Trump and the leftification of the right politics


There is one thing I don’t like about Trump.

Actually, there are a few; his policies, such as they are, which for most part don’t resemble the conservative and classical liberal policies I support; his character, or lack thereof; his temperament, which is wholly unsuited for the highest office in the land; his magnetic ability to attract the worst supporters at home and abroad.

But one thing in particular, which is as much about Trump himself, as it is about the whole Trump movement, has bothered me for a while now, but it only crystallised this morning, thanks to what a mate of mine, Tim Andrews wrote on Facebook about the moral landscape of the presidential campaign: “What worries me though is that [Trump’s] supporters seem to revel in causing insult and offence for its own sake, they seem to find being nasty a moral virtue.”

That thing, you can call it style, you can call it attitude, you can call it approach to politics.

And the problem is that so many Trump activists, enthusiasts and supporters seem to have adopted the style, the attitude and the approach to politics straight from the playbook of people they say they hate the most: the left.

I apologise in advance for generalising and for putting words into the Trump movement’s collective mouth, but I imagine this is what they’re saying:

All you supposedly smart people on the right (or “all you cucks” in Trumpspeak) have been trying to fight the left and have been dismally failing at it, being outsmarted and outplayed at every turn. This is because you have refused to fight the left with their own methods, on their terms, and on their territory. You have been playing chequers, they have been playing chess. More precisely they have been thumping you on the head with the chessboard while you’ve just sat there and taken it, moaning about how unfair it is you can’t make a move because all your pieces are now scattered on the ground.

You want to fight – and you want to win? Then you need to get your hands dirty. Two can play the game – nay, two have to play the game if there is to be any chance of victory. Principles are for losers; besides, the end justifies the means.

The left are nasty assholes? We’ll be nasty assholes too.

The left are masters of politics of personal destruction, intimidation and harassment? We’ll become masters of these dark arts too.

The left are offended about everything? We’ll be intentionally offensive about everything.

The left are playing racial politics? We’ll play the racial politics too.

The left are sectarian and divisive? We’ll be sectarian and divisive too.

The left sees people not as individuals but as members of groups and classes? We’ll look at things through a collectivist lens too.

The left are all about victimhood and grievance? We’ll show them who the real victims are! And you should see our grievances; they’re magnificent.

The Trump movement seems to think this the strategy for victory, or at least for fighting with a chance of victory. And maybe it is. And maybe I’m soft, and naive, and a cuck, but it’s not my style. I’m not saying that the right have always been saints at playing politics, but even if we don’t always live up to our higher standards, we at least aspire to be better than that. To many of Trump supporters this would make me, and the mainstream conservative movement, masochistic losers. To me that makes us principled; we don’t always win, but when we win, we win honourably – and when we lose, we lose honourably too. Either way, I can get up the next morning and look at myself in the mirror and not see the enemy staring back at me.

The Trump movement’s answer to fighting the left seems to be becoming like the left. It’s a truism that the political spectrum is not a straight line but a horseshoe. And so what we’re seeing again is the supposed opposites not only blurring their policy differences but also blurring their methods (it has to be said that many Trump supporters are equally at ease unleashing their new fighting style against the enemies both external and internal).

I know that Trump is not Hitler and Sanders is not Thalmann. I know that America today is not Weimer Germany of the 1930s and I know that no matter what happens in November this year the United States will not become an authoritarian – much less totalitarian – dictatorship. But as I look at the Trump right and the Sanders left battling it out across the country, I can’t help but see two supposed extremes which actually have more in common with each other than they would ever honestly admit. As Karl Marx once wrote, history repeats itself, first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. A farce it might be, but it’s far from funny, and while not deadly, the damage is real enough.