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I would not consider myself a supporter of President Donald J. Trump.
Yet, I find myself in the precarious position of defending the man, simply because we seem to have lost our collective minds around the Trump presidency.
Trump-bashing is the new religion for many Americans.
We are no longer responding purely to his policies. If that were the case, there would be no reason to write this.
We are responding to the symbol of Trump — what he represents to us and how he makes us feel: an orange-headed madman, making America great again, one pussy grab at a time — or something of the like.
Ta-Nehisi Coates calcified this symbology in his famous essay, “Donald Trump Is The First White President.” He writes, “It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true — his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power…Whereas his forbears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies.”
Not only do these statements seem to glorify the power of whiteness, but they appear to be operating on a deeply symbolic level. Like Donald Trump himself, the words provoke our emotions rather than incite reason.
To say the cultural reaction to the Trump presidency is based solely on his actions and policies is incredibly naive. Of course, he’s made obvious blunders — specifically this recent business around building a certain wall. But the sheer vitriol directed at him as a person goes beyond factual critique.
We often interpret the world via symbols and archetypes. We don’t know why we feel some type of way about the images we come in contact with, but we feel it nonetheless — more deeply than what is consciously known.
As Carl Jung noted, “A symbol always stands for something more than its obvious and immediate meaning.” That “something more” is quite obvious with Trump. He is the embodiment of the patriarchy, the personification of white supremacy, the quintessence of consumer capitalism, the ugly manifestation of the American nightmare — the epitome of everything that post-60s liberalism deems morally reprehensible.
In failing to see the utility in incessant Trump-bashing, I must be some kind of moral monster, right?
No. I’d like to list a few reasons why bashing Trump is useless and stupid.
1. The President of The United States is, and always has been, a glorified manager — an ambassador at most.
They do not have the power of a supreme leader, like a Chairman Mao or a Hitler. Luckily, we have a system of checks and balances in place to prevent singular leadership.
In other words, the president has nowhere near the amount of power that we generally presume. If Trump would up and decide to launch some nukes, he’d have the legislative and judicial branches of government to contend with.
So, why do we focus so much on the man himself, what tweet he sent out, or who he most recently insulted, when we could be allocating our vital energies to specific policies and goals that are more constructive — like propping up 2020 candidates who could dump the Trump in the next election if that tickles our fancy?
2. Bashing Trump inflames polarization in an already divided country, and not only does this pose a real threat to our democracy — it makes bipartisan agreement on important issues a virtual impossibility.
Americans are more hostile to the idea of having their children marry someone from the opposing political party than ever before. It goes without saying that when we bash Trump, we are also bashing his entire constituency — who are probably not as deplorable as we’d like to imagine.
Take climate change for example. Liberals generally believe it’s big business and middle American Trump voters who prevent climate action, but it turns out that 85 percent of Americans support funding for renewable energy and 70 percent believe climate change should be met with some form of action according to a recent Yale study. We are really not so different.
So, why make our differences paramount instead of illuminating our similarities? We are creating enemies out of allies.
3. Trump-bashing ignores the reasons that Trump was elected in the first place.
In short, Trump was elected because millions of Americans do not feel represented by modern day liberalism.
As a disclaimer, I’m not saying that Trump necessarily backs the interests of the common man, but he certainly represents the common man in spirit.
Again, symbols are powerful. Most Americans don’t care about microaggressions, safe spaces, or trigger warnings. Trump is unapologetically ornery toward political correctness and speaks like a New York taxi driver. People like that.
If we are concerned with a Trump reelection, we should probably focus less on Trump’s annoyances and take a long look in the mirror.
Sixty-two million people didn’t vote for Trump because of Russian bots. Obviously.
They voted for him because they did not feel represented by the mainstream liberal establishment, and that is exactly what Democrats should be concerned with going into the next election. How do liberals expect to defeat Trumpism if they don’t even understand what it really is?
4. There is an opportunity cost in Trump-bashing that we have already seen play out in the Trump fan base.
If the media is constantly going after Trump, every single day of the freaking week, then when do we know when Trump has truly crossed the line? We don’t, that’s the problem.
How do we know it’s not simply more hyperbole and knee-jerk reactions? A boy who cried wolf scenario begins to arise, and we’ve already seen people become desensitized to negative press around Trump (i.e. fake news).
That’s why people end up on Fox and InfoWars. Is that not obvious? It’s not such a good thing when a large portion of the population no longer trusts mainstream news outlets, and honestly, who could blame them? The more we bash Trump, the more likely Americans will be skeptical of the more serious allegations against him.
To be blunt, I blame the media for much of this—for manipulating our emotions into believing that endless Trump-bashing is good for America.
If we read the New York Times every day or watch the Daily Show every night, we are going to be of a certain mind. And again, I’m not saying there isn’t some element of truth in the predominant criticism of Trump or the narratives expounded by mainstream media, but just not enough to win the day. It’s boring. It’s self-satisfying and it’s boring.
Let’s be honest for a second and admit that we engage in Trump-bashing because it feels good, just like people support Trump because it feels good.