It has to be admitted that Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do.Scanning my Facebook feed last night it struck me that most liberals don't even realize that this fight over the national anthem is one they can't win. Trump picked this ground to fight on because he knows it is a winning issue for him. So long as Trump stands for AMERICA and liberals seem to be against it, he wins.
He was not elected to be a legislative president. He never showed any real interest in policy during the campaign. He was elected to be a cultural president. He was elected to shred the dominant American culture and to give voice to those who felt voiceless in that culture. He’s doing that every day.
What’s troubling to me is that those who are the targets of his assaults seem to have no clue about what is going on. When they feel the most righteous, like this past weekend, they are actually losing and in the most peril. . . .
Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.
That’s exactly what he’s doing. Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.
Day by day Trump is turning us into a nation of different planets. Each planet feels more righteous about itself and is more isolated from and offended by the other planets.
The members of the educated class saw this past weekend’s N.F.L. fracas as a fight over racism. They felt mobilized and unified in that fight and full of righteous energy. Members of the working class saw the fracas as a fight about American identity. They saw Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin try to dissuade Alejandro Villanueva, a three-time combat veteran, from celebrating the flag he risked his life for. Members of this class also felt mobilized, unified and full of righteous energy.
Trump wants this culture war. This is the battle he is ready for, and that he thinks he can win. As Bannon put it, Trump wants liberals to talk about race while he talks nationalism. Patriotism may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, but scoundrel Trump knows a good refuge when he sees one.
If liberals want to hold power in this country, they need to change the subject back to issues that are winners for them: health care, infrastructure, not cutting taxes on the rich. And how about this one: treating everyone with respect. Because when we start calling football fans who booed the protesters racists or hypocrites, we descend into the wrestling ring with Trump. We surrender the moral high ground and lose the advantage of being polite grown-ups battling an offensive bully.
Whether you like it or not, Trump is with the majority on this, and nobody ever wins elections by calling the majority names.