his base so he needs to appeal to them on another level.
“So what has Trump really offered to the white working class that makes up most of his base? Basically, he has provided affirmation and cover for racial hostility,” he explained. “They don’t make enough money to benefit much from the Trump tax cut. Their jobs will be very much at risk if revenue-starved state and local governments are forced to make drastic spending cuts — and Trump’s allies in the Senate are blocking the aid that might avert such cuts.”
“Republicans have, as I said, spent decades exploiting racial hostility to win elections despite a policy agenda that hurts workers. But Trump is now pushing that cynical strategy toward a kind of apotheosis. On one side, he’s effectively inciting violence by his supporters. On the other, he’s very close to calling for a military response to social protest. And at this point, nobody expects any significant pushback from other Republicans,” he wrote before cautioning, “Now, I don’t think Trump will actually succeed in provoking a race war in the near future, even though he’s clearly itching for an excuse to use force. But the months ahead are still likely to be very, very ugly.”
He concluded with a final — and chilling — warning.
“If Trump is encouraging violence and talking about military solutions to overwhelmingly peaceful protests, what will he and his supporters do if he looks likely to lose November’s election?” he wrote.
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