Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump and his Critics

In a post called The Crowd Wars, Yuval Levin notes that Trump and his liberal opponents have both gotten obsessed with crowd sizes:
This likely will not be the last time that Trump and his sharpest liberal detractors turn out to be mirror images of each other. And in this case, their common instincts about how to approach the broader public point to a problem they share: Both wish to understand themselves as intensely popular, but both are in fact distinguished by a marked lack of popularity.

Trump enters office as the least popular new president since the invention of polling. Yet he insists, and maybe he believes, that he has ridden into Washington on the back of a mass movement the likes of which America has never seen. The activist Left enters this era having managed to lose a national election to Donald Trump. Yet it behaves as though it takes itself to be the obviously rightful voice of both reason and the masses. Both seem persuaded that they would be even more popular if only they were more like what they already are.

They would both be wiser to consider how to broaden their appeal, rather than doubling down on what has limited that appeal and searching for ways to flaunt its reach. Yet both have acted in these opening days of the Trump era in ways likely to intensify the allegiance of those who are already committed and to diminish the chances of drawing more supporters.
The point is not who is right or wrong, but who is more popular, and right now neither Trump nor the left is very popular in America. This ought to make liberals in particular reconsider their methods, because a lot of liberal positions are very popular: subsidized health insurance for everyone, protecting Social Security, avoiding foreign wars, etc. But liberals are not popular. This is partly just tribal rancor, but it is also because millions of Americans see liberals as snobs who get more excited when a new book comes out about Gay Muslim Furries (yes, it was actually featured on Slate) than about providing jobs for working folks in Kentucky or Michigan. If our response to Trump's victory is to double down on the "all Trump voters are racists" rhetoric and keep talking more about trans rights than the economic devastation of whole swaths of the country, we're just going to keep losing.

The only way to succeed in politics is to get more votes; saying "but I don't like the voters" is not going to help.


pootrsox said...

I have taken your final paragraph (and your name) and emailed it to one of the women leading the development of our local "resist and improve" group that grew out of the March.

I've also posted it (with your name attached, of course, John!) to my FB page and if there are any insightful responses, I will share them here.

pithom said...

"because a lot of liberal positions are very popular: subsidized health insurance for everyone, protecting Social Security, avoiding foreign wars, etc"

-All of which were advocated by Donald Trump over the course of the campaign.

G. Verloren said...


That's quite the "alternative fact" of yours. Around here we call them "falsehoods", or "lies".

Trump and the Republican party were some of the harshest critics of the Affordable Care Act on purely partisan grounds, and both have repeatedly promised to do away with it, which is the exact opposite of advocating subsidized health insurance for everyone.

In the same vein, Republicans have been trying for decades to slash Social Security, and they've not changed that stance. So again, the exact opposite of protecting Social Security.

As for avoiding foreign wars, (and putting aside that all our recent wars have been started by Republican presidents) the best way to do that is to maintain a strong deterrent force in the form of our military alliances like NATO. Any attack on one member of NATO is considered an attack on all, and hence potentially hostile foreign powers - like Putin's Russia - are unwilling to declare open warfare, resorting instead to fighting proxy wars by funding and providing arms to other parties who will fight for them, as in Ukraine, which is much more difficult and risky to pull off.

Trump, of course, wants to withdraw from NATO for unspecified reasons - presumably because he's Putin's lapdog and it would tickle ol' Vladdy boy pink to see NATO weakened enough so that he could go on the warpath, to fulfill his demented delusion that the Russian border has no end.

But whatever the reason, this is, once again, exactly the opposite of avoiding foreign wars, in that alienating your allies is a great way to make yourself vulnerable to your enemies while making it far more likely for war to break out in the first place. We've seen exactly what happens when the US turns to isolationism and abandons its allies around the globe to warmongerers - it nearly destroyed free western civilization as we know it only a few generations ago.

So yeah, completely and utterly wrong, as usual.

Miss Grimke said...

It is false equivalence to assert that both Trump and his critics are obsessed with crowd size as a measure of popularity. Trump is obsessing because he is consumed with his personal popularity. A normal politician in a democratic republic would say that the size of a protest is not meaningful, or he would pretend to listen to the marchers and co-opt their concerns. But a normal politician ain’t what we got. His opponents are rightly obsessed with not letting him get away with defining reality. We should all continue to resist his attempts to do so—in ways both large and small.

Millions of Americans do have reason to consider liberals snobs. As a Southerner who has spent most of her adult life in Yankee-land, I have tried and convicted quite a few in my day. However, it looks to me as if you are cherry-picking trans rights in an attempt to discredit a massive movement to resist a radical attack on any kind of proactive policies that might make a difference to working folks in Kentucky and Michigan, as well as on subsidized health insurance, racial justice, consumer protection, Social Security, environmental health, the dignity of women, freedom of worship, and immigrant rights. As if that were not enough we are expressing our terror at having an irresponsible, erratic man in charge of our nuclear arsenal. Obviously our work is cut out for us, but don’t think we are underestimating the challenge.

Unknown said...

@Miss Grimke

FWIW, I don't think John was trying to discredit a massive movement against Trump that would include advocacy for policies to help working folks in the heartland. I think he was trying to argue that less preoccupation with things like trans rights and more with working folks as such and their economic problems would make the movement against Trump more massive and powerful.

The Slate article John cites is, I think, a good example of a real problem. One of the click-bait banners for the article touts its theme with the line, "Looking for a way to resist Trump? Try this book." No, Muslim furries are not going to save us from Trump, nor is reading a novel a way to resist Trump. Drawing unglamorous, cishet working folks back into the liberal coalition, in part by paying some concentrated, zealous, and unpatronizing attention to them, is a way to resist Trump. Personally, I also think it's the right thing to do.

Why has the New York Times never had a "Tell Us Your Stories" feature asking what it's like to lose an industrial job you thought had you set for life, and not be able to find a new one (or having to settle for something much less than you thought you had)?

Miss Grimke said...

FWIW I have long been irritated with Slate's clickbait headlines, though I think (hope?)that one was tongue-in-cheek. NYTimes,yes, could do a whole lot better, and totally agree with the need for concentrated, zealous, unpatronizing attention to working folks.