Sunday, July 1, 2018

Misunderestimating Trump

Julian Zelizer is trying to wake up his somnolent Democratic allies. In particular, he wants them to start taking Donald Trump seriously, to stop underestimating him. (via Maggie’s Farm)

Zelizer teaches at Princeton, so we feel obliged to take him somewhat seriously. He notes that Democrats have made it a signature mental quirk to underestimate Republican presidents. 

They do not engage about policy. They demean and denigrate Republican presidents. Why do they do it? Perhaps because they do not know how to debate policy. They believe they possess a monopoly on the truth and that they are duty bound to impose it on the nation. 

They do not believe in exchanging ideas. They do not believe in finding a middle ground between opposing ideas. They believe that they are right and their opponents are wrong. If they cannot do it through the ballot box they are more than happy to do it through the courts.

Zelizer explains the unnerving Democratic tendency to underestimate:

Ronald Reagan, numerous Democrats originally thought, was a lightweight Hollywood actor with charisma and television appeal but not much more. George H.W. Bush, according to his critics, was a well-meaning "wimp" whose leadership skills were lacking and who could never escape from the shadow of Reagan.

His son George W. Bush, Democrats joked, was a nice guy who you might want to have a beer with but someone who didn't know much about world or domestic affairs. Americans who saw the televised debates in 2000 can probably still hear the sound of Vice President Al Gore sighing after almost every remark.

In each case, however, the Democrats didn't see what was coming.

Call it: arrogance on parade. It bespeaks an us vs. them world where the Republicans are not one of us. Democrats believe that their candidates are intellectually superior. They went to the best schools. They studied philosophy and literature. They are more enlightened; they ponder the most elevated ideas; they alone understand the true complexity of ideas. Republicans are clowns, buffoons and know-nothings. 

It all boils down to intellectual sophistication. Or better, to the belief that intellectuals, as a political class, should be running the nation. It's Platonism on steroids: a world where a guardian class of philosopher kings are in charge. They alone can lead the nation to a glorious future.

Zelizer does not mention it, but this intellectual arrogance can only function if its proponents blind themselves to reality. Which reality would that be? Why, the reality that during the glory days of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, their forebears, the best and the brightest led us into Vietnam, the greatest foreign policy debacle in American history.

With a modicum of modesty you would understand that America has good reason to be skeptical of governance by the best and the brightest.

After recounting the achievements of Republic presidents, Zelizer explains that the #GetTrump wing of the Democratic Party should have heard a wake-up call this week:

The last two weeks have been another a loud wake-up call for Democrats who have railed against President Donald Trump but who thought that this reality star commander-in-chief was so incompetent, corrupt and self-centered that it was only a matter of time before he went away.

In their view, the President who surrounded himself with third-rate advisers and who had no legislative skills to speak of would be hampered in how much damage that he could inflict before his term ended.

It's looking very different right now.

Of course, Justice Kennedy’s retirement should have awakened the slumbering Democrats. It should have cured them of the habit of nominating a useless unaccomplished enabler like Hillary Clinton. And it should have taught them to stop pretending to be part of a Hillary-led Resistance and to get back to work.

Apparently, Trump has pushed them further to the left and has made them into a band of thugs militating against civility, against rational debate and against the rule of law. It has caused them to bow down before a Queens socialist who supports Hamas over Israel. It has blinded them to the fact that one of her main supporters is an anti-Semite and a racist. Then again, it previously worshiped Jeremiah Wright’s protégé… so it is merely exposing its true face. Aren’t you shocked, somewhat, to see the liberal intelligentsia, both in the media and in the Democratic Party, embrace Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uncritically?

And then there is the immigration issue. Leftists believe that they are right and that anyone who disagrees with them is evil. It’s typical of people who refuse to think. It’s typical of people who believe that they alone possess the truth.  It’s the rule of law against the rule of sentiment. The leftist argument is that Trump is Hitler, a Nazi, worse than a Nazi… as though the nation entire wants to be overrun by illegal migrants from south of the border.

Zelizer explains the immigration trap. He also implies that Trump’s appeal lies in his willingness to stand for principle. Which principle: the principle of real borders. But, Trump has also shown himself to be willing to compromise when necessary:

If Democrats were thinking that President Trump's blistering rhetoric about undocumented immigrants was just talk, they now know just how far the President is willing to go. He is very serious about closing the borders and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his travel ban will embolden him.

Although he was pressured into backing down from his draconian policy of separating children from their parents at the border, Trump sent his message loud and clear. He is willing to go as far as he thinks is necessary to fight for stringent border policies. He is willing to inflict psychological damage on kids and subject border crossers to the toughest security measures possible until he convinces Congress to build the physical wall that he has been promising.

A glance at the European immigration debate would have shown Democrats that they are playing a losing hand. And yet, such is their arrogance that they are convinced that they are right. Why? Because they feel so strongly about it.

Zelizer sounds the alarm to his fellow Democrats:

The stakes of the 2018 midterm elections should be clear. If the national party does not figure out how to put forth an effective campaign that generates high turnout and excites the passions of their electorate, and if they don't engage in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation fight in a way that slows down the process and uses the President's pick to awaken voters to the stakes of this struggle, President Trump could be looking at two more years of united government, with a GOP that will see him as an influential kingmaker, and the Congress will be more willing to start handing him legislative victories on the path to 2020.

Of course, he is trying to rally the troops against Trump. But, will they listen? Can they hear anything beyond the noise that fills their minds? Or are they so emotionally invested in hatred that they can no longer think straight?


Sam L. said...

I have it on the AUTHORITY of the LEFT that JFK and LBJ had NOTHING to do with View Nam and that dastard Dick Nixon was ths culprit!!!!!111111!!!!!!

Sam L. said...

"No longer think straight"? When, o WHEN did they EVER??

Ares Olympus said...

Certainly the illegal immigration issue is a losing issue in logic for the Left (in its compassion for the huddled masses) and the old Right (Corporatists who wants cheap labor), so we have 11-30 million undocumented/unauthorized/illegal residents in this country now. Illegal is illegal, and the situation now is simply crazy for all involved. Who wants to live in the shadows?

I do keep wondering if Trump isn't going to surprise everyone and offer "Amnesty" for undocumented residents, which is a no-brainer issue given many have lived here for decades. And all that he'll want in exchange is better border security, wall or not, and the GOP will suddenly embrace it, seeing millions of new potential voters who will suddenly see the Republicans as the party for freedom. And it'll be the Democrats calling for the rule of law and that you can't reward people for breaking the law.

OTOH, did it work the last time?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Democrats and the GOPe aren’t just underestimating Trump, they’re ignoring the wisdom of his policies. We’d better get our $#%& together on immigration now that hard-Leftist AMLO is El Presidente de Mexico... in a landslide win. Because once the Hugo Chavez 2.0 economy starts to fail on our southern border, we’re gonna need a Wall (a big one) to stem the sea of disgruntled humanity seeking refuge from their own STUPID socio-political-economic choices. Time to start building now!

Sam L. said...

Yep, the lefties continue to misunderestimate Trump. Long may they do so!