This is a first.
Because of his “incendiary rhetoric,” Politico is comparing Donald Trump to the Southern fire-eaters – Ruffin, Rhett and Yancey:
“Have we seen anything like Donald Trump before? As his heated rhetoric cuts a seemingly unstoppable swath across the American political landscape, analysts have been almost flummoxed in finding the right comparison. In its recent mega-analysis of the 95,000 words spoken by Trump over the course of a single given week, the New York Times likened his “fiery language” to the divisive rhetoric of such 20th century American political figures as George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy and Huey Long. Others, alarmed by Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” have suggested parallels with the rabble rousers-turned-dictators from Europe’s fascist past, Hitler and Mussolini.
This search for comparisons can be a good way to get a grip on a figure like Trump, whose rapid rise and staying power has defied predictions. But it doesn’t need to stray so far from home. Trump is a profoundly American demagogue, part of a long tradition, and one whose roots go far deeper than the 20th-century populists whose names usually come up. The true pioneers of what might be called the American political tradition of demagoguery were a cadre of Southern orators from the decades leading up to the Civil War, men adept at arousing and manipulating the fears and anxieties of their target audience in the service of their cherished cause—to prod the South into leaving the Union in order to save the institution of slavery and protect Southern “rights” generally. They were known, at least to their critics, as the Fire-Eaters. …”
That’s high praise. I would be flattered.
I’m pleased to see the Fire-Eaters getting some attention here, but it has never once occurred to me that Trump is anything like Robert Barnwell Rhett or William Lowndes Yancey. Virtually any 19th century political figure sounds like a “Fire-Eater” compared to the stultifying atmosphere of political correctness we live under today. The spread of cultural Marxism like a weed is a late 20th century phenomenon that is foreign to the more colorful politics and journalism of 19th century America.
After a banner year for the thought police, Trump’s rhetoric has struck a chord because the majority of Americans are fed up with political correctness. Trump’s attacks on the politically correct media and their manufactured outrages are consistently his greatest applause line on the stump. By comparison, Jeb Bush’s failure to gain traction in his campaign reflects the fact that Americans are sick of the way politicians talk and have responded in the polls to a perceived alternative.
Far from being a return to the days of the Fire-Eaters, Trump’s supporters want to return to the America of a few decades ago before the reign of political correctness started when everyone was free to say what they wanted to say and believe what they want to believe without having to conform to any party line or live in terror of what some wounded crybaby might think at the workplace. Simply put, Trump’s supporters are sick and tired of the crowd that is perpetually offended.
It is really no more complicated than that.