Opinion writer

It takes remarkable skill, when you think about it, to claim victimhood when your enemies are threatened with assassination. But for President Trump, his state media and his cultish following, victimhood is central to their identity and critical to their mobilization. A party in control of every branch of government is the victim. White males — even a wealthy Yale graduate with a lifetime appointment to the federal bench — are victims. The cops who shoot unarmed black teens are victims. Residents of the small towns in the Rust Belt where few, if any, illegal immigrants live are victims of immigrants. Forget the crime statistics; we’re victims of criminals who are here illegally. Conservatives who control an entire media universe devoid of journalistic standards are victims of the mainstream media. Americans are victims (ripped off!) by an international system that made us the world’s only superpower.

Given all that, it is hardly surprising that Trump claimed to be the victim in the mailing of pipe bombs (now numbering 12) to some of his favorite targets (e.g. John Brennan, Rep. Maxine Waters, the Clintons):

Trump expresses no concern for the actual victims of these threats or for the country that is witnessing this domestic terrorism. Moreover, the attempted assassinations now become his go-to excuse if Republicans lose in the midterms:

On one level, this is insane, but on another it is symptomatic of Trump’s appeal. His party is now the party of white grievance. Bedraggled immigrants a thousand miles from the U.S. border or the crafty Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are all threats. China is a threat. Women reporting sexual assault are a threat. Mysterious — make that nonexistent–Middle Easterners who infiltrate a caravan hundreds of miles away are a threat. And most of all, the media — which refuses to accept Trump’s invented political universe — is a threat.

As we learn that one suspect is in custody in the mail-bomb investigation, we still do not know the exact motives behind the assault on our democracy. But one thing is for sure: Trump will take no responsibility for his incendiary language, not even for his praise of a congressman who body-slammed a reporter, his dehumanization of immigrants, his incitement of violence (“I’d like to punch him in the face”) or his insistence that the media is the “enemy of the people.” He’s not only not responsible for the bombing attempts in any way; he’s a victim of the media citing his inflammatory language as inspiration for political violence.

In the closing days of the midterm campaign, Trump has returned to his usual themes — illegal immigrants, the media, etc. — and invented new ones (e.g. the Democrats want to deprive Americans of protection  for preexisting conditions) all designed to scare and enrage his voters, all postulated on the false premise that he — and by extension, they — are victims.

While Trump’s victim-mongering may seem laughable, this is what demagogues and nativists do. Only if they are the real victims can they rally their base and justify their own bigotry, lawlessness, propaganda and xenophobia. The rest of us, however, don’t have to buy it.