It’s Not Him. It’s You
How to understand the enduring Trump-hatred.
I know you. You’re somebody I know well or slightly or only as a public figure, and you hate Trump.
No, you’re not out rioting and destroying and burning, but you’re doing your part. You ruin your TV shows or podcasts, which are purportedly about non-political topics and which I otherwise enjoy, by interjecting Democratic rah-rah rhetoric. One of you, for example, in the middle of a podcast about old movies and TV, broke without warning into a pro-Democratic rant, expressing the urgent hope that Texas will “turn blue” in November. Two others, on a podcast about the arts, actually asserted that the Democratic convention was splendidly produced and deeply moving.
Consistently, you talk about politics as if it were still, I don’t know, 1990, or earlier, when there were Republicans like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond on the Hill, when there were no socialists or sharia advocates in the House Democratic caucus, and when nobody had ever heard of gender non-binaries.
Some of you don’t have TV shows or podcasts. You’re just ordinary citizens, friends or acquaintances of mine who sit at home and reflexively share anti-Trump memes on your social-media accounts. Most of those memes misrepresent facts that I damn well know you haven’t got a clue about, one way or the other. You don’t seem interested in learning the facts. You just want to hammer Trump. Facts or lies, it doesn’t matter. For some reason, it makes you feel good.
This is nothing new. You opposed him, virulently, in 2016. On election night, as one state after another went his way, you were in a panic. And with good reason – or so, at least, it seemed to you at the time.
You had bought into the argument that he was dangerously unstable and that with him in the White House the world would go spinning out of control. The possibilities of misadventure were endless. First off, he would pull us out of NATO and the UN. Then, who knew? The sky was the limit. He could set off Armageddon by saying something crazy on the phone to Putin or Xi or Kim Jong Un. He could order sudden, unwarranted troop build-ups and fleet movements that would ratchet up tensions. Or he might even – in fact he almost certainly would – order an unprovoked, unilateral invasion of some foreign country or other. Iran, say, or North Korea. Or Venezuela. Or someplace in Africa. Who knew? With this madman, anything could happen.
That wasn’t all, of course. You had also been persuaded that Trump was a racist and xenophobe. You knew that once in the Oval Office, he would lose no time finding ways to terrorize blacks. He would round up all the illegal Mexicans in the country, and maybe even the legal ones too, and send them back to Mexico. Naturally he’d also ship all the Muslims back home. Plus, his antisemitism was so deep-seated that he would almost surely find something terrible to do to Israel.
And that still wasn’t all. In addition to being an irrational warmonger and coldblooded bigot, Trump was a dictator in the making, prepared to take your rights away. He’d ban abortion outright, undo gay marriage, and crack down mercilessly on unfriendly news media. If you dared to march in the streets to protest any of these actions, he’d have you arrested and keep you locked up indefinitely, denying you your right to an attorney and a jury trial. Meanwhile he’d govern by fiat, ordering the arrest of opponents on Capitol Hill and perhaps even closing down Congress entirely. He might even torture and execute his domestic enemies. No wonder you and your friends were terrified!
Needless to say, none of this happened. Instead Trump racked up the most extraordinary record of accomplishments of any president’s first term. By lowering taxes and slashing a record number of regulations, he brought employment figures to unprecedented heights, with job numbers for blacks, Latinos, and Asians the highest ever. He reversed the export of manufacturing jobs abroad, replaced NAFTA with a much better North American trade agreement, and improved the trade imbalances with Europe and China. Median household income reached a new peak; GDP and consumer confidence hit – and, until the COVID lockdown, stayed at – remarkably high levels.
He initiated extensive criminal-justice reforms, took action on drug prices, improved VA health care, and introduced Right-to-Try. He made the US oil independent and turned the country into a net natural gas exporter for the first time in over half a century. He pressured allies into pouring tens of billions of dollars more into NATO. He introduced the Space Force. He moved the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, and arranged peace deals between Israel and the UAE, Israel and Bahrain, and Serbia and Kosovo.
And much more. Over and over again, Trump has made it clear that he’s about improving life for ordinary Americans and protecting the country for all of us. Meanwhile, the Democrats have shown that they’re willing to kowtow to radicals, however violent, in order to win power and to take almost any position, however absurd, as long as it’s the opposite of Trump’s. Trump has a powerful sense of adult responsibility; they have none. Instead they have emotional appeals with no basis in facts, utopian policy proposals that are untethered from reality, slogans about love and tolerance that they chant even as they burn buildings, punch old ladies, and call black cops the “N” word.
No, you may oppose his cancelation of the Iran Deal and the Paris Climate Accords, even though the former was a naïve, cowardly act of appeasement and the latter was an expensive piece of virtue signaling. And you may hate the wall on the Mexican border, even though there’s no good reason to hate it unless you’re a drug trafficker or sex trafficker or someone who stiffs American workers by employing illegals for rock-bottom wages.
But there’s no defense for your readiness to parrot the line that Trump has done nothing, or that his record is one of total chaos and disaster. Nor is there any excuse for your allergy to honest debate about what he’s actually done. In fact, most of his accomplishments are of the sort that people of good will – people who care about the peace and prosperity of their fellow Americans – should, if they look at them clearly and calmly and not through the lens of irrational rage, be able to admire, or at least accept with good grace.
Even if, for some perverse reason, you don’t like his accomplishments, you should be able to respect the fact that he’s fulfilled a greater percentage of his campaign promises than any other president in memory. And he’s managed to do it while Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans, along with members of the “Deep State” and news media, have spent every day of his presidency disparaging him, ignoring or belittling or lying about his achievements, making countless false accusations against him, and actively – and feloniously – trying to bring him down.
No, he’s not perfect. But who is? If you’ve actually been paying attention during the past four years and still hate him, exactly which president are you comparing him to? Surely you’re not comparing him to his opponent, a mediocrity, now at best half-senile, who has nothing to show for a half century in politics except a family enriched through corrupt foreign shenanigans on a spectacular scale. In terms of sheer accomplishment, Trump is head and shoulders above almost all of his predecessors, and inconceivably superior to Biden.
Now, it could be that you really are entirely unaware of the real history of the Trump administration. Perhaps you do get all your news, to use the term loosely, from Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon and the New York Times and Washington Post. Perhaps you never look at any news sources that are sympathetic to the president. Perhaps you’ve missed every good thing that Trump has done – either that, or you’ve been talked by Rachel and Don and company into seeing all these things as somehow, to coin a phrase, deplorable.
Or is it possible that you’re not all that low-information a voter after all? Could it be that you’ve been following developments pretty closely all along, and that, despite Trump’s successes, and despite the fact that he’s proven all the dark predictions of 2016 entirely wrong, you’ve insisted on sticking to your guns?
Now, why would this be? Do you see your stubbornness as a virtue? Did your hostility toward Trump become such an essential part of you that you’ve been incapable of shedding it, no matter how many times he proved your expectations wrong? Or could it be that your presidential criteria are entirely superficial? Could it be that after four years of stellar performance, you still despise Trump for no other reason than that you find him aesthetically unappealing? Although he’s an infinitely better chief executive than Obama was, do you miss Obama because of his elan, his panache, his tony style of public speaking, the way he held his head up, chin high? Or because his suits looked better on him? Did he send a thrill up your leg, as he did for Chris Matthews?
Do you miss the feeling of virtue you experienced every time you looked at him, knowing that you had helped put the first black president into the White House? Could it be that you actually buy into the ridiculous claim that Obama, because he was so clubbable and charming and cut such an elegant, natty figure, was a more suitable representative for America when in the company of kings and queens and diplomats? Do you really not grasp that international relations are not a matter of cocktail-party niceties but of knowing how to make a deal and use power wisely for the benefit of your country’s citizens? Or does it really just come down to the fact that you’re more interested in words than in actions – that you’re still enamored of Obama because he’s a smooth-talking son of a gun, and that you still despise Trump because he hasn’t changed his style of personal presentation since entering office?
The other night I watched Deep Impact. A comet hits the earth. Morgan Freeman is president. He is a president from Central Casting, striking just the right solemn tone, and using just the right kind of elevated language, as he addresses the nation about the impending disaster. The same goes for Bill Pullman as the president in Independence Day. And Henry Fonda in Fail Safe. And Harrison Ford in Air Force One. They’re all of an ilk. Obama might well have studied them, so perfectly did he fit the mold. Well, Trump didn’t. He isn’t remotely like a president in a movie. Is that what you have against him, perhaps without even realizing it?
Whatever the case, it’s obvious that your disdain for Trump isn’t based on informed, mature judgments about his presidential record. Instead, it’s about shallow stuff, visceral nonsense – the kinds of considerations that should not enter the mind of a serious, responsible-minded citizen when deciding which candidate is best equipped to govern the most powerful country on earth.
If the very sight of Trump still outrages you so much, in short, it’s not him. It’s you.