Understanding “T”

Trumpism diagnosed under the spectacle of its latest scandal

Forward

Chris: Day 250. The president who used the words “very fine people” to describe violent, torch-holding white supremacists, now used the words “son of a b***h” to describe courageous, black NFL athletes who use their platform to peacefully protest racial injustice. And now, the whole country loses their mind. Really? This is what it took for Tom Brady and Rex Ryan to finally oppose the man they supported and campaigned for? Seriously, this is what it took for players like Ray Lewis and LeSean McCoy to finally kneel in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick after publicly shaming him for his actions? His shaming of Senator McCain for being a Prisoner of War or his defense of our foreign enemies wasn’t enough for the ‘patriotic’ NFL owners now opposing Trump? His never-ending insults towards women, immigrants, or Muslims didn’t seem like enough reasons to abandon him, yet his attack on wealthy NFL players and owners did? Over the weekend, Trump tweeted more than 10 times about the NFL or the NBA, yet not a word about Puerto Rico, a state currently suffering without water or electricity. Amidst this tabloid madness around sports, we have completely ignored the new travel ban the administration will soon roll out, ignored the fact that his threats against North Korea were taken as a declaration of war, and somehow forgotten that his campaign is still under investigation for treasonous collusion with Russia. Once again, the media and the rest of us have been manipulated for his gain.

Jason: We all know the drill: President Trump says or does something that a substantial portion of the population finds deeply offensive, but toes the line just close enough so his supporters can find some slightly rational argument to defend or ignore his actions. For the sake of argument, let’s be generous to the lingering supporters of the president and assume they have no malicious or prejudiced motivations in continuing their devotion to him. Assuming even the best of intentions, it’s hard to see exactly what is in it for them by steadfastly maintaining their position. Trump’s entire legislative agenda has stalled. His cabinet is in free fall with the use of private emails and investigations. He loses diplomatic capital with other world leaders every time he comments on geopolitics. He’s put forward no actual economic policy other than some sort of half-baked protectionist rhetoric. The Russian investigation still dogs his legitimacy, and he’s still the most unpopular incoming president in modern history. Instead of dealing with these unpleasant realities, the president seems resolved to simply lambast his ideological enemies on Twitter and hope his bluster will distract the country, or at least his base, from realizing the magnitude of what are often viewed by the opposition as his failures.

C: As 2018 gets closer, anyone who chooses to abandon Trump should be welcomed into the opposition. However, if we don’t recognize the flaws where they exist, the opposition that we build will be no stronger than the one that fell in 2016. Ending ties to Trump’s movement means nothing if we simply do it because he finally decided to attack our group. It takes a thorough understanding of an illness to take proper precautions in the future. It takes a newfound direction to move towards a better place and not merely away from a toxic one. A movement of opposition will fall for anything if it doesn’t stand for something. It is time that, instead of exposing fragments of Trump’s true ideology every time he chooses to go after a new group of people, we uproot his ideology and appeal, replacing it with a new message of action.

J: The reality is that Trump is not failing. He is succeeding in the one thing he was elected to do: reaffirm the resentments of the white working class, go to battle (at least rhetorically) against their perceived enemies, and reinforce their self-perception as virtuous victims of a vicious system rigged against them. That’s why no criticism or insult directed at Trump ever sticks in the eyes of his base, because the president is never the direct object of the attack—they are. And there you have Trumpism in a nutshell: white identity politics under a veneer of economic nationalism and populism. In the end, the larger problem is not Trump but how he has convinced so many for so long that this vision is the best vision currently offered. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the only solution to this issue is not to further insult these continued Trumpers and inflict deeper wounds, but rather to create a superior vision. A vision that acknowledges and speaks to the pain, economic distress, and anxiety of all Americans is the only cure that will eradicate Trumpism. We can’t continue to wait for the right scandal to permanently delegitimize Trump as a person. Instead, we must replace his ideology with a better one, or else this circus that we call a political system will limp into 2020 to possibly make Trump a two-term president. I say we start brainstorming.

Christian Navarrete ’20 and Jason Chukwuma ’20 live in Kirkland House.

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