Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What Donald Trump is Doing

David Brooks:
It has to be admitted that Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do.

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.
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.

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.

4 comments:

David said...

It seems to me that if liberals want to hold power in this country, what they should be doing is everything they can think of to exacerbate the divisions between the Trump and Establishment wings of the Republicans.

ArEn said...

What is so infuriating is that Trump can hide behind patriotism while under investigation for colluding with a foreign power. What's up with that?

ArEn said...

It isn't patriotism per se that he's embracing (the Russian thing, criticizing gold star families and POWs is as unpatriotic as you can get), it's something else which eludes me.

David said...

You're right, and I haven't found a convincing way to explain or understand "it" either. Nothing has floored me in the last year so much as the supposed patriot party's complacency in the face of the Russia allegations, and even just Trump's bromance with Putin.

One could say the same about evangelicals' embrace of Trump. It's not just opportunism--there's an identification there.