“We cheer for Donal Trump! We cheer for Donald Trump!.” Palpable was the profound embarrassment I felt, the utter mortification my eight year old granddaughter felt as my five year old grandson wound down the back window of the car, poked his head out and yelled this to the crowded streets of his home town, Chapel Hill NC.
Chapel Hill is a University Town, and as such there is a certain liberal smugness, a feeling of superiority towards those not so blessed, obviously not so intelligent. My friends there vote Democrat (or keep very quiet). The town is awash with progressive causes from food pantries for those going hungry, to welcome committees for the refugees, anti gun, anti capital punishment, pro choice, and pro equality (except where that inequality is absolutely based on merit.). The town is warmly welcoming, warmly progressive, in a white sort of way.
And it is not entirely without a sense of humour.
My granddaughter and I yell to the boy to be quiet, (loud enough to hopefully put the fear of God into him, but quiet enough not to draw further attention to the obvious disgrace). We demand he wind up the window. After another two Cheers for Donald Trump he winds up the window, sits back and looks smug himself. My granddaughter and I gradually raise our lowered selves up above the level of the windows, looking furtively about, hoping that we were both unobserved and unrecognised. We slink home.
All this happened more than a year ago during the Presidential Debates of the fall of 2016. I’m now beginning to wonder if my grandson wasn’t onto something. “We cheer for Donald Trump’.
I doubt a day has gone by since Trump declared he was a candidate that he has been out of the headlines, usually for some despicable thought, vile slur or demeaning comment. He has, as is the want of a narcissist, dominated the news cycle. He has flourished in it like a malignant growth upon our body politic.
Almost daily, kind thoughtful friends forward articles, cartoons, and UTube clips demonstrating the monstrousness of this man. (One such was this interesting article comparing Trump to Kaiser Bill.) Many watch Trump more avidly than they watch the Royal Family. He has come to dominate the thoughts of most progressives I know. If I were a Republican supporter I would be thrilled.
Let me tell you why. Firstly it demonstrates both the laziness and the sense of entitlement many progressives have. By focussing on the awfulness of Trump they do not have to analyse the failings of the progressive platform (if they could find one), they can focus on the symptoms of the malaise, not the causes. Focussing on Trump, the symptom, is rewarding, it is daily theatre. The sense of entitlement is wrapped up in the idea that the Democrats should have won. They had the best and most experienced candidate. They got the most votes, the Republicans cheated. This beggars belief. Surely the Democrats know how the electoral system works. Still, it is much easier to blame than to seek understanding through objective review.
Secondly this focus on Trump allows the obvious schisms within progressive politics to go unrecognised, and thus the progressives remain hopelessly divided. In the US it is referred to as the liberal – left divide and is typified by those who say you cannot do anything if you are not in power and those who say power is not worth having if you compromise your principles. This article by Pete Davis explains this divide well.
Thirdly the focus on Trump means that the progressives do not face their failures, failures that will surely be highlighted should they look likely to win power. These failures include but are not limited to the following. First the abject failure of the Clinton administration to reign in the growth in African American incarceration. In 1994 Clinton ‘capitulated to the rightwing incarceration agenda’ leading to the massive increase in black incarceration. Clinton supported mandatory minimum sentencing, laws that blatantly discriminated against blacks, and reduced opportunity for parole. He had the chance to veto that bill but chose, despite speaking strongly against it, to sign it into law. (In the same month he reduced oversight on financial institutions – namely banks. So he came down hard on the poor and went soft on the rich.). Obama continued this softness with the rich by bailing out the banks on coming to office in 2009. Further he increased the use of drones such that in his presidency his drones kill over three thousand people, in his predecessor’s time just over three hundred were killed. Obama used drones to kill ten times as many people as Bush Jr. Obama has normalised the use of Drones. I’m not sure many of my liberal friends are happy to hand that tool to Trump. That these killing machines can be used without Congressional oversight and approval is disturbing.
Banks, International Security and ‘Law and Order’ are all areas of great social import. The the progressives are currently blinded by Trump and unable to articulate differentiated policies in these areas that reflect a social justice and peaceful agenda.
That the focus is on Trump makes it that much harder for the progressives to regain power and influence. “We cheer for Donald Trump” – no wonder the Right likes it.