Last week a conservative columnist for Bloomberg penned a rational and evidence-based article hoping to explain to President Donald Trump’s base exactly why some thinkers in the movement remain troubled by his many missteps.
It was a complete waste of ink, of course, but Megan McArdle probably knew that before it was written. That was kind of the point of her argument.
“The conservative voters who elected Donald Trump seem to feel especially betrayed when those who document his failures and violations are fellow conservatives. Like me,” she wrote, adding that Trump’s most ardent supporters instinctively push back on all criticism as “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
To the Trump believer, if anyone disagrees with something the president says or does, then they’re either an irrational hater, part of the loathed establishment, or propagating “fake news.” It’s the intellectual equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and shouting “lalalala,” or of seeing enemies lurking in every shadow, even one’s own.
While there are indeed haters and establishment powers and biased news outlets, they’re not everywhere. There are writers like Ben Shapiro and radio host Mark Levin whose conservative credentials and alliance to our movement are beyond question, yet who will criticize the president when necessary. To think that they’re somehow part of a liberal conspiracy is beyond reason. It’s crazy talk.
Yet I’ve seen life-long friends within the conservative movement, friends who are politically educated and with considerable experience, suddenly become blind and deaf to Trump’s mistakes.
If a President Hillary Clinton had made her daughter’s politically inexperienced husband a top White House advisor and given him authority over a wide array of issues – including national security – they would have screamed foul. But since Trump did it, it’s A-OK.
If a President Jeb Bush signed a spending bill that increased the size and role of government, forbid any funds for a border wall, and funded, again, the horrible actions of Planned Parenthood, they would be apoplectic. But since Trump did it, it must be part of some three-dimensional chess game that will magically payoff in the future.
If any president would have made their signature economic talking point about how they were going to get tough with China and end its currency manipulation, then suddenly say he must not have understood things so well and dumps the pledge altogether, they’d say it’s more of the establishment’s lies. Again, since Trump did it, his base doesn’t care.
But on the other hand, there are those who cannot give Trump credit for even the slightest of good deeds. To them, he’s nothing but pure evil, to be opposed at every turn, even if one of those turns goes their way. His first spending bill sure did, but that purchased him nothing from the other side of the aisle other than more talk about impeachment.
To the committed hater, every blunder, whether blatant or inadvertent or innocent, is potential grounds for impeachment. There’s no way Trump could actually do something beneficial for our nation, like negotiating a solid trade deal or getting our allies to pony-up for their own defense. He cannot really want what’s best for America, only himself.
Critical thinking has become something of a lost art in the middle of this mess.
With all of these people – the lovers and the haters – it’s like trying to talk sense to someone in the throws of passion, be it love or hate. In their eyes, Trump can either do no wrong or no good, and there’s nothing to be heard that would change that opinion.
That’s a pity, because this president is apt to make a number of very good decisions and quite a few bad ones, as well. Conservatives – those who supported him from the start and those who did so for strategic reasons once he was nominated – must unite and help guide this new administration through the swamp that’s our nation’s capital.
But if we cannot do it honestly – urging Trump along when he walks in the right direction and pulling him back when he stumbles astray – then we will find that not only will he become lost.
So will we all.