Remember Sarah Palin’s snark at the National Tea Party Convention just a year after President Obama’s first inauguration in Jan. 2009? “I gotta ask the supporters of all that,” she quipped. “How’s that hopey, changey thing working out for ya?” The room thundered with laughter, claps, cheers and jeers.
It’s way too early to ask Trump supporters, “Are we great yet?” But I worry about the reasonable people who, for whatever reason, voted for Trump, and the pain of their buyer’s remorse.
I’m not talking about the Trump red-hat die-hards who seem to be thrilling over this clown rodeo — the daily amateur-hour disasters, infantile “presidential” tweets, nationalist preening and ethnic profiling, global confusion, affronts to allies, angry spinning, Nixonian press vilification and overall sour, vindictive negativity. Some will love Trump no matter what, like parents who feel their car-stealing jail-bound teens are still wonderful.
More worrisome, some Trumpsters might suffer the gambler’s disease of doubling down when they’re losing. Some might prefer alternative facts. Some might just be ornery, projecting self-loathing, or taking sick pleasure in destruction, like highway accident rubberneckers hoping to see a body. Some take pride in their dwindling ranks amid the lowest presidential approval polls in history — tragic heroes clinging to a brave but hopeless cause, common sense people of La Mancha tilting at the giant wind turbines planted by liberal enviro-geeks.
Still other last-ditch Trumpsters suggest there’s a brilliant method in all the Trump madness and mayhem, as if entropy is strategy. (Cue Pee Wee Herman’s slapstick bike flip crash and roll in Big Adventure after showing off to the neighborhood kids. You know, he gets up, dusts off, straightens his suit, summons his dignity and says, “I meant to do that.”)
But forget the Trump MAGA crowd, which seems to love everything about him that reasonable people worry about. For those who picked Trump because they couldn’t stomach Hillary, or wanted a change in parties running Washington, or think liberals, Black Lives Matter, college safe spaces and political correctness are out of control, or usually vote Republican — fill in the blank — I understand. As a moderate pragmatic progressive, I also kvetch about the excesses of my side of the political spectrum.
But now, my Trump friends, I feel for you. The reasons for you to doubt and even start deploring this bizarre parody of a presidency keep piling up. Respectfully, allow me to touch on the highlights and ask a few questions:
First — the Muslim immigration ban. Please, are we still clinging to the widely debunked claim that technically it’s not really a ban, not really directed at Muslims, and doesn’t inspire anti-Muslim fear and loathing here and anti-American hate abroad? Isn’t it a little early for a constitutional showdown and perhaps a bad idea to smear a Republican-appointed federal judge? Do you worry or wonder whether Trump, Bannon and company should stop digging?
Next, the Trump cabinet picks. After candidate Trump slammed wealthy corporate elites to excite his rally crowds, can you explain why he’s now picking them to run the country? Or why he’s named so many cabinet members with little to no knowledge or experience with the policies they’re sworn to uphold? Or that violently oppose those policies?
Yeah, I know — you hate government, hate bureaucrats, hate regulations and hate the horrible waste of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars. You might forget that government size, spending and rules are established by popularly elected members of Congress reflecting the different views and needs of 300+ million different people in 50 states and 435 House districts (so what you hate, other decent hard-working Americans demand). You might even think crippling government is the only way to fix government and then — bonus !— you get to say, “See? Government doesn’t work!”
But you or your family, friends and neighbors might want Trump cabinet picks to make sure the country has great public schools so our kids and the country can compete globally … clean air and safe water … quality, affordable healthcare for all … and other things your Congress tells your government to do for you and your fellow citizens. Which leads to:
Trumpcare. What is it? Who knows? But it’s gonna be beautiful, so much better than the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Obamacare. It’s gonna give everyone the best insurance and the best healthcare ever. You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it. (Wait — that’s George Zimmer at Men’s Wearhouse.)
Great! Let’s see it! What? The GOP Congress is still working on it? Why? They’ve voted to repeal Obamacare over 50 times. They’ve been working on a new plan for many years. They’ve tapped a lot of terrific, smart people.
But the GOP still doesn’t have a Trumpcare plan that the GOP itself can agree on. Why not? Because Republicans know most of the alternatives would hurt too many people in their districts, including — maybe especially — Trump supporters. Red county Republicans know they’ll lose reelection if their families, friends, neighbors or fellow congregants lose their health coverage and care, and need to neglect treatment and let illness turn deadly, rely on hospital ER for needless triage, and go medically bankrupt. Or hope they can hold out for Medicare or Medicaid — which by the way, is single-payer government healthcare — and then complain the free taxpayer-funded care isn’t good enough.
Onto Dodd-Frank financial reform repeal: Just like doctors, hospitals and insurers oppose killing without better replacing Obamacare, the financial titans are saying, “Hey, whoa, what?” to this Trump/GOP juggernaut to undo the post-2008 financial meltdown fixes designed to prevent recurrence and protect consumers.
During the campaign, Trump riled his base by hanging Wall Street bankers in effigy. As president, Trump is checking them off his gift list. Thing is, the giftees seem a bit chary, seeing the classic Larry David “it’s not a present — it’s a problem.” Seems that major, responsible financial institutions fear returning to the Wild West days that sent our economy into brutal recession, threw millions out of work, and tossed borrowers who took bad loans out of their homes. Most likely, the financial industry, having spent millions settling lawsuits and setting up new internal rules to adopt the Dodd-Frank protections, have adjusted to the new, safer, sensible reality. The big banks don’t want to blow things up. Investors hate uncertainty, which is great, since they manage our savings.
Tax reform. Trump promised to tax imports to help U.S. companies and workers. Sound good? Then how come the 100 leading U.S. retailers are assailing the GOP-proposed Border Adjustment Tax, saying it will boost prices for consumers by 20 percent, costing families as much as $1,700 a year? “Whether it’s the automobile you drive, the gasoline you use, the groceries you put on the table, or the shoes and the clothes you put on your feet and back, the prices of all of those things will get driven,” a retail industry leader said. Republicans also worry that Trump’s glee in blowing up trade deals — in the name of protecting U.S. jobs — will kill U.S. jobs.
We can all disagree on trade, tax, healthcare, finance, immigration and other policies. But we all care about people. So, reasonable Trump voters, don’t you feel just a little sorry for Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and other poor souls who are flapping and flailing to scoop up after this raging elephant?
Forget Melissa McCarthy’s Saturday Night Live redefinition of Spicer, echoing Tina Fey’s of Sarah Palin. And SNL’s Kate McKinnon does an almost sympathetic take on Conway’s desperate swimming against the rip tide. (I find Conway’s steely determination and ability to make the best of the worst fascinating.)
But if you look again at Conway’s “alternative facts” interview with Chuck Todd, hearts must go out. Trying to defend Spicer, cornered into the impossible, she pauses, looks away for an instant and utters the immortal phrase that perfectly brands the Trump unreality show.
C’mon, my reasonable, responsible Trumpster friends — you’ve got to know the story isn’t going so well and all signs point to even worse to come. As Bob Dole famously said, “You know it, I know it, the people at home know it, the American people know it, we all know it.”
In case you don’t know it, on Feb. 6, a regular Washington Post columnist captured the Trump show so far, much better than I could, in a way that sounds like the charges against King George outlined in the Declaration of Independence:
The first two weeks of the Trump administration have been the most abso-friggin-lutely frightening of the modern presidency.
President Trump has managed to taunt and alienate some of our closest allies — Mexico and Australia (!) — while continuing an NC-17-rated love fest with Russia.
He has engaged in moral equivalence that places America on the level of Vladimir Putin’s bloody dictatorship. “Well, you think our country’s so innocent?” he said — a statement of such obscenity that it would haunt any liberal to the grave.
He has issued an immigration executive order of unparalleled incompetence and cruelty, further victimizing refugees who are already fate’s punching bag.
He has lied about things large (election fraud) and small (inaugural crowd size), refused to allow facts to modify his claims, and attempted to create his own reality through the repetition of deception.
He has abused his standing as president to attack individuals, from a respected judge to the movie star who took over his God-awful reality-TV show.
He has demonstrated a limitless appetite for organizational chaos and selected a staff that leaks like a salad spinner.
He has become a massively polarizing figure within the United States and a risible figure on the global stage.
Lest you relegate these charges to the liberal trash heap, the columnist is Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, GOP voice of faith and conscience, named by Time magazine in the top ten among “the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.” Gerson is not someone, a brilliant wordsmith, deep thinker, and seasoned speechwriter, who needs to say “friggin” in print unless all other words fail.
So, my Trump voter friends, I understand it must be hard to defend your choice — first and foremost, to yourself. (Don’t worry about your family and true friends. We’ll love you no matter what.) Also, we all understand buyer’s remorse; I once impulse-bought a mid-‘80s Porsche with undetermined mileage and chugging blue smoke.
My devil inside — forgive me — also wants to note: It can’t be easy for Trump voters to abide losing the popular vote by a solid margin to a nasty “unpopular” woman named Clinton without claiming massive voter fraud. Just like the Patriots must have cheated (again!). I also need to wonder whether you would accept a Clinton electoral win and popular loss. Or if President Hillary Rodham Clinton had started off this way, you would cut her the slack you’re giving Trump. Just askin’.
Or maybe, if it’s too hard to defend Trump, it helps to project your anger onto those who challenge Trump and by extension, you. Like the inaugural-trumping women’s march and pink-hatters who didn’t accept the anti-choice movement because — with all three branches of government solidly in GOP hands — choice is in true danger. Or the legitimate, fact-based media that challenges the alt-right Trump amen chorus, lock-steppers and shameless propagandists. Or protesters challenging the Muslim immigration ban. Or — not to defend violence — people provoked, as intended, by the spew of Brietbart spawn Milo Y. to sell his brand and books.
Or you might take comfort in Fox “news” and the alt-right media echo-chamber that overfeeds what you already believe. Or you might defend Trump, as hard as it gets, because you believe what your parents instilled — you make your bed, you lay in it.
But somewhere, deep inside, you must be struggling, maybe just a little bit, with all this nonsense. You’re in good company — most of the country is struggling too. My humble advice is, let go. Forgive yourself. We all make big mistakes. Chalk it up. Stop digging.
Also: Consider using your power as a voter and citizen that brought Trump to the White House to bring sense to his administration. If you believe in Trump, challenge him, don’t make excuses for him. You’re not helping him. Demand more from him — if not for your trust, confidence and investment in him, then for the rest of us and the nation we all love.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington communications professional and writer.