We are now completing the third month of the Trumpocalypse.
He’s been compared to every madman, every destructive movement, every consequential thing that’s happened in this universe since the Big Bang. People who never raised an eyebrow or their voice about Ebola or Isis or MS-13 are now concerned about this guy.
Logic tells you this reaction can only be wrong. In the realm of emotional debate, nothing is ever as evil, or as great, as you want it to be. The truth is almost always situated in some realistic middle that’s upsetting to a few and boring to many.
The idea that a businessman, an eager reality show host moving into his eighth decade, might actually be a madman ... Maybe that’s plausible to a liberal, but only if you ignore some obvious facts.
This is a man who was born and bred in New York City, where even the conservatives are liberal.
His kids, despite the frenzied fishbowl they’ve lived in, appear to be normal.
The assumption that he’s anti-gay or hates minorities or women requires a logical disconnect — to make not just one leap of faith, but four or five concurrent leaps while juggling six balls of unequal weight.
So feel free to hate the guy. That’s OK. The right did that with President Obama. It’s a team sport thing. But it might be as false now as it was then.
For President Trump to fulfill your nightmares, you have to ignore an entire fabric of politically benign living.
The right didn’t trust Obama because he lived a unexamined life of romanced, unchallenged progressivism. He was a card-carrying Leftist.
Trump lived a public life of transparent opinion while navigating the most liberal, cosmopolitan city on earth — ever.
Think about that when you’re losing your crap. Trump was out in the open, for all to see. Unlike most.
So here I offer some soothing reasons why you don’t have to worry … much. Fact is, libs, Trump is more like you than he is like me, or Mike Pence or Mike Huckabee or anyone who turns your ideological stomach. Here’s why:
1. The Syrian strike reveals that Trump’s response, even to ghastly attacks, is a firm “just enough.” I compare it to smacking a dog’s nose with a newspaper, or spanking an unruly child in aisle 3 of Walmart. It’s not an act of war. It’s an act of “Yo, we’re back.” It’s a message that our diplomacy has more muscle than simply shrugging disapprovingly while checking Tinder. Hillary would do, and wanted to do, the same thing. You can damn Trump for changing his mind, but you would have damned him for doing the opposite.
There are two ways to explain the Syria strike. You can explain what happened: “Missiles hit a facility.” Or you can explain what it means: “This strike is exactly the perfunctory minimum we will perform to maintain a persona of resolute toughness without igniting an actual conflict with people we’re perhaps on the same side with when fighting ISIS.” That’s all it is — the comfortable middle ground between the impotence of doing nothing and the hysteria of escalation. Yes, America, you elected a centrist.
2. Pragmatism prevails, as was predicted by many who refuse to give in to apocalyptic notions about Trump. Even an oddball like me knew this: The guy is a non-ideological technocrat who is willing to shift gears to clobber the conspiratorial, transient opinions of his sweatiest ideological henchmen when hard facts enter the room. There are consequences: Principles of yore are obliterated by the bait-and-switch pragmatism that pulls leaders toward the center. But it happens in both parties, in every cycle.
Side note to righties: if you find yourself deceived by Trump and stuck idling in a conservative cul de sac — that’s your fault. New Yorkers always talk tough, then become “flexible.” But your naiveté is sweet. It beats looking phony after deriding “squishies” and “cucks” or whatever self-appointed bouncers of the Right tweet between laundry runs — only to defend Trump’s centrism later.
3. Economic nationalism will also show itself out, as global deals and coalitions call for cooperation. The world’s top dog, like it or not, should say “me first.” But “me” means the whole thirsty world gets a drink, because sooner or later, all bad things make their way to us, as all our good things make their way to them. You can’t isolate yourself in a phone booth. Just make your home safer, and then invite friends in.
4. Even perceptions of force are enough. Illegal crossings into our country have dropped dramatically, to a nearly two-decade low. Why is that? Perception. Trump is a metaphorical wall. My analogy: When the local bar fires the guy who used to give you free drinks and replaces him with a co-owner who has skin in the game, the freeloader finds a cheaper venue. People go elsewhere, without trying to get a freebie. Trump’s the new bartender.
5. Trump’s white nationalist fanboys are deeply wounded. Yes, it’s finally dawning on these geeks that daddy used them the way the Dems often used their radical minions. The freaks are merely tolerated until the real business gets done. White nationalists are essentially the Republican versions of Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers — kicked to the curb, where they belong. And their whining is proof that the guy they once liked has no use for them.
6. Trump made it safer for honest people. This point is for liberal entertainers, who happen to be the whiniest, most panicky of the bunch. Trump, to his credit, redefined the literality of language and the context of public conversation. This is both off-putting and freeing. To make an omelet (killing PC culture), Trump broke a few eggs (jokes about Senator McCain, and so on). It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. And comedians should admit this to themselves, or they’re false: Trump helps you.
For years, the left (the comedian’s default political stance) inevitably devoured their own when it came to violations of sensitive speech. If you crossed the ever-changing line — as defined by humorless scolds running campus groups — you were damaged goods. Comedians admitted they avoid college campuses for this reason.
By turning the debates into a comedy roast, Trump’s ripe ripostes, which would sink most politicians, elevated him.
Sarah Silverman can hate Trump all she wants, but he made her anxiety-ridden life easier. And not just by creating an endless fuzzy-navel fountain of material.
He allows everyone in a public square to be a little more dangerous, a little more free and, yes, more ugly.
He revived the First Amendment. You could hate the stuff he said, but he reminded you that saying it and hating it are compatible.
Comics should be genuflecting before him, rather than condemning him on Twitter, using the same callow tools that will likely be used on them in the future.
In American life, and in this ridiculously enduring republic, no one is as great or as bad as you wish them to be. And demonizing them only clouds your ability to reason.
Ultimately, you fail to engage in an argument when it matters. Yes, it happened with Obama — but now, my liberal friends, you’re doing the same with Trump.
Lighten up. Give it time. He’s more you than me.