After crying wolf (or rather crying fascist) about every prominent right-wing politician for several generations, the left has finally got someone who comes closer to fitting all their stereotypes and caricatures of an evil Republican than they ever dreamed in their most violent wet dreams. “This time it’s really Hitler!” they cry, half-terrified and half-excited. If Ronald Reagan was a dangerous buffoon, George W a fascist idiot, and Mitt Romney a sexist and racist robber baron, then who, or what, the hell is Donald Trump?
Well, Donald Trump is unique. If all his presidential and congressional predecessors have been bad, he is the Frankenstein monster of the right-wing politics, put together with all the most disgusting pieces of conservatism and capitalism, as imagined by the left: very rich, crooked, dodgy, unethical, bankrupt literally and morally, ugly and grotesque inside and outside, vulgar, uncultured and unsophisticated, materialistic and philistinistic, flashy and ostentatious, ignorant and barely literate, immoral or at least amoral, tabloid family history, arrogant, authoritarian, nationalistic, jingoistic, bigoted, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic moron. Have I missed anything?
Any of these characterisations can be – and have been; oh boy, have they been just – debated ad nauseam and ad infinitum. The truth, as it’s generally the case in life, lies somewhere between the Trump demonology of the left and the Trump hagiography of the MAGA crowd. Let us remember, however, how many conservatives (least but not last TDC) argued Trump’s unsuitability for the highest office not just because of his ideology and policies, such as they are, but his character and temperament. Nothing he’s done or hasn’t done while now in office has changed these initial assessments.
As Trump was on his way to becoming the left’s ultimate bogeyman during the Republican primaries, I pondered on how much the man, the legend, and the sideshow mirror reflection fit the old Soviet propaganda caricature of an evil right-wing capitalist monster. Trump was the extravagantly and tastelessly rich arrogant bully straight from the Cheka casting; a few decades ago he would have sported a top hat and been chomping a cigar; post-Cold War he just has a ridiculous hair. All this made the subsequent allegations that Trump was – take your pick – anything from a preferred candidate to an actual puppet of a former KGB officer all the more delicious and surreal.
MEDVEDEV: Isn’t it funny, Vladimir, that for all our propaganda, the Americans have never managed to actually elect a real capitalist pig?
PUTIN: Hold my beer.
But never mind being Putin’s preferred candidate; Trump was, let it never be forgotten, also the preferred candidate of the Clinton campaign and its mainstream media cheerleaders. The thinking was that it was clearly in the Democrats’ interest that the Republicans select their most unelectable candidate, one who will crumble against Hillary in the election, while hopefully destroying the Republican Party as a bonus. But the joke was on them. both during the primaries and then during the campaign. Trump has been given an obscene amount of free media time – to help him defeat his more credible and more mainstream GOP rivals while at the same time to show the wider electorate what a ridiculous monster he was. The plan worked 50 per cent. This MSM-generated exposure was worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Trump and did more to get him ultimately elected than any covert Russian assistance possibly might have. The Democrats somehow managed to hack themselves by sending the Republicans a virus that bounced back on them.
Having helped to elect their own biggest nightmare, the left did not really know how to handle him, so they handled him in the same way they got him first elected, with bluster and derision. If Donald Trump was everything worst that the left has always believed about the right, then the left’s reaction to Trump helped to illustrate everything worst the right has always said about the left. Inadvertently, his campaign reveal just how corrupt the Democratic establishment is and how much in bed with the Democrats the mainstream media is. Less inadvertently, by acting like a walking, talking red flag to a progressive bull, Trump has helped to show just how unhinged and tolerant the ostensibly (and self-proclaimedly) rational, tolerant and morally superior left can be. All the sanctimony, hysteria, hypocrisy, double standards, intolerance, bullying, violence, now for all to see in the cold stark light of the day.
Unlike the Republicans of the past, Trump neither puts up the brave and dignified face nor gets his surrogates to defend and counter-attack on his behalf. Richard Nixon used to rage against all his liberal enemies in the privacy of the White House and his recording system. Not for Trump any secret enemies lists; he has Twitter, which his underlings have not managed to pry from his short fingers. No, Trump gets right into the mud and wrestles with his critics and mockers. He calls them out by name, individually or institutionally, he lays into them, ridicules them, taunts them. And that gets his enemies and his targets even more worked up, sending them into paroxysm of rage and indignation. They’re not used to a Republican – a Republican president to that – not turning the other cheek. They get drawn back into every argument, every exchange of insults, every fencing match of accusations and counter-accusations, frothing at the mouth and shaking with indignation and disbelief, while Trump has already picked himself up and moved on to start another controversy. He fights, oh yes, he fights, and fights back. That’s what his supporters always loved about him. It’s not classy, and it’s not dignified – it’s not I or many others would expect of the occupier of the highest office in the land and the “Leader of the Free World” (if such position still exists) – but it is mesmerising to watch, like a slow-motion car pile-up or a particularly violent yet funny GIF looping again and again into infinity.
I honestly can’t stop watching.
The Bush Derangement Syndrome was quite something to behold, but the Trump Derangement Syndrome makes it look like minor facial twitch.
The sheer visceral loathing of Trump has made the left – and not just the always excitable fringe, but the very respectable mainstream too – completely lose their heads, and with their heads their sense of proportion, objectivity and rationality. Where Trump is concerned, everything is a scandal – he won’t tell the media he’s having a private family dinner, he gets more ice-cream scoops than everyone else, Kellyanne Conway’s got her feet on the couch! But if the most trivial and irrelevant bullshit is now an outrage, how do you react to stuff that might actually be important? What do you do when you have devalued outrage faster than the Weimar Republic debauched its currency? Easy, and inevitably: it’s all a $100 trillion Deutschmark scandal. Trump fired the FBI Director we thought was a disgrace and should go – Impeach Trump! The Russians hacked Hillary Clinton’s brain so she ran a shit campaign – Trump is Putin’s agent and has to resign! Hillary won the popular vote – we have to abolish the Electoral College! Or secede from the United States!
When even BuzzFeed (BuzzFeed for God’s sake) starts asking “Why Is A Top Harvard Law Professor Sharing Anti-Trump Conspiracy Theories?”, noting with concern that “among the prominent anti-Trumpers spreading unconfirmed information are famed constitutional scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, and US senators”, it’s time to pause and take a few deep breaths into your paper bag.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of rank and file, grassroots leftists are styling themselves as “The Resistance”. Never mind that how insulting that is to the memory of the millions of men, women and even children who served and the hundreds of thousands among them who died in the real Resistance, fighting against real totalitarian and genocidal evil, during a real war and occupation. Lots of people would like to feel they are doing something really important and dangerous and not just marching and shouting, and that’s what really matters. As I wrote a few months ago:
I’m starting to feel like the large sections of the left are actually secretly enjoying and getting off on all this “Hitler” and “fascism” stuff, because it gives their pampered, #FirstWorldProblem (and in case of celebrities, their 1% of the 1%) lives some frisson and meaning. Forget protesting against terrible characters like Mitt Romney or in favour of transgender bathroom; in the Trump era, all the happy cultural and political warriors of the left can pretend that what they do actually matters and their lives aren’t wasted away on an endless meaningless and symbolic ideological pantomime. If you are fighting to defend the democracy and freedom from an evil akin to Nazism (but funnily enough never communism) then maybe Gen Y and Millennials can be the new “Greatest Generation” instead of a bunch of spoiled, entitled and hysterical brats. You rally like it’s 1932 and suddenly you’re no longer a largely passive beneficiary of living in one of the freest and most prosperous societies in human history but a descendant and a legatee of French revolutionaries and World War Two partisans. You are a really important person, doing really important things, at a really important time, fighting to save the very civilisation itself from a new Dark Age. What’s there not to love about it?
40,000 Home Army combatants who died during the Warsaw Uprising salute the brave people of New York
Then there is, of course, the entire sub-category of “The Resistance”, the Antifa, or anti-fascists. Unlike most of the Resistance, they are violent; unlike the real Resistance, so far they have been beating up defenceless men and women, smashing up store windows and setting fire to trees. Fighting the Waffen-SS with a stolen rifle and a couple Molotov cocktails it ain’t. Plus, nothing says “anti-fascist” as dressing all black, wearing face masks and assaulting passers-by.
That old saying is quite right: democracy is the system of government where we all get what the majority deserves. But Trump, being such a game changer and mould breaker, does one better – the left, who did not vote for him, deserve him too: because decades of their cultural excesses made somebody like him possible, because they have always secretly fantasised about an antagonist as evil as him, because he plays them at their own game. Donald Trump is the president the left richly deserves – but we all get.