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“The Decline of Anti-Trumpism”

 

The problems with anti-Trumpism are concisely delineated . . . .in the New York Times. By David Brooks. Look! The sun has been blotted out! Pigs, aflight! Millions of them!

 . . . 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.

He’s right, I think — with careful attention to the word “more.” Some Trump skeptics — and hello, you handsome lad in the mirror — have always been concerned about his lack of knowledge combined with his disinclination to learn, his word-salad replies to questions, and his instinctive demeaning of anyone who challenges his mastery of the issues. This is different than thinking he’s a pouty toddler with the IQ of a bucket of soup.

A lot of Trump supporters conflate the “Dumb crazy baby” anti-Trumpers with the skeptics, just as anti-Trump types conflate the Trump defenders with the airhorn MAGA supporters. I hate that. Which brings us to the next point:

The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity. Most of the people who detest Trump don’t know anybody who works with him or supports him.

Well, I think it’s fair to say that most anti-Trump types don’t know anyone who works with him. I don’t know about the second point, since I don’t know who knows who, but I can think of a few anti-Trump pundit types who wouldn’t change their opinion of Trump no matter how many supporters they knew. Their opinions have to do with — well, Trump. Their opinions about the man won’t change because the man won’t change.

But this is a distinct issue from being anti-Trump administration, and this seems to be the sticking point I do not understand. If the end result of the administration’s policies is the advancement of conservative policies, then you have to balance that against the negative influence of the Trump Personality on politics — something that seems to me to be modern culture turned up to 11 with the Loudness button enabled — and consider whether the specific, quantifiable gains exceed the cost of having Trump as the means by which they were achieved. If the answer is no, then it’s possible your objections result from your inability to throttle your lack of respect for the man, and this colors your view of the larger scene.

More:

And if they do have friends and family members who admire Trump, they’ve learned not to talk about this subject. So they get most of their information about Trumpism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.

Oh, I have conversations with Trump-supporting friends all the time; it’s fun. Most of my info about Trumpism comes from the President’s Twitter feed.

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.

Hmm. I don’t recall the Allies building gas chambers for the Axis troops, or Afghan UN troops cultivating poppy fields and forbidding the instruction of girls, but nevermind. I am also unsure how many young people Frum has interrogated about the monotonous daily hysteria. (“Young people,” especially worried woke 7-year-olds, are the cab drivers of modern political commentary.) But I find the daily hysteria silly, and I think Donald Trump’s public performances are generally ridiculous.

He concludes:

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 don’t think so. I think he’s a one-off.

Or, are we going to restore the distinction between excellence and mediocrity, truth and a lie?

Oh, those distinctions are just suddenly apparent now? You could find a lot of people who regarded the previous presidents as excellent mediocrities and mediocre excellences.

Are we going to insist on the difference between a genuine expert and an ill-informed blow hard?

I suspect not, because many of the former have been corrupted by agendas to the point where they don’t realize how they sound like the latter.

There’s a hierarchy of excellence in every sphere. There’s a huge difference between William F. Buckley and Sean Hannity, between the reporters at this newspaper and a rumor-spreader. Part of this struggle is to maintain those distinctions, not to contribute to their evisceration.

Note how he twinned reporters with Buckley. Okay: Buckley had a coherent, detailed political philosophy he advanced through his platform; is he saying NYT reporters are doing the same?

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There are 109 comments.

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  1. Member

    Brooks.

    • #1
    • January 8, 2018 at 11:10 pm
    • 2 likes
  2. Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Brooks.

    It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

    • #2
    • January 8, 2018 at 11:39 pm
    • 2 likes
  3. Contributor
    James Lileks Post author

    Fixed; my mistake. I thought Frum and Brooks had merged to form Dysentery.

    • #3
    • January 8, 2018 at 11:44 pm
    • 36 likes
  4. Coolidge
    TBA

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Fixed; my mistake. I thought Frum and Brooks had merged to form Dysentery.

    They did, briefly, in the mid-eighties, and Dysentery even opened for Gorilla Channel at the Iowa State Fair.

    • #4
    • January 9, 2018 at 12:11 am
    • 18 likes
  5. Member

    It’s late, James, I’m not entirely following you.

    Are you saying that you like what Trump is doing, but not the way he’s doing it? Am I right that you’re offended that your blessed Conservative policies have found an advocate, but that advocate is someone you find not worthy?

    Thank God there was no Internet in the time of Truman, whose comments regarding Jews would have had him thrown out of my father’s house. Funny story; that same father, who didn’t know Truman routinely referred to Jews as ***** , stayed up all night to hear the UN vote. And cheered it.

    So Truman was an unlikely hero (and one my father would not have chosen had he known him personally.) But Truman is a hero we celebrate to this day.

    Before the election I posted that this time it was all about me. I’ve routinely voted against my own personal interests. But not this time. This time it was too important. This time it was all about me.

    So you have a good cry when your daughter goes off to study abroad. It sucks when your kid leaves. I’ve been there, my kids have left home – except my kids weren’t going to study. Afghanistan, Okinawa, whatever.

    • #5
    • January 9, 2018 at 12:45 am
    • 18 likes
  6. Member

    Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

    For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

    Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

    Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

    The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

    Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

    That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.

    It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

    That is an excerpt from President Trump’s inaugural address. The guy who won the last election, a win that surprised even the winner himself, understands the present electorate’s concerns better than the career politicians and the career pundits, commentators, and reporters who have been involved in politics in the last twenty years.

    My favorite moment in the last election was actually Marco Rubio’s withdrawal speech. I supported Rubio, and he was smart enough to understand the Trump phenomenon. Had Rubio understood all of this when he started running, I think he might have won. I hope he runs again at some point. The other candidate who I think understood the Trump phenomenon by the end of the primaries was Bobby Jindal. For both Rubio and Jindal, the more time they spent with actual voters, the more they came to realize that the voters’ concerns were being addressed by Donald Trump better than by the other candidates.

    A school superintendent friend of mine and I used to argue about “giftedness.” I despise that term. Every child is gifted. True, he would say. And we do know that most kids will understand all of the content eventually. When we talk about “giftedness,” we’re talking about the rate and pace of learning.

    Trump was ahead of the rest of the candidates.

    • #6
    • January 9, 2018 at 1:20 am
    • 21 likes
  7. Coolidge

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Fixed; my mistake. I thought Frum and Brooks had merged to form Dysentery.

    Check again. At least 1 instance remains.

    • #7
    • January 9, 2018 at 2:05 am
    • 3 likes
  8. Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Fixed; my mistake. I thought Frum and Brooks had merged to form Dysentery.

    They did, briefly, in the mid-eighties, and Dysentery even opened for Gorilla Channel at the Iowa State Fair.

    They were dropped from the Gorilla Channel because they weren’t fighting enough.

    • #8
    • January 9, 2018 at 2:31 am
    • 10 likes
  9. Member

    “Oh, I have conversations with Trump-supporting friends all the time; it’s fun. Most of my info about Trumpism comes from the President’s Twitter feed.”

    That might be the problem James. Even the most ardent supporters recognize his Twitter feed is mostly white noise used to send the media into a fresh frenzy on a daily basis, which seems to work every time (they’re like toddlers chasing a cookie). If what I knew of Trump came mostly from Twitter, I might be in the anti-Trump camp as well.

    Ignore Twitter and watch the policies unfold, taxes be cut, regulations roll back, and the U.S. government once again putting the interest of Americans first and foremost. What could be so bad about that?

    • #9
    • January 9, 2018 at 3:26 am
    • 15 likes
  10. Member

    Brooks “the anti-Trump movement seems to be getting dumber…”

    Perhaps it’s Brooks just getting smarter coming to see what we’ve seen all along. Brooks is behind the curve in general, and he’s more open than many of his cohorts like Frum, so this isn’t surprising.

    Their opinions have to do with – well – Trump

    The media is actually hiding the real Donald Trump while they take tiny slivers of him and speculate endlessly, creating their own script.

    I contend most people have quite a false impression of the man. Saying this doesn’t mean … anything positive okay?

    I don’t get his tweets, but I watch his presentations, speeches – only direct communications, and I avoid TV news to keep sane.

    At this point, anyone who pays any attention to it/them is unwittingly falling into their spell.

    We are all susceptible.

    I don’t watch professional wrestling. It’s not because it’s fake that I don’t watch because I watch plenty of fake things. I can watch complete fiction like Game of Thrones complete with dragons and such and enjoy it.

    If I watched pro wrestling, I would soon become engaged in the stories. It’s human nature. Knowing full-well it’s fake doesn’t change much. Everything is fake, so what?

    Likewise with the news on TV and its ancillaries. It’s a made-up narrative that uses publicly available content to continue its storyline. They take elements that reinforce the existing narrative, ignore anything that runs counter, and surf daily on that wave. But it’s because it purports to be true that makes this so dangerous. If you watch them, you will have a mistaken view of the world you live in.

    It’s not just that they misreport, are biased and have an agenda. They are putting on a play. They are in complete control of all the elements presented.

    This is what Trump knows and he’s refusing to play. Few in public life have ever done this.

    • #10
    • January 9, 2018 at 4:13 am
    • 20 likes
  11. Contributor

    James Lileks:A lot of Trump supporters conflate the “Dumb crazy baby” anti-Trumpers with the skeptics, just as anti-Trump types conflate the Trump defenders with the airhorn MAGA supporters. I hate that.

    ^These. Both of these.

    • #11
    • January 9, 2018 at 4:54 am
    • 17 likes
  12. Member

    You missed what I thought was the biggest howler in the piece:

     Are we going to restore the distinction between those institutions like the Congressional Budget Office that operate by professional standards and speak with legitimate authority, and the propaganda mills that don’t?

    Want to check the recent track record of the CBO’s predictions of costs of major legislation versus reality?

    It’s precisely this kind of “legitimate authority” that is causing so much of the distrust of the political class.

    • #12
    • January 9, 2018 at 4:57 am
    • 32 likes
  13. Thatcher

    I don’t much like Trump. I watched his show once. It was insipid, but then most TV is. (Right now, Donnie is looking up “insipid.” This makes me smile.)

    I have had a number of supervisors. One of them was the nicest guy that you could ever hope to meet. Cheerful, polite, filled with bonhomie — and utterly worthless. The people in his group had to ride herd on him to get anything done.

    His replacement was who I think of when Jonah Goldberg uses the phrase “human toothache.” Abrasive, annoying, antagonistic; and that’s just the A’s. He had the interpersonal skills of a Visigoth with a hangover. Got stuff done, though. If you told him what you needed to get the job done, he would get it, even if it meant chonking off the rest of the department.

    I avoid soup by-the-bucket. Quality control issues. Except for that potato cheddar soup mix that they sell at Farm & Fleet. One envelope makes a half-gallon. That stuff is the bomb.

    • #13
    • January 9, 2018 at 5:22 am
    • 15 likes
  14. Contributor

    James Lileks: This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump.

    I think we have no idea what the rules will be after Trump. He’s a watershed moment in the Presidency, in much the same way that Andrew Jackson and T.R. were. The demands of the populace are changing, and just as T.R and Ol’ Hickory were able to ride those changes into the White House, so it is with Trump.

    Trump is a symptom, not the cause. We’d all be a lot smarter if we figured out why Trump got in, and how we can capitalize upon what we learn in order to win again in 2020.

    • #14
    • January 9, 2018 at 5:23 am
    • 27 likes
  15. Member

    Kevin Creighton (View Comment):
    I think we have no idea what the rules will be after Trump. He’s a watershed moment in the Presidency, in much the same way that Andrew Jackson and T.R. were.

    Well said, he is the biggest change-agent to come along in decades. Love him or hate him, things will not be the same.

    • #15
    • January 9, 2018 at 5:27 am
    • 5 likes
  16. Member

    James Lileks: Hmm. I don’t recall the Allies building gas chambers for the Axis troops,

    Not that specifically, and maybe not quite that bad, but we were doing a lot of things that caused us to resemble our enemies in those days. It’s the way it is with war. I hate to ever defend Brooks on anything, but I’ll defend him on this point.

    • #16
    • January 9, 2018 at 5:31 am
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    You missed what I thought was the biggest howler in the piece:

    Are we going to restore the distinction between those institutions like the Congressional Budget Office that operate by professional standards and speak with legitimate authority, and the propaganda mills that don’t?

    Want to check the recent track record of the CBO’s predictions of costs of major legislation versus reality?

    It’s precisely this kind of “legitimate authority” that is causing so much of the distrust of the political class.

    Good call.

    The CBO let itself be politicized by Obama and thereby lost whatever legitimate authority it had. Which wasn’t much. The CBO was supposed to be in place for information, not authority. But it’s no longer a legitimate source for information, either.

    • #17
    • January 9, 2018 at 5:37 am
    • 6 likes
  18. Member

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    James Lileks:A lot of Trump supporters conflate the “Dumb crazy baby” anti-Trumpers with the skeptics, just as anti-Trump types conflate the Trump defenders with the airhorn MAGA supporters. I hate that.

    ^These. Both of these.

    Have to disagree with the one hand/other hand equivalence here. First, though, I agree that smearing any large group with the beliefs of a smaller subset contained within is unfair. This is done constantly by the left, and it’s discouraging to see this occurring more pervasively on the right.

    I don’t believe there is any significant or powerful faction of Trump supporters who actually conflate Trump skeptics with the hysterics.

    I think the issue is more along the lines of telling the skeptics they are aiding and abetting the enemies of freedom – that is, the left.

    I would also contend that most Trump supporters are also somewhat skeptical at least, so that position can’t be claimed as a discreet faction.

    The distinction I see is one can be skeptical, or nervous, about Trumps brinkmanship but still support him and the agenda.

    The other being one can be generally non-supportive and neutral, disinterested or even antagonistic to his agenda or elements thereof, and emitting positive utterances when some policy to their liking is implemented, buffet style.

    Once again, the lines are drawn between those who believe we are in a fight to the death against the left, and those who think we are playing a best-of-seven match of scrabble.

    • #18
    • January 9, 2018 at 5:40 am
    • 8 likes
  19. Member

    “Except for that potato cheddar soup mix that they sell at Farm & Fleet. One envelope makes a half-gallon. That stuff is the bomb.”

    OK, I hope that was serious. I ordered some!

    • #19
    • January 9, 2018 at 6:00 am
    • 3 likes
  20. Member

    James Lileks:

    There’s a huge difference between William F. Buckley and Sean Hannity

    Yeah, one is dead and can be considered an idolized figure.

    No one knows how Buckley would have navigated the Trump movement. He might have gone down a Bill Kristol and George Will path, or he might have lined up with Norman Podhoretz, Conrad Black, George Gilder, Emmett Tyrrell, Paul Johnson, David Horowitz, and Herb London.

    WFB’s successor as editor of National Review Rich Lowry essentially just stated that he was wrong and that President Trump has had an A+ conservative agenda.

    • #20
    • January 9, 2018 at 6:10 am
    • 16 likes
  21. Thatcher

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Fixed; my mistake. I thought Frum and Brooks had merged to form Dysentery.

    I needed a laugh this morning, really bad, @jameslileks. This had tears rolling down my cheeks.

    I think your breakdown is perfect here. There is too much lumping on both sides, and Brooks is 100% of this. He decries hysteria while having an article that is itself, deep in hysterical thinking, though not tone. He is trying to sound like he is being driven by reason, but instead is still just as emotion driven as the rest of the nut job anti-Trump forces he decries, most of which are on the left.

    Anti-Trumpism is in steep decline on the right. Trump’s administration has delivered many conservative things. While I still blame Congress for not getting more done (like key appointments), at least he has not spearheaded No Child Left Behind or massive entitlement expansions like the last president with an “R” next to his name. What is left of “Never Trump” on the right are folks who think Clinton would have been better for America, or conservatisim, or Republicans or something, which, based on the last year, just does not stand up to the light of day. Those people are a small rump. I certainly don’t think of you that way. (Then again, you don’t get to go to any Georgetown cocktail parties /jk)

    I wince when I listen to Trump, because I value words and being articulate. It is clear that a whole bunch of voters don’t care as much about that as making some changes. Going to be an interesting three more years!

    • #21
    • January 9, 2018 at 6:39 am
    • 11 likes
  22. Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    I avoid soup by-the-bucket. Quality control issues. Except for that potato cheddar soup mix that they sell at Farm & Fleet. One envelope makes a half-gallon. That stuff is the bomb.

    This is all I want to comment on.

    Now I’m heading up to Farm & Fleet after work.

    • #22
    • January 9, 2018 at 6:41 am
    • 4 likes
  23. Member

    I did not want Trump to be President, but I emphatically did NOT want Hillary Clinton to be President.

    That was the choice.

    Any Conservative policy that happens under the Trump administration is to be celebrated and recognized as the opposite of any policy that would have happened under a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

    “Conservatives” still actively campaigning for the demise of the Trump Administration must have stumbled into “Conservatism” strictly because they enjoy the Blue Blazer, the Conservative decoder ring, and the secret handshake or just sitting in a leather chair wearing a smoking jacket, ascot tie and smoking a pipe ….. because evidently any Conservative policy gains are insignificant.

    • #23
    • January 9, 2018 at 6:58 am
    • 23 likes
  24. Contributor

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):
    Any Conservative policy that happens under the Trump administration is to be celebrated and recognized as the opposite of any policy that would have happened under a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

    This, this a thousand times this.

    • #24
    • January 9, 2018 at 7:02 am
    • 9 likes
  25. Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    James Lileks: Hmm. I don’t recall the Allies building gas chambers for the Axis troops,

    Not that specifically, and maybe not quite that bad, but we were doing a lot of things that caused us to resemble our enemies in those days. It’s the way it is with war. I hate to ever defend Brooks on anything, but I’ll defend him on this point.

    Perhaps the greatest illustration of this is the way the Pacific war evolved toward ruthlessness.

    • #25
    • January 9, 2018 at 7:04 am
    • 6 likes
  26. Member

    James Lileks:

    Or, are we going to restore the distinction between excellence and mediocrity, truth and a lie?

    Oh, those distinctions are just suddenly apparent now? You could find a lot of people who regarded the previous presidents as excellent mediocrities and mediocre excellences.

    The distinction between truth and lie seems to have been lost a little before Trump as well.

    • #26
    • January 9, 2018 at 7:11 am
    • 3 likes
  27. Contributor

    Franco (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    James Lileks:A lot of Trump supporters conflate the “Dumb crazy baby” anti-Trumpers with the skeptics, just as anti-Trump types conflate the Trump defenders with the airhorn MAGA supporters. I hate that.

    ^These. Both of these.

    Have to disagree with the one hand/other hand equivalence here. […] I don’t believe there is any significant or powerful faction of Trump supporters who actually conflate Trump skeptics with the hysterics.

    Well, that explains a lot.

    Franco (View Comment):
    I think the issue is more along the lines of telling the skeptics they are aiding and abetting the enemies of freedom – that is, the left. […]

    The distinction I see is one can be skeptical, or nervous, about Trumps brinkmanship but still support him and the agenda.

    The other being one can be generally non-supportive and neutral, disinterested or even antagonistic to his agenda or elements thereof, and emitting positive utterances when some policy to their liking is implemented, buffet style.

    Please, tell me how this is different from “If your support is insufficiently pure (as defined by me), then you’re helping the Democrats”?

    • #27
    • January 9, 2018 at 7:34 am
    • 3 likes
  28. Coolidge

    James Lileks: with the Loudness button enabled

    You’re seriously dating yourself here. I haven’t seen a Loudness button (which just turned up the bass output to drown out the hiss from a cassette tape) on a stereo in 20 years.

    James Lileks: consider whether the specific, quantifiable gains exceed the cost of having Trump as the means by which they were achieved.

    I think this is exactly the problem some of the Trump skeptics (a label I would apply to myself) are having. Some people have invested a lot into the idea that Trump is an idiot who lucked into the White House by running against the worst candidate ever. The idea that he might be successful is a huge challenge to their worldview.

    • #28
    • January 9, 2018 at 8:18 am
    • 14 likes
  29. Member

    Kevin Creighton (View Comment):

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):
    Any Conservative policy that happens under the Trump administration is to be celebrated and recognized as the opposite of any policy that would have happened under a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

    This, this a thousand times this.

    Sure, happy accidents are always preferable to planned disasters.

    • #29
    • January 9, 2018 at 8:52 am
    • 3 likes
  30. Member

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    James Lileks:A lot of Trump supporters conflate the “Dumb crazy baby” anti-Trumpers with the skeptics, just as anti-Trump types conflate the Trump defenders with the airhorn MAGA supporters. I hate that.

    ^These. Both of these.

    Have to disagree with the one hand/other hand equivalence here. […] I don’t believe there is any significant or powerful faction of Trump supporters who actually conflate Trump skeptics with the hysterics.

    Well, that explains a lot.

    Franco (View Comment):
    I think the issue is more along the lines of telling the skeptics they are aiding and abetting the enemies of freedom – that is, the left. […]

    The distinction I see is one can be skeptical, or nervous, about Trumps brinkmanship but still support him and the agenda.

    The other being one can be generally non-supportive and neutral, disinterested or even antagonistic to his agenda or elements thereof, and emitting positive utterances when some policy to their liking is implemented, buffet style.

    Please, tell me how this is different from “If your support is insufficiently pure (as defined by me), then you’re helping the Democrats”?

    Ok, I’ll try. I was fully engaged in politics online with other Republicans during the entire GW Bush administration. I don’t recall any instances of Republicans of any stripe other than perhaps fringe Pat Buchanan types acting so neutral and passive standing apart calling balls and strikes. Bush had no viable primary challenge for his second term. This was despite the hysterical left and the Bush hatred.

    In retrospect we see that he damaged the party in many ways, but thems the breaks.

    So there is an entrenched pundit faction and various elected Republicans opposing Trump, and it’s time to choose sides-especially if you want to be in the game.

    This does not mean you have to agree with DJT on everything or that you can’t ever criticize him. However you (all) can defend him against unfair attacks and characterizations, which right now is what’s needed more than neutral posturing.

    • #30
    • January 9, 2018 at 8:54 am
    • 10 likes
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