Trump Press Conference: When All Politics Are Personal
Much will be said over the next few days about President Donald Trump’s 77-minute press conference. He responded to questions about ties to Vladimir Putin’s regime and growing perceptions of chaos inside the White House; and he had more fighting words for the media and the intelligence community. But one of the most important parts of his epic rant seems to have gone unnoticed. It happened when Trump unloaded on CNN reporter Jim Acosta for the tone of criticism he’s been receiving from the press these past months, a tone that is influencing everyday interactions between seemingly normal Americans: “The tone is such hatred… such hatred and venom. I watch it, and I’m amazed by it.”
Trump, never much of wordsmith, nailed a change nobody is talking about. That’s because in 2017, the old adage that “all politics is local” has been replaced by a new one – that all politics are personal. In 2017, the traditional distractions from the realities of life like TV and social media are no escape – they’re bulging with political content – while day-to-day water cooler talk is more about bashing the President than the office boss.
For those in public life who are brave enough to voice support for Trump, their punishment is, as Trump said, “brutal.” First Daughter Ivanka’s brand has been dropped by Nordstrom’s, NFL icons Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have taken a beating for admitting their coziness with the President, and Uber is now a boycott target for failing to match Lyft’s $1 million pro-immigrant ACLU donation and for its CEO’s brief tenure on Trump’s Economy Advisory Council.
The same thing is happening to anyone in private life who even dares to be neutral on Trump. The message is clear: if you don’t hate Donald Trump, you are evil, racist, and ignorant. Liberals have doubled-down on labeling everyone who doesn’t feel like they do as “deplorables” and continue to vilify those who see the world differently.
To be fair, Trump has given the country many reasons to be concerned. If you are worried about Russia, you know that. If you have disabilities or are of Mexican descent, you know that. And if you are a woman who has been harassed, a former POW, a member of a Gold Star family, or a Muslim, you have reason to feel personally offended by the President.
But instead of focusing their outrage on the Trump, liberal America, led by an overwhelmingly liberal press, has hurled volumes of anger at neighbors whose sin was to disagree politically. In so doing, liberals are the ones acting like despots. They are punishing people for using their rights to free thought and free speech (if used in support of the President) and by sending brigades of protesters to blow up opponents’ town halls. This campaign to silence dissent looks totalitarian and is doomed to fail.
The first reason it’s doomed is mathematical: It’s numerically impossible for Democrats to ride Tea Party-style obstructionism back to power. Whereas the GOP in 2009 was a broken party spread out across 50 states, the modern Democratic Party is mostly confined to big cities on the coasts. Adding 5 million more Democratic voters in New York, California, and Massachusetts will do nothing to tilt the scales in Washington, D.C.; in fact, as long as liberals base their resistance on painting President Trump and his supporters as ignorant racists, we can probably expect it to have the opposite effect. According to some polls, this is already happening.
The second reason Democrats will continue to lose is rhetorical. In history, nobody has ever won an argument without having it. And right now, that’s how the Left is dealing with Trumpism – by stopping the conversation, by forcing it out of public dialogue.
When you tell people in break rooms, bowling alleys, and golf games that anything Trump-adjacent is evil, you silence debate. That’s the “venom” Trump is talking about. But as a minority party at a historic low, Democrats badly need to have this argument with Republicans. They need to meet President Trump head-on to offer his supporters, many of whom voted for President Obama twice, a cogent alternative and a reason to vote for Democrats again.
Instead, the Left has used its control over airwaves and iPhones to amplify a message of intolerance pointed at the very same people it has to persuade. Trumpies, beware: we will find you, and when we do, we will destroy you. We will eviscerate you on Saturday Night Live, we will call you a bigot on your Facebook, and we will stop returning your text messages on weekends. In so doing, the liberal Revolutionary Guard has succeeded in crushing public dissent in every place but the one that matters most: the voting booth. And they will continue to lose there for the foreseeable future if they don’t get smarter.
The most important thing Democrats can do today is to stop making politics so personal. They must realize that differences of opinion are not measures of moral or intellectual fitness but rather measures of life experience. In every day life, this means coming to grips with the fact that most people who voted for Trump did so in spite of his offensive statements, not because of them. They weren’t just “deplorable” human beings.
Second, whenever President Trump is in the wrong, there need to be some rules of engagement. Today, it’s a challenge to go through life without tripping your way into being labeled a racist. How does one buy the right shoes, use the right taxi service, and support the correct sports teams? And what about Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) voters in Boston? Are they deplorable bigots for being fans of the Patriots? Where does one draw the line in making judgments? And if people do overstep it, what punishment fits the crime?
At his press conference, the President gave the room full of reporters some advice: “You would do much better by being different.” Most reporters don’t believe that and are likely to keep on approaching Trump the way they have been. But Democrats would benefit from adopting that advice for themselves. If they want to win in 2018, 2020 and beyond, they should start “being different.” Venom against their neighbors isn’t likely to take them where they want to go.