Saturday's newspaper column, today:
Before it became obvious, I wondered how the Republican Party and Trump got so many people to vote against their own interests. Turns out, it’s not against their interests at all: Trumpism is the fulfillment of their darkest dreams. After eight misguided years of complaining US President Barack Obama was authoritarian, deliberately divisive, abusing presidential powers, they’ve given themselves over to Trump, a man who’s all that and more, and they’re enraptured. It’s not that they didn’t want a dictator: they just didn’t want it to be a highly intelligent black guy who spoke of equality for all.
Right-wing media convinced Trumpists that US President Barack Obama was readying an unaccountable paramilitary force to take them from their homes. Trump is doing it. ICE has become that force, but, confident of exemption, they’ve gone mum. Their forbearance is rewarded with pleasing images of undocumented immigrants, here for decades, respected members of society, paying taxes, putting kids through college, as ICE agents wrench them from their families. That pleasure completely cancels calamities Trump creates for his cultists, including unsustainable budget deficits and soaring debt about which, it seems only yesterday, they were once apoplectic.
Foxolimjonesified, they believed Operation Jade Helm was US President Barack Obama’s plan to incarcerate them under Texan Walmarts. Other than being above ground, that’s precisely where, with Trump’s approval, children seized from their parents are currently imprisoned, out of sight even of a US Senator concerned about their condition.
In their silence, Trumpists speak loudly: they’re atingle over those children being taken from their families while they await rulings on asylum. It’s a thrilling message: asylum is history, and so is immigration. And empathy. The gratification more than makes up for rising costs of health insurance. And gas. Increased pollution, ending consumer protections as the price of vicarious vengeance? Totally worth it.
Hearing Trump claim Democrats hate America and want open borders, Nancy Pelosi loves criminal gangs, inquisitive journalists are enemies of the people, is all they need to disregard the coming pocketbook effects of irrational tariffs. In their minds, Trump is right that Canada represents a security threat. After all, they burned the White House in 1812. Didn’t they? And if Putin, the existential enemy toward whom President Obama was “weak,” chose Trump, he’s totally their guy.
Evidently, feeling free to call the cops on black people picnicking or entering their own homes produces contagious bliss. How liberating, knowing your “president” won’t criticize you for intimidating women wearing hijabs, refusing to serve gays, bullying people speaking foreign languages in your country. What spiritual elation must derive from turning self-doubts into self-affirmation by diminishing others! Especially when it’s because of skin color, religion, sexual preference, or where they came from. How affirming to see Trump impugn richer-than-us black athletes.
These pleasures are all they ever wanted from him, and he’s shown that despite breaking promises and lying daily, including about his tax plan about which who cares, they can count on their bitterness being validated, prejudices mirrored, scapegoating perceived victimhood reinforced. It’s this, not his “policies,” that they love about him.
What other explanation is there? Nothing about Trump’s tax or trade actions are conservative; already squeezing Medicare, among many other adverse effects, they’ll hurt average, non-wealthy Americans. So will his donor-enriching climate-change denial. Hiring crooks and incompetents ought to appall all Americans, regardless of party; yet Trump’s worshippers and Congressional Republicans pretend it away.
For Congress-dwellers, selling souls for wealth-enhancement is a fair trade. For every other supporter, who’ll receive no enrichment and who’ll be the ones suffering the consequences of an ego-driven trade war started by a narcissist seeking revenge against allies who don’t kiss his … ring, it must be about ratifying their animus. There’s nothing else in it for them; going forward, even less. Tellingly, it’s enough.
Trump didn’t create these people; he empowered them. Grateful, they excuse an imperious “president” who claims the right to pardon himself and says he’s above the law because he IS the law. Seeing the cataclysm to which this leads, thoughtful believers in democracy, including true conservatives, recoil. Unreachable, Trumpists neither recognize nor care about the implications; the sources of America’s greatness are lost on them. It falls on the rest of us, then, to save it. For them, too, even though they haven’t yet grasped the need.[The image came from twitter via Facebook. Best I can do for sourcing.]