Four months into his Presidency, Donald Trump continues to create chaos throughout the political universe, including major schisms within his own party. Not only are Republicans still re-litigating the (largely irrelevant) Cruz-Rubio-Kasich battles of early 2016, but various voices on the right have now begun clashing on the appropriate way to deal with an anti-conservative Republican president. These range from those who have bought red hats and jumped willingly onto the #TrumpTrain, all the way to those who seem intent on purging not only Trump supporters, but also anyone who doesn’t seem to be sufficiently outraged at Trump’s every action.
The most recent iteration of this debate revolves around the newly-named Anti-Anti-Trump designation, reserved for conservative voices who take great joy in the rantings and ravings of the hysterical left. A week ago Sunday, Charles Sykes penned a piece in the New York Times Sunday review that raised the very serious concern that hyper-focus on the insanity from the left is not, in actuality, any kind of a policy position. There may be some joy to be taken in mocking the daily pearl-clutching over every Trump offense, real or imagined, but none of that effort does anything to forward any kind of conservative ideals. With a big-government authoritarian in the White House and a Congress of questionable loyalty to conservative ethos, conservatives cannot afford to be passive, but must instead drive actual policy ideas within the party.
It is probably worth noting that the biggest offenders cited in Sykes’ piece – Hannity, Palin, Limbaugh – represent something less than a murderer’s row of conservative policy wonks. These are not the places where great conservative ideas have ever hatched or developed. Nevertheless, strawmen need slaying, too, and his basic point is worth heeding: simply noting that many of Trump’s critics are batty is not all that productive.
Taking it a step further, Damon Linker suggested in The Week, and Jay Cobb of The Buckley Club re-stated, that criticism of Trump’s critics amounts to cowardice. Trump is evil, they argue, and even if the left’s criticism of Trump is flawed (a point that I don’t believe either has actually conceded), it pales in comparison to the dangers posed by the Trump presidency. Therefore, noting the insanity of any criticism of Trump is, in fact, an explicit support of Trump. There is no anti-anti-Trump, they argue, there are only people who really, really want to be Trump supporters but find it socially unacceptable.
Besides betraying their geographic location, there are a number of problems with this line of double-negative thinking; most notably that the application of this logic-leaping is almost automatically self-defeating. Within two sentences, Linker excoriates The Federalist’s Sean Davis for hyperbolically calling the actions of Susan Rice “worse than Watergate” before immediately citing a rumored investigation of the Trump campaign as “making Watergate look like a triviality”. The irony appears to have been missed.
Cobb wants to claim that “opposing Trump doesn’t mean you have joined the other team” while also maintaining that opposing Trump’s critics very necessarily means that you have joined up with Trump. Left out, obviously, is the truly crazy idea that adults of even moderate intelligence can maintain more than one thought in their heads at any one time. To pull an idea from @molratty, perhaps a more reasonable plan is to voice your opposition based on principles, not personalities (which, in the interest of self-analysis, I have sometimes struggled with).
Taking this kind of enemy-of-my-enemy approach is a perilous decision for any conservative. You may, for this moment, be aligned with the left in your desire to resist the President, but your motivation for doing so is very different from theirs and it absolutely does not make you friends. The hysterical left is out to not only impeach Trump because he is a bad President, but because doing so will help to dismantle the GOP and irreparably harm the conservative cause. They’ll be happy to treat anti-Trump conservatives as useful idiots towards that goal, but there is no goodwill to be earned nor fair treatment to be expected afterwards for those who were on “their side” before a Trump implosion.
The left’s opposition to Donald Trump is not entirely personality-agnostic (it is more intense under Trump even than it was for the reviled George W. Bush), but it is incredibly naïve to think that they will treat a run-of-the-mill Republican substantially better than Trump. Bill Maher acknowledged as much quite eloquently before the election in November, and lest we think that any lessons have been learned, I would direct you to the burgeoning volume of “Mike Pence is worse” work that has already begun circulating.
I’ve written a lot of (so far fruitless) words pointing out what I consider to be Donald Trump’s large number of unforgivable personal and professional flaws. I’ve nearly exhausted my ability to think of pejoratives to describe him and interesting new insults to call him. I think I have identified two things he has ever said or done that were even remotely defensible (Neil Gorsuch and one idea that was almost certainly an accident). I’ve spelled out my reasons for never, ever voting for him and for my unwillingness to “give him a chance”. Heck, I even voted for Hillary Clinton. HILLARY CLINTON!!! All of which is to say: I am pretty confident in my anti-Trump bona fides.
And yet, I don’t find it remotely difficult to also identify the absurdity of the seven month tantrum we’ve seen from the left. Like other reasonable people, I am perfectly capable of finding Trump to be unfit for the office and a national embarrassment, while also finding humor in the feverish histrionics of the detached left. Even the most ardent Trump-hater on the right should be able to step back and acknowledge that organized riots perpetrated by Antifa or calls for impeachment by Al Green based on innuendo are wildly irresponsible and counterproductive to an ultimate goal of rescuing conservative principles.
I can do this by choosing not to dwell on Trump’s flaws at every moment of every single day or blindly supporting even his most absurd critics. Beyond an inability to tolerate disagreement, these anti-Trump conservatives are suggesting that we can’t even tolerate a variance in the severity and frequency of our agreements. Anything less than a full-time, full-throated protest is tantamount to making phone calls and knocking on doors in support of Trump.
I, for one, reject this notion, and suggest that you do, too. Idiocy is idiocy, regardless of whether or not that idiocy is committed in support of my desired outcome.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.