Trump’s televised address about the wall he wants to build at the southern border received a lot of attention. The criticism prompts some rather disconnected thoughts about the way we respond to the president.
Criticizing Trump, we all learned in 2016, did not prevent his accession to the presidency in 2017. He has many faults. Critics do not have to look far to find them. Many of the people who voted for him see the same faults. They voted for him anyway.
If you are among the people who wish we had different leadership, I would not commit the same mistake Trump’s opponents made in 2016. His opponents warned voters, “You do not want to associate with people like that, racists and other garbage.” You cannot win an election that way! People do not vote for you because you tell them they are stupid if they do not.
The impeachment talk, the Mueller talk, the collusion talk all extend this theme to Washington’s political battles. If we throw enough charges at him, they believe, something will stick. If we compromise him, people will not vote for him. How can they?
Moreover, democratic socialism is on offer for 2020, more broadly than in 2016. Trump’s opponents believe a socialist program of generous public benefits, high taxes, and corporate regulation has sufficiently broad appeal that it can help defeat the president. Are they correct?
If these programs succeed, as a platform on election day, or in practice after that, it would be the first time in our history. Elizabeth Warren has the same problem as Tom Brady: an honest person regarded in the rest of the country as a cheater. Both the athlete and the politician are good at what they do. Warren could give Trump a good run, believe it or not. Her program, however, cannot succeed here.
When con artist Trump entered politics, we no longer needed to see through him, because he entered an arena where everyone is a con artist. Trump practices his cons in the open, for everyone to see.
You have to ask, then, why people devote so much energy to Trump criticism. What makes him so irresistible? Does he seem vulnerable because he is unintelligent? Don’t underestimate people who may appear clueless from time to time. Remember Keyser Soze, alias Verbal Kint, in The Usual Suspects? Con artists will do you in. When con artist Trump entered politics, we no longer needed to see through him, because he entered an arena where everyone is a con artist. Trump practices his cons in the open, for everyone to see.
In some respects, Trump is good at what he does, in other respects not. He is the perfect president and foil for a country where the two major parties have reached this level of dishonesty. Most Republican leaders decline to challenge him; most Democratic leaders challenge him ineffectually. Paul Ryan went down without a fight; Hillary Clinton went down fighting. They both went down.
To take a simple example, Democrats challenge Trump in a way that leads them to praise the FBI and CIA, to speak highly of James Comey and John Brennan! To me that is nearly impossible to conceive, that political animosity from a major party, toward the president, would lead the party to ally itself with two outlaw intelligence organizations, merely because they also oppose the president.
The FBI and CIA brought American democracy to the ground. They have done so for more than seventy years. As leading, secret agencies of the national security state, they ruined our republic. Democrats want to seal their deal with the devil, if the devil can help them bring down Trump.
Do Democrats think their current strategy will help them win the next election? We will see whether they miscalculated. Let’s see if the party’s leaders can conceive more effective ideas to defeat a man like Trump. So far, friends, it’s looking bleak.