In my state, the chances of Donald Trump even making the race competitive were virtually non-existent so the only thing I could have done to support him had I chosen to would be to publicly pretend he wasn’t what I believed him to be. I chose not to do this and concluded that the Republican Party had left me behind, so I left it for a much more comfortable “unaffiliated” status.
For this I was faced with arguments ranging from the irrational and now cliché “you’re supporting Hillary” to pure bat guano crazy like “Donald Trump is the chosen one of God.” For being critical of Trump I was accused on social media of “shaming” Trump supporters, as if criticism of a flawed candidate was an intentional and direct personal attack on everyone who liked him. People with whom I worked side by side for conservative candidates and causes told me how they always knew I was a liberal. People were abandoning reason. The dumpster was blazing. I had hoped that an election result—no matter who won— would extinguish it, but for several reasons I am convinced that the fire is only just beginning.
Reason 1: The “reluctant” Trump supporters weren’t as reluctant as advertised.
Amidst the insanity there seemed to be many who realized Trump was an awful choice but had decided that Clinton was more awful. They did not like Trump but supported him only because they thought the alternative was far worse—a position of which I was never critical despite histrionics aimed at me for precisely that. I thought that these people would surely be ready to treat whomever emerged victorious with healthy skepticism. The people who claimed they weren’t for Trump so much as they were against Hillary have either jumped on board the Trump train or headed for the tall grass. If all these people were as pained by Trump being the only viable alternative to Hillary as they claimed, one would think that there would be less resistance to criticism now that he’s the president-elect. I’m all for giving Trump credit if and when he does something good, but I didn’t expect the reluctant supporters to view his victory as a baptism that expunged all concerns about his character or motives henceforth.
As our esteemed editor tweeted early this morning:
Hey "reluctant" Trump supporters who just "wanted to stop Hillary"? She's stopped. It's over. You can stop defending him to the death now.
— Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe) November 14, 2016
Reason 2: The Trump “movement” is not really concerned by an incestuous relationship between media and government
As long as their media is the one in bed with the White House, Trump supporters aren’t bothered by the media being “rigged.” Sean Hannity appeared in Trump campaign ads and used his television and radio show as campaign arms for Trump. Now he thinks it’s ok to ban non-sycophant media from the White House. Laura Ingraham did much the same and is being considered for White House press secretary. The revolving door between reporters and news analysts is no longer a problem for the right.
Trump has selected as his Valerie Jarrett the man who turned Andrew Breitbart’s crusade against the Democrat-media complex into nothing but a Bizarro World, Republican version of it. Criticism of this choice is being treated by the faithful as just another betrayal of the new king. Suddenly the conservative media tradition of holding our own accountable has become passé. After eight years of a media totally in the tank for Obama, many in conservative media think it’s their turn to do the same for their guy. Selling out is the new objectivity.
Reason 3: That binary thinking problem isn’t going away anytime soon
Not supporting Trump was portrayed incessantly as active support for Hillary prior to the election. That inability to see the political landscape in colors other than black and white has not changed nor will it. The binary view was most visible with regard to candidates but it is taking hold elsewhere. The animosity of many on the right toward the left leaning media means any criticism of Trump is false and politically motivated.
This is just the reverse of what was rampant on social media during the Obama years. Many considered anything positive reported about Obama to be automatically false, but more problematically many believed anything negative was automatically true. People vented their outrage about stories that were either made up entirely or were attempts at parody. Unless people on the right accept that the world is more complex than Pro-Trump vs Anti-Trump there is little hope of resolving much.
I will be among the first to celebrate a great new originalist Supreme Court Justice or the replacement of Obamacare with a system that makes sense. I’ll give Trump, credit where it’s due. Maybe if his most ardent supporters entertain the notion that being critical of Trump isn’t treason, we could throw some water on the fire.
As of now, I’m not very hopeful. Pass the marshmallows.