Tuesday, January 09, 2018

David Brooks: The Decline Of Anti-Trumpism

I have a high opinion of this, as it confirms my prejudices:
   ...the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us.
   I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.
   In every war, nations come to resemble their enemies, so I suppose it’s normal that the anti-Trump movement would come to resemble the pro-Trump movement. But it’s not good. I’ve noticed a lot of young people look at the monotonous daily hysteria of we anti-Trumpers and they find it silly.
   This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?
   I've long been motivated by the thought that one of the real challenges for liberalism (may it rest in peace) is (was) to be opposed to conservatism without becoming ****ing insane. Now that I'm all grown up, I realize that conservatism faces a perfectly analogous challenge. And insanity on one side breeds insanity on the other.
   Jesus, Trump is awful. But he's not a fusion of Charles Manson and Hitler. Pretending that he is is nuts; but if you don't care about being nuts, maybe you will care that one consequence of being nuts in this way is: people like me feel a difficult-to-resist psychological pressure that drives us to make Trump out to be less bad than he actually is. I'm in no way proud of that--it's ginormously irrational. But let's be realistic about human psychology: it's hardly a rare reaction.
   On the other hand, Brooks's point is largely: people who actually meet Trump realize he's not as bad as people who haven't met him think he is. So...I'm not sure that assertion gives those of us who haven't met him much reason to think what those who have met him allegedly think. Given good reason to believe the assertion it would. But I doubt the truth of the assertion. I hope it's true, of course. And I think it might be--in fact, it was reading a bunch of alleged personal anecdotes about meeting Trump that made it possible for me to talk myself down off the ledge soon after his election. But OTOH, there's also reason to believe that some smart people who work closely with Trump think he's just as bad as he seems. So I don't know what.
   Another point: the mere possibility that the president of the United States might be as bad as Trump seems--the mere fact that we can't rule it out--that's very, very bad. If we have to honestly wonder whether the POTUS is sitting around wondering whether to nuke North Korea...that is plenty bad.
   What would help people like me is: if there were less overtly made-up, obviously TDS-driven, anti-Trump crackpottery popping up all the time. OTOH, what would probably help the other side is: less down-playing Trump's awfulness. So that's something for me to keep in mind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to have a naive hope that Congress would take the opportunity that the putative horribleness of Trump represents and start to restrain the presidency by exercising their institutional prerogatives. I think everything is far too Red/Blue Team now for that to ever happen.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I'm exactly with you on those things.

I guess that's part of why the power of the presidency keeps metastasizing--realistically, the president is going to have to acquiesce to losing power, because if he fights it, it just isn't likely to happen. But no party will ever give up any power. So no party will seek to decrease the power of the presidency when they wield it. And no party can reduce its power if they don't wield it.

Realistically, that is.

5:50 PM  

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