Bud Kennedy

Trump’s ‘fightin’ words’ produced — guess what?

Watch Donald Trump make funny faces with a water bottle and yell ‘It’s Rubio!’

While speaking to supporters at a rally in Fort Worth, Donald Trump decided to make fun of Marco Rubio's infamous water bottle gaffe. (video by Jared L. Christopher)
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While speaking to supporters at a rally in Fort Worth, Donald Trump decided to make fun of Marco Rubio's infamous water bottle gaffe. (video by Jared L. Christopher)

Obviously we are going to have to borrow Six Flags Over Texas’ rules for this election:

1. Fasten your seat belt.

2. Remain seated.

3. Do not try to exit until the election comes to a complete stop.

A wrestling-style Donald J. Trump arena rally turned into more of an old-time hockey crowd fight Friday in Chicago, which only gave him more fodder for his branding campaign as Your Hero taking on the Evil Overlords, the Liar Media and the Unwashed Heathens.

I know wrestling hype when I see it, but I don’t know political science. So I asked five scholars to explain what just happened:

Rebecca Deen, UT Arlington: “This election cycle has been dominated by many narratives: populism, the disempowered wanting to be heard, those who feel threatened wanting to be reassured. … Chicago was a clash of these narratives.

“Mr. Trump has capitalized on [and fed] fear among some who believe that America has lost its way. … The protesters also speak to fear that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric gives license to hate and a war on them.”

Matthew Wilson, Southern Methodist University: “It is in many ways not surprising. … Trump’s tone is cruder and more belligerent than what we normally see.

“Combine that with the intolerance for free speech that increasingly characterizes the college left. … From a political standpoint, this probably helps Trump.”

WARNING: Graphic language. Donald Trump protesters and supporters argued before, during and after Friday's rally in Fort Worth. At one point, police divided the crowd with their bicycles. (Ryan Osborne/Star-Telegram)

Emily M. Farris, TCU: “As I returned to campus with my TCU students from our annual civil-rights bus tour, I saw pictures from Trump’s rally. … Teaching the civil-rights movement this semester and listening to the often provocative, incendiary and race-based rhetoric from Trump at his rallies has been both bizarre and terrifying.

“Trump follows a long history of politicians who use racial cues to inflame their supporters. With the fuse lit, it was inevitable there would be an explosion.”

Cal Jillson, SMU: “Racial and ethnic tensions are never far below the surface of American politics, but most experienced politicians know to pluck those strings gently, with suggestion and innuendo, rather than directly challenging Mexico, Muslims and others as threats to traditional America.

“… Talk of brownshirts and scenes of political upheaval can only hurt him, especially as we move toward a general election.”

James Riddlesperger, TCU, the local dean of poli-sci profs: “Trump has advocated violence in his rhetoric, [so] it is not surprising that (A.) his hottest-blooded supporters might resort to violence and (B.) protesters might try to provoke violence.

“From an analyst’s perspective, this is a sign of Trump’s lack of experience in politics. He didn’t want people to act on his suggestions — repeated in numerous forms over a number of appearances. And because he has never been on the political stage, he didn’t fully appreciate how powerful words in the political arena might be.”

Or he knows exactly how powerful his words will be.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.