The Feel Good Phenomenon Known as DT

Jennifer Rubin graduated first in her class at U.C. Berkeley’s law school. After working as a lawyer for 20 years, she began writing political commentary for well-known right-wing magazines. Now she writes The Washington Post‘s “Right Turn” blog.

The good news is that she thinks DT is a disaster.

Yesterday, she published two pieces that especially impressed me. The first, “This Is Not a Normal President”, reviews the ways in which DT seriously screwed up. It concludes:

During the first 100 days [of DT’s administration], the Republic has survived, but the GOP [i.e. the Republican Party], permanently we think, has been morally compromised and intellectually corrupted, just as many of us warned. “Everything Trump touches dies,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson is fond of saying. Trump’s victims now include a respectable Republican Party.

The second was “[DT] Suspends Disbelief – On Most Everything” . It’s one of the best explanations I’ve read of why many supposedly competent voters voted for the Orange Menace:

The country is … divided … between those who want politics to tend to their emotional needs (pride, recognition, resentment) and those who want politics to solve problems while they take care of their self-esteem and emotional well-being in other ways. Ironically, Republicans who for decades accused the left of playing to emotions rather than dealing with cold, hard facts now eschew objective reality in favor of feelings….

Trump fans think he is winning because he yells at the press, vilifies cities run by Democrats, denies climate change and demonizes immigrants. He talks and acts like they wish they could — demeaning women, stereotyping minorities, telling off experts…. It does not matter to Trump fans if the executive orders are struck down or are mere window dressing (authorizing an agency to study something it already has the power to study). He makes them feel as if they’re winning, as if they are now more important than the experts with the facts and the courts with the laws on their side. Trump fans, the quintessential Fox News viewers, revel in the know-nothingism of a hero who reflects their anger, grievances, frustration and, yes, prejudice.

It will only take a few minutes to read the whole thing. I highly recommend reading it if you still occasionally ask yourself “who the hell are these people?”

On a related topic, I had one of those thoughts today that feel like an important insight even though they’re blindingly obvious. It came to me after watching today’s Hillary Clinton interview. At one point, she referred to some of the promises DT made during the campaign. And it occurred to me that all politicians make promises, but most voters are relatively cynical about those promises being kept. We’ve heard their promises before and we know it’s hard for politicians to get anything important done. Presidents, for example, aren’t dictators who can simply issue commands (“Make it so”). 

But DT wasn’t (and isn’t) anywhere near being a typical politician. He could make a ton of big promises, one after the other, and lots of voters thought, well, he’s not a politician, he’s different, maybe he really can do these big things he’s promising. I mean, maybe he can renegotiate all these treaties and make health insurance cheaper and bring back coal mining. He says only he can fix it! If a regular politician said that, it would sound ridiculous. But this guy is so strange, maybe he really can do what he says. Let’s give him a chance!

Of course, most of us saw through him. It was easy. But enough hopeful people in a few Midwestern states were willing to give him a chance. Now we’re paying the price for their ignorance and blinkered optimism.