I spend a lot of time defending Trump, or at least that what it looks like. If anyone were to read this blog, they might fairly conclude that I like or support Trump. To some extent that’s true: I like Trump for certain principled and symbolic reasons, both for what he is and what he decidedly is not. The very short version is that I agree with him that a governing guild exists, that it’s not nearly as smart or as righteous as it thinks it is — quite the contrary, it’s often blinkered, dictatorial and condescending –that it ought to be disrupted, and that it has a lot to learn from the unwashed and uncredentialed masses. [Update: here’s a perfect example of the teacher getting schooled and being too thick to realize.]
All that being said, I don’t really like Trump.
I just don’t think he’s uniquely flawed as politicians go, which stands in stark contrast with the daily barrage of “OHMIGOSH DID YOU SEE WHAT TRUMP DID?!!” So I’m compelled to write about Trump because I think he’s terribly misunderstood. Even worse, I think the reason he’s misunderstood is a good old fashioned process problem: Trump isn’t complicated, he’s just different. Specifically, he’s “low brow” and his success has made self-described “high brow” people angry and afraid. Again, I’ve got no problem with critical commentary (and there’s plenty to be critical about). I take issue with commentary that is single-minded and vicious in pursuit of criticism.
There’s a lot of Trump data, and not all of it confirms that he’s the monster Vox warned you about. It’s bad science, it’s illiberal and it’s mean.
Now, I understand that it is only natural to treat ‘new and different’ with at least a little fear and anger. The in-group is the in-group for a reason, and different is usually some combination of better and worse, not either/or. But at a certain point, reasonable caution gives way to outright bigotry and tribalism, which makes the in-group stupid and mean. None of this is controversial — it’s in fact the exact thing the in-group daily accuses Trump of representing. But the in-group has apparently spent so much time pointing fingers at bigotry and tribalism that it cannot even fathom looking in the mirror (other than in specific self-serving ways). [Note: there’s a deeper problem, what I call the “Brown people can be fascist too” problem, but that’s for another day.]
Trump did everything he wasn’t supposed to do and nothing of what he supposedly had to do. For the folks who wrote the old script (or the people currently following it), that stings a bit. It feels shitty to be wrong. But liberals learn and adapt. They swallow their pride, stay open minded and see alternative models as an opportunity to improve (and not as a threat). Bigots, by contrast, dig in, stamp their feet, wave their hands and froth at the mouth. Sometimes they even grab their pitchforks and start lighting stuff and people on fire.
I spend so much time defending Trump because it concerns me when smart, conscientious people behave like stupid bigots.
The piety. It burns.