I Was Criticized for My Criticism of the ‘Lock Him Up’ Chant
Using Trump’s own lawlessness against him isn’t clever — it’s amplifying the damage
There is no question that Donald Trump is a terrible president. Between the incessant lying, self-dealing from the White House to benefit his own corporation, racists rants, defiling of the post–Cold War global order, and inhumane imprisonment of families and children on the southern U.S. border, he is objectively the worst president in at least a generation. Let’s face it, he’s in the running for worst U.S. president of all time.
So when the World Series crowd in D.C. reacted on Sunday to his image being projected on the Jumbotron, the jeers and boos were immediate and apparent even to the television-viewing audience. The camera stayed with Trump’s expression, and I saw a slight cringe, although I may be projecting my own imagined response a bit.
But then the chant started: “Lock him up!” the crowd screamed over and over. And that’s when my reaction changed.
The environment presents a unique circumstance. The crowd was probably slightly inebriated and maybe a bit frustrated with the home team’s inability to generate much offense after a hopeful series beginning. They mockingly took up the phrase that is so often chanted at Trump’s own rallies, from the 2016 campaign trail to the Republican Convention to today. There was an immediate humor to the moment. The stadium was trolling the president, master of trolls. I can imagine that if I’d been in that crowd, I too might have been caught up in the moment and unable to resist the chance to turn the president’s own phrase against him during a moment he could not control or escape. A rare opportunity, to be sure.
In addition to being a bit of a baseball fan and a political addict, I’m a scholar who studies legislative politics, political parties, social political action, and democracy. Every time I hear a Trump crowd chant “Lock her up!” about Hillary Clinton, I wince. And that’s why I tweeted my disapproval of the chants — an opinion for which I was swiftly criticized both on social media and in New York magazine. “On what basis does Victor interpret the crowd’s chant as a call for the suspension of the rule of law, rather than as a demand…