The words a president uses matter.
They affect people. They change opinions. They mold malleable minds.
Even the words of a serious presidential candidate have that weight.
People listen. Large chunks of the country are moved to action. They can be calmed or angered. They can be inspired or devastated.
We know this to be true. We have seen it play out time and again in this country.
But just in case you need another example, let me tell you about Eric Galt.
Galt was a guy who could be molded. A follower. A criminal. He served time in numerous prisons in his life, mostly for petty crimes.
After escaping one of those prisons and going on the run, Galt heard the very racist message of a certain presidential candidate. And he was moved by its simplicity and anger. He was instantly connected to that message.
Angry with the way his life had turned out, Galt was looking to blame most anyone, and the blacks and Hispanics would work just fine.
He was also angry about what was happening to his country, as he watched the population of non-white citizens continue to grow and gain more and more rights.
He didn’t like the direction of America, the way minorities were now expecting equal rights. It was like they had more rights than white people.
That was crazy, but that’s how he felt.
Of course, you couldn’t dare say that out loud anymore. Not with all of this political correctness and equality. The white man wasn’t even free to speak his mind anymore.
And so, Galt had simmered, mostly alone, with his anger and racism.
Until that glorious day when he heard the speech of a presidential candidate — an outsider, a guy who spoke his mind and didn’t care what anyone thought. A real kick-em-in-the-face sort. He wasn’t afraid of the politically correct crowd.
And it was like that candidate was speaking directly to Galt.
Finally, someone understood. Finally, there was someone on the national stage — a man running for president, no less — who could relate to what Galt had been feeling. A man who could connect with Galt’s most primitive beliefs, who wasn’t afraid to say out loud what most white people were thinking anyway.
Through his anger and ignorance, Galt couldn’t see that the candidate didn’t really believe most of those things, that he was using his words to stoke the anger within people like Galt — people who couldn’t make peace with a new, more inclusive America. People who were down on their luck, or born into awful poverty, and looking for someone to blame.
They were tired of watching minorities get all the breaks.
This presidential candidate understood this. And he understood something else — that the Eric Galts of the world weren’t bad people. They didn’t want harm to come to minorities. They just wanted them to know their place.
Let the blacks and Hispanics and Jews have what they had. Let them carve their own path, the way white people had. But do it over there, and stop trying to take the white man’s stuff.
This candidate finally got it.
Of course, the progressives couldn’t stand it. They were protesting everywhere. The media, with their lies, were crushing his candidate.
He was being called a racist. His views were being criticized unfairly. And the constant marches and protests were just too much.
Galt couldn’t take it anymore. He had to act. He bought a gun and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Because that’s what happens when you stoke the anger of such people. That’s what happens when you use your platform on a national stage to encourage violence and speak in terms of saving America from destruction. That’s what happens when you cast political opponents, or even those with whom you slightly disagree, as traitors to the country, evil and the enemy of the people.
Some people take you seriously. They don’t understand the concept of hyperbole for effect. They don’t know that you’re only playing a role.
To them, it’s real life. And they’re striking a blow against the enemy. They’ll use crude violence or maybe mail a bunch of bombs or get a gun.
Eric Galt got his gun. And he struck his blow.
When he was eventually captured and carted off to prison, the world would come to know him by a different name: James Earl Ray.
The words of a president matter.