Republicans should take heart. The drumbeat of anti-Trump rhetoric has a corrosive effect for a time – particularly upon the many who support the policies and the party more than the person. However, there is a limit. When behavior gets too far outside of society’s behavioral norms or when the source of manufactured anti-Trump outrage is repetitively wrong, the average citizen either tunes out or turns against the perpetrator. Some “by any measure” examples:
1. The recent shooting of Republican whip John Scalise. The perpetrator is a caricature of the anti-Trump activist – active on Facebook with a “Terminate the Republican Party” group; a Rachael Maddow fan; a Bernie Sanders volunteer – who asked a bystander if those he was planning to shoot were Republicans. When some Republicans used the occasion to urge Democrats to turn down the #Resist rhetoric, Nancy Pelosi was outraged. This shooting is worse than comedienne Kathy Griffin’s picture with a severed costume head of the president. It is worse than the much applauded Shakespeare in the Park presentation of the assassinated Julius Caesar made to look like Donald Trump. Egged on, for some unstable reprobates, life eventually imitates art.
2. The marriage between anonymous leakers, the Washington Post / New York Times, and Democrats on Senate investigating committees. In the most recent round, the insiders knew that James Comey was going to disclose that the FBI was investigating Trump for colluding with the Russians – until he testified that he told Trump three times that there was no such investigation. The insiders knew that Attorney General Sessions would be destroyed by the revelation that he had a third meeting with the Russian ambassador during the campaign – until he testified that there was no such meeting, and he had no idea why the leakers thought that there was. And now the insiders know that Special Counsel Mueller is expanding his investigation to include the possibility that Trump obstructed justice by telling Comey that he hoped Michael Flynn would not be prosecuted. The damage is intended to be political, but the case has already been litigated in the court of public opinion. Eventually, the public will tire of being fed unsubstantiated leaks, innuendo, and faux outrage without any substance. Except in the minds of the #Resist folks, there is no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians in the run-up to the election. Period.
3. The decline of decorum. Middle America expects a degree of public decorum on the part of its leaders. When John Burton, the outgoing Chair of the California Democratic Party led convention chants of “F*** Donald Trump” to the great amusement of Nancy Pelosi and thousands of others, we hit a new low. When New York Senator Kirsten Gillebrand told New York Magazine and repeated it at NYU that “If we’re not helping people, we should go the f*** home,” she apparently thought that she was helping herself with the energized left wing of her party. When newly elected Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez adopted a stream of anti-Trump profanity for his stump speech in his “Unity Tour”, it was obvious that the #Resist zealots were driving the packaging as well as the product.
The nightly news hour – Left and Right – needs something to talk about. It is easy to get the camera vans and the interview crew across town in D.C, and there are always anonymous sources and ambitious politicians. But the story can get stale without an occasional “there there”, and it is dangerous for the teller if stoking the #Resist fury instigates violence or devolves into the gutter. For those hoping that the Republicans can get on with their Obamacare, tax, and economic growth agenda, one has to hope that Middle America will soon tire of #Resist, as they did Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.
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