I am surrounded by Liberals and Democrats. “Not my President” stickers can be found in the summer colony I inhabit in July and August. Conversations have to be carefully managed to avoid any serious discussion of the Donald. Known Trumpists gather in small groups and exchange significant winks. A sentence is sufficient. This is probably as it should be, or as good as it ever can get. It is Volvo territory, and the chattering classes are firmly convinced that the United States has been taken over by an uncouth narcissist who opposes all the good things in life.
I agree that Trump is uncouth and an egotist, and I don’t care. You ask why? Because every time the President gets into a spat with some sacred cow of the Left, the range of what can be said by others expands. The most recent example was his taking on of the Congressman from Baltimore, an American black politician. Trump called his district in Baltimore a rat-infested dump, and after all the outrage of the left (racist! racist!) , it became possible to talk about the poverty and lack of civic virtue of the black population of Baltimore, and by extension, of all the other violence- and rat-infested cities governed for too long by Democrats, sustained by black majorities. Racist indeed. We are allowed on occasion to point out realities, as long as we can bear the opprobrium of the Left. But it takes an ice-breaker like Trump to call spades, spades.
The best of anti-Trump invective comes from Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine. It should be read, despite everything that is wrong with it, because it is the best expression of the concerns that a certain class of American has about Trump. Never mind that it is overwrought, partizan, snobbish and ultimately even silly. Sullivan compares the American Republic to Rome, and gives a useful precis of how Rome transformed from a Republic into a dictatorship over the course of a century or two of political turmoil, civil war, faction war, and occasional massacres.
Sullivan’s main points regarding Trump are as follows:
” If republicanism at its core is a suspicion of one-man rule, and that suspicion is the central animating principle of the American experiment in self-government, Trump has effectively suspended it for the past three years and normalized strongman politics in America.”
” He has also definitively shown that a president can accept support from a foreign power to get elected, attempt to shut down any inquiry into his crimes, obstruct justice, suborn perjury from an aide, get caught … and get away with all of it. “
“But when the president himself declares the system he works in is rigged, when he opines that electoral fraud is rampant, when he accuses his own FBI and intelligence services of being corrupt, he accelerates this process of delegitimization.”
” The second case against complacency is that a key branch of government that can and should restrain presidential overreach, the judiciary, is being methodically co-opted for the cause of executive power.”
“And the third is precedent. If republican virtues and liberal democratic values are a forest of traditions and norms, Trump has created a vast and expanding clearing. What Rome’s experience definitively shows is that once this space is cleared, even if it is not immediately filled, some day it will be.”
” A republican president respects how the system works, treats power as if it is always temporarily held, interacts with other agents with civility, however strained, and feels responsible, for a while, for keeping the system alive. Trump simply has no understanding of any of this. His very psyche — his staggering vanity, narcissism, and selfishness — is far more compatible with monarchical government than a republican one.”
The whole of Sullivan’s article, except for his precis of Roman history, proceeds from of a lack of insight into several important features of US politics, which have been present since Hamilton and Jefferson went at each other with equal acerbity and suspicion in the 1700s.
Paranoia: the republic is always in danger from the plots, misdeeds, and of concentration of power in the Presidency, which in principle should be restricted to executing the laws that the Congress has passed (as people of this school maintain when the President belongs to a party they oppose).
Lack of historical perspective: power has been concentrating in the Presidency since Teddy Roosevelt, and not just in the regime of his distant cousin Franklin. You could look at the criticisms of Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus (the freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure) in the Civil War as an example of Presidential concentration of power and suspension of civil liberties
Assault upon norms: Trump has consistently refused to take shit from a media class that has been determined to destroy him and whose animus against him and impotence is revealed daily. People elected him to fight back against the smothering liberal consensus and he has, successfully. He does not need press conferences when he can reach millions through tweets.
The case for Trump is most succinctly made by Conrad Black: that after 32 years of the family regimes of Bushes and Clintons, where a Bush or a Clinton was either a president, vice-president or secretary of state, something ended the soft-left passivity and decline. That event was the Trump election.
Nothing in the past three or four years has surprised me more than the hysterical and fact-resistant reaction of liberals to Trump. It is as if the totalitarian instincts of the American liberal – by which I mean leftist – have been given free range. Everything they accuse Trump and his followers of being: racist, ignorant, anti-immigrant, white supremacist, seems to have been the cover for a snobbery so gigantic it defies description, or in my case, understanding.
The useful portions of the American public, the people who drive ambulances, police the streets, fight the fires, build and repair cars, the genuinely civic minded, occasionally church-going, and non-fanatical American working class, and the rest of the civic core of American society, has been held up tp the opprobrium of people whose living is earned treating in symbols and information.
The people who have received university educations seem, by and large, to be anti-Trump, and I doubt not they cloak themselves in concern for the norms and practices of republican government. It seems to me however that the Gramscian long march through the institutions is bearing fruit, and that a class of people falsely and wrongly educated in American “educational” institutions is being told their views are wrong and that they are superfluous. As indeed they are. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.
Anyone who doubts that Trump will crush his opposition in the next election is not paying attention. This certainty – as near as life and fortune allows – is becoming obvious even to some Democrats. I am taking bets.