No, let me correct that. We have entered an era of racism hyper-inflation. And what that does, in every instance, is debase the currency. The word and the offense is it supposed to represent have become meaningless, devoid of content, a null set, a big nothing. And it is the ostensible foes of racism what did it.
Let me rehearse the facts for you, working backwards from yesterday. The House, led by Nancy Pelosi, issued a condemnation of the president’s “racist” tweet. Prior to that, the president had inserted himself into an intramural spat among the Democrats, in which he urged four hard leftist women, haters of America, “the squad,” to go back where they came from. That was the racist tweet. Prior to that, AOC (one of those women) had, in the course of the aforementioned intramural spat, accused Nancy Pelosi of racism. And now, in the aftermath of these gaudy and overdone events, the so-to-speak cherry on top is that the squad revived their contretemps with Pelosi, warning her darkly that she must remember, whenever she singles them out, that they are “women of color.”
I must pause here for a moment to deal with possible charges of inadvertent racism that could perhaps be brought against me. I just now said that Pelosi was warned “darkly” by “women of color.” This was not a dog whistle, and yet, upon quiet reflection, I realize the hurt that my comments may have caused in the cis-adverbial community. But this is not who I am as a person, and it genuinely does not represent my core values. I intend to take a few days off to spend some time with my family, a few days of quiet reflection, and then back to the campaign trail. Let the healing begin!
Where was I?
I am not here to defend the president’s tweet as elegant, or accurate, or refined, or sophisticated. It wasn’t any of those. It was certainly nativist, but what else is new? He ran as a nativist. The reason he got elected was because of that nativist emphasis, spoken loudly into microphones. You know, like at rallies. Speaking as a dispassionate observer of all these events, and a few others just like it, I simply want to report to you that to accuse the president of racism because he spoke brusquely to four Trotskyite ladies, and to expect that accusation to hurt him in the coming campaign, is what might be called an Exercise in High Futility.
There are two things to keep in mind about the coming campaign, and with one crucial backdrop.
First, the backdrop, which is the economy. Barring some drastic change, if the economy is still roaring down the highway a year from now, an incumbent president is going to be awfully hard to beat, by definition. These are strange times, but they are not so strange as to reverse all the basic “bread and butter” issues. Consider that the baseline.
So what are the two factors we should be looking at, against the backdrop of a robust economy?
First, Donald Trump has not built the wall and, as a corollary, Mexico has not paid for it. This was the centerpiece of his campaign promises. He promised us a Wall. Now if you are part of Trump’s base, there are two possibilities here. One is that his wall promises were a scam, an election ploy, the kind of tough talk about immigration that standard-issue Republicans used for decades, and that he really didn’t mean it. He intended to grow in office on this issue. He intended to over-promise and under-deliver. That is one option, and that would a deadly for him if that interpretation ever took hold with his base.
The other option is that he really wants to build a wall, he really is sincere, and that he was thwarted, outwitted, out-maneuvered, bested, and is thereby vindicated as a well-intentioned loser. That is better than the first option for him, but not much better. He is the deal-maker, the one who supposed to make it happen. He not only promised the wall, but he promised it in a way that indicated he thought it was going to be easy. The reason Republicans before him didn’t do it (the ones who talked as though they wanted to) was because they were insincere. They didn’t mean it. They were running a con. If you wanted to do it, well, then do it. So it is not a good look for Trump to come off as the man who couldn’t do the easy thing.
So what he needs to look like the person who already built the wall. He needs to be in a fire-fight with the most iconic anti-American figures he can fi . . . well, lookee here! If only he could find an embodiment of Vladamir Lenin, only in four pairs of heels.
All of this is to say that if anybody thinks that this fracas hurts Donald Trump in any way is probably smoking something legal in a state near you.
The second thing is this. The only electoral hope for the Democrats is to find somebody who will run hard left in the primaries, and then be able to tack back to the middle for the general election. That has been standard operating procedure with those guys over there, just as it has been the mirror image MO for Republicans—run to the right, govern to the middle. But the nutroots faction has taken over in the Democratic Party, and they will brook no move to the middle, no matter who it is. The only one who would even want to is Joe Biden, and he has shown himself to have the kind of principled backbone that could be carved out of an overripe banana.
So whoever gets the nomination, the campaign posters will all have Comrades! at the top, and then some ironic Soviet art about agriculture. And anybody who thinks that this will make Donald Trump sad is someone who just fell off the locally sourced turnip truck.
The received wisdom from the official talking heads on teevee is that the Democrats were having a civil war and Donald Trump couldn’t stand not being the center of attention, and so he inserted himself into the fray. “How dare these other people be doing something that is not about me?” Why interrupt your enemies’ circular firing squad?
Here’s the reason—because that internal fracas was the only hope the Democrats had of being able to move to the middle in the general election. If Nancy Pelosi had successfully faced down the squad, as she obviously wanted to, then there was still room for a Not Exactly Commie contingent. But with this move, Donald Trump made Nancy Pelosi join forces with the squad in order to accuse him of racism, so that less than 24 hours later, the squad could go back to accusing her of racism. He has strengthened and promoted their standing among the Democrats, while at the same time shutting off the prospect of any “reasonable” Democrat being able to distance himself or herself from them. They are all in this together now.
I make these observations without committing myself to any particular thesis on how Trump does it. I do not know if he is playing 3D chess over against their checkers, or if he is just the luckiest politician alive, or if he just has an instinctive and unreflective talent for this kind of thing. Who can say?
What I can say is that at some point in these proceedings we ought to abandon the reflexive and respectable response of saying “Trump has done it now, Trump is toast now.”
And I am not praising or blaming. I am just observing.