“There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”
We live in a very reactionary time. We now live in an age when the simple click of a mouse or a few keystrokes can render us any sort of truth we want to hear, regardless of its factual basis.
Donald Trump is a very reactionary individual. He is probably the most reactionary president I’ve seen in my lifetime. In the spirit of his unscrupulous, performative nature, I’m tempted to say that he is the most reactionary president ever in the whole history of the United States. But I wasn’t alive during the reign of Andrew Jackson or Woodrow Wilson, so I wouldn’t really know.
Yet, the presidency of Donald Trump was itself a reaction. This truth crystallized for me a few days ago when I read Jonah Goldberg’s weekly column in the L.A. Times, in which he makes a compelling case that Mitt Romney is owed an apology; an apology that he’ll never get. Romney played nice during both of his bids for the White House in 2008 and 2012. He ran an honest campaign, selected Paul Ryan (another decent man) as his running mate and never really hit Obama below the belt as many felt he should.
Sidebar: When I say, “Below the belt,” I’m talking about Obama’s birth certificate.
Still, despite his above board, straight-laced strategy, Romney was savaged by the press and his opponents as if he were the anti-Christ. He lost both contests. Now, he stands in unapologetic opposition to Trump when he feels it is necessary and the left speaks well of him, as if their below-the-belt jabs never happened.
Come to think of it, the left sure did love John McCain, as long as he was sticking it to a Republican. They championed him during his 2000 presidential run. They beat the hell out of him as he was daring to run against the first African-American candidate eighty years later. The pendulum swung back once again when he torpedoed GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. And they certainly loved him after he died. Those on the right felt that McCain was a traitor who never fought as hard as he should have. And the same is true for George W. Bush, really. He endured eight years of savagery and remained a class act through the entirety of his two terms, much to the consternation of many on his right flank.
Sidebar: I voted for Mitt Romney both times he ran and never regretted that choice. John McCain wasn’t my first or second choice. But I never doubted his character.
One president and two failed presidential candidates, and our answer to, “We need a fighter,” is Donald freakin’ Trump!? Four years ago, I argued that this was like using a nuclear bomb to stop a Sherman tank. No, I don’t believe that Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie or even Carly Fiorina would have been capable of stopping Hillary Clinton. My guy was Marco Rubio. Still… Donald Trump!?
He was and is a reactionary and a reaction. He was a sad, self-fulfilling prophecy that came true for the GOP. Republicans were often spuriously accused of racism, sexism, classism and a host of other isms, but we chose a man who largely made the charges come true. The meek, tepid responses and the passive non-responses of the congressional figures who might have stood up to him served as a sad counterpoint to the enthusiastic leg-humping of his fan base, who contorted themselves into all sorts of ridiculous postures and positions in order to justify the putrid things he would say and tweet at a whim. Those that dared to publicly stand up to Trump, men like James Mattis and Mark Milley, men who have served their country honorably, have been minimized, marginalized and ridiculed. It has been heartbreaking to me to watch people whom I know to be intelligent and of decent character engage in this demented game of Twister that our president would have them play.
In playing this demented game, the right has painted itself into a neat and tidy corner. Now, when we are accused of racism, misogyny, nativism, etc,, we can offer the standard retort, “No we’re not!” All our opponents have to do is answer, “Trump was your standard bearer.”
If all two of you who read this blog are leftists, you have to be nodding your heads with glee. This is understandable. It feels like you’re winning right now. Joe Biden is an unlikely hero, but he’s polling ahead across the board. Maybe the bulk of America has Trump fatigue. Yet, most of you are so blindly partisan that you don’t realize that you are painting yourselves into the same sort of corner in which Republicans are imprisoned.
I’m not talking about the encroachment of the lumbering juggernaut of socialism. The current racial unrest is a much better example.
Three months ago, America was stricken by the same pandemic that had spread across the rest of the world. We were forced to largely shut down, stay home and dawn masks and gloves if we went out. People home schooled their kids, swarmed grocery stores in a panic and watched, mouths agape as the economy tanked. The months passed, the weather warmed up and new battlegrounds began to emerge over masks, governmental health restrictions and miracle cures.
Then, on Memorial Day, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis cop, and all bets were off.
My favorite contortion of logic came from public epidemiologists who claimed that racism was a worse disease than the Coronavirus. Protests and civil disobedience were the best antidote for this metaphoric illness that has plagued our nation for centuries; a so-called cure that directly contradicts all of the guidelines and recommendations that have poured forth from medical experts since the genesis of the COVID-19 crisis.
It will take a couple more weeks before we begin to understand the consequences of two weeks of perpetual mass public gatherings, but no matter how it turns out, the pro-lockdown crowd, which is largely comprised of those who stand in deference to governmental authority, will lose the argument. If we see a spike in infections, it may very well result in the strain on our medical infrastructure that the forecasters of doom such as Scott Gottlieb have been warning about for months. That will only serve to further damage our economy, which is now officially in a recession. If we don’t see a noticeable uptick in numbers, the anti-lockdown crowd, which is largely comprised of those who stand in skepticism of governmental authority (except for the authority of Trump, of course), will claim victory in the face of a bunch of alarmist pansies who can’t wait to bend over for their tyrannical overlords. And they may very well adopt this view, even if the second wave of mass infections doesn’t come until autumn or winter. And they will most certainly be spearheaded by the president of the U.S.
Sure, the left can argue that many of your Ted Nugent types would flaunt health restrictions regardless of the consequences, but it doesn’t matter. Like the GOP of four years ago, progressives have all collectively peed their credibility into a hot, steaming trough of reflexive political opportunism.
The same thing goes for looting. Once considered to be a universal act of lawlessness that should be condemned by all, it is now romanticized by a bunch of white progressives who want to justify and apologize for acts of theft and destruction, as long as it doesn’t intrude upon their own personal domain. During the first week of turbulence, social media was rife with images of business owners who stood aghast as their buildings were looted and vandalized by thugs against whom they incorrectly assumed their sympathetic political viewpoints inoculated them. When peaceful protests mushroom into riots, the apologists doubled down, refusing to draw a reasonable distinction between lawful protests born of the First Amendment and criminal mob violence. Pseudo intellectuals, advocacy journalists and keyboard warriors made spurious comparisons of criminal rioting to the Boston Tea Party, wrote up sad, guilt-drenched think pieces about suburban white women who have to persuade themselves not to feel bad for a Walgreen’s that got trashed, and downplayed the existence of anarchists and other criminals who use events just like these for personal gain.
Then came the slogans; pop a top on a cold can of sophomoric simplicity and chug it down. President Trump’s favorite was and is, “Make America great again.” The left loves its slogans, too. Nothing as innocuous as, “Yes we can!” Their current favorite is, “Abolish the police.” But wait… It’s not really, “Abolish!” It’s, “Defund.” Or is it, “Disband?” When challenged on the finer points of a future without police, the left engages in a constant campaign of redefinition and redirection. Black Lives Matter, the ACLU and many other radical left organizations quickly adopted the posture of stripping down local police departments for parts without really taking the time to understand the long term consequences of what they are proposing. Corporations, non-profits and community organizations hopped on the band wagon in quixotic fashion, never bothering to dig into what these activists are actually conveying in their messaging.
13 days after George Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis City Council adopted a statement proposing a police-free city. When questioned about the finer points by CNN, the president of the council retreated to the banal progressive talking point of so-called, “White privilege.”
Joe Biden and even Bernie Sanders have publicly opposed the idea of defunding the cops, but the notion rolls on like a bowling ball down an escalator, pushed and kicked by reactionary leftists who rejoice in this sudden shift in momentum. It is the exact same procession that hopped aboard the Trump train; different faces and voices, but the same impulsive lockstep.
Meanwhile, 1203 miles East of Minneapolis, the editorial board of the New York Times dared to publish an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton (Republican) defending the notion of using the military to back up the local police in riot-ravaged areas. He wrote it in the wake of a tweet from Trump, who threatened to sick the military on states if governors couldn’t or wouldn’t get a handle on the violence. Half the staff of the NYT engaged in open revolt, claiming that such a piece makes African-Americans feel, “Unsafe.” Several days later, the junior editor was sent to the professional guillotine and the new editor immediately implemented a, “If you feel something, say something,” edict. Journalists such as Bari Weiss who objected to the suppression of varied viewpoints and express concern over the state of journalism, were roundly minimized, marginalized and ridiculed.
Naturally, the hurtling bowling ball of reactionism doesn’t stop at the political gates. HBO pulled Gone With the Wind from its Max platform in the name of racial sensitivity. Discussions now rage about the scrubbing of cops from television and literary crime fiction as sources of positive characterization. Supposed reality-based cop shows have been quickly pulled from TV line-ups. On social media, classic terms such as, “Racism,” and, “Prejudice,” are now being replaced with harsher terms like, “Anti-black.” More statues symbolizing the Confederacy have come toppling down at the hands of the mob. NASCAR just banned the Confederate flag from all events.
To be clear, I don’t have a problem with Confederate symbols disappearing from the public, but the kneejerk nature of all of this at the hands of rioters, weak-spirited politicians and timid corporate executives has an unpalatable Orwellian feel to me. It reminds me of Trump’s promise, “We’re gonna win so much, you’ll be sick of winning.”
I don’t even wanna talk about Drew Brees. I guess he’s been scolded by his wife, now.
If the Republicans are playing a sad game of demented Twister, the Democrats and progressives are playing a dangerous game of demented Jenga. They have no idea what they are building. They have no idea what it is supposed to look like. But they seem to be completely unaware or apathetic to the fact that, if they pull the wrong piece out of place, the whole cockeyed structure of half-truths and slogans comes crashing down. When it does, don’t call 911 and expect a cop to show up to help you pick up the pieces.
Where does this all end? Hell, I have no idea. My crystal ball broke after the 2016 election. I was sure Joe Biden wouldn’t make it this far. Now, I’m not certain he won’t win the Oval Office, no matter who he chooses in his grand game of Veepstakes. I would like to think that the white middle class will eventually grow fatigued with the ‘blame and shame’ strategy that is currently proving to be so effective.
History indicates that political victors often overreach. If the right overreached with the selection and election of Donald Trump, the left may overreach when and if this socio-political fad lasts beyond the next few news cycles. But what damage will be done in the meantime? Sooner or later, political theories either remain in an ethereal, idyllic void of ideology that result in little more than dinner conversation, or graduate down to the sausage factory of fermented public policy. If the latter occurs, we may yet get to watch a great and terrible experiment of a city with a diminished or non-existent police force.
It already appears to be happening in Seattle. I’d like to sit back, grab a bag of Peanut Butter M N M’s and laugh, but Katy is over there. What if she gets hurt?
Or maybe it will be worse and history will repeat itself. Maybe a few cops will have to be killed in the name of social justice before the brakes are applied. The BLM movement was gaining traction after Ferguson and Baltimore until several cops were hunted down and executed in the name of occupational retribution. Or it might be something altogether less injurious. The Women’s March was all the rage three years ago until a series of articles exposed strains of antisemitism within its leadership and many public and private entities who expressed their support at the beginning quickly distanced themselves. After BLM and the ACLU spend some time in the public limelight, the honeymoon phase with the mainstream left may end and they will be scrutinized. Like Donald Trump, they will feel powerful and will be disinclined to hide who they really are. At that point, the public at large can take a breath in the cool of post-emotional rationality and judge for themselves.
Honestly, I think most leftists know full well that no modern society can exist without a peacekeeping force to protect it. They know that every bit as much as most Trump supporters always knew that we would never be able to force Mexico to pay for our great big border wall. But in the heat of battle and with the glow of victory just over the horizon, who really cares about the long term? This is the here and now!
Or maybe we’ll all be victims of COVID-19. A month from now, social and mainstream media outlets may be off the racial justice trend and back to the battle of masks and social distancing. Whatever happens, I hope all of you are comfortable in your respective corners. You may be contented in your echo chambers, but eventually, you will discover that you’re really living in a funhouse hall of mirrors.
There are days when I truly envy you. I wish to hell I could be a full-throated Trump supporter. I wish I could stand up in a heady crowd and scream, “Black Lives Matter,” without thinking about the deeper implications. It’s just too hard when you live in the immense, foggy expanse of gray between those two bipolar and binary safe zones. So this is me, waving to the very few of you (left, right or center), who have the self-awareness to be in this terribly lonely place with me.
Hi there. I am Ryan O, the blind guy. I am a conservative who believes that we should open up our economy again while practicing medical safety measures out of concern for others. I am a conservative who believes that peaceful protests are the hallmark of a democracy, while mob violence is antithetical to it. I am a conservative who believes that the police and the African-American community need each other. I am a conservative who believes that you can respect the American flag while simultaneously condemning racism and police brutality. I am a conservative who believes that a president leads by example through good character. I am a conservative who believes that words carry meaning and consequence; words like, “Believe all women,” “Defund the police,” and “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” I am a conservative who believes that I have miles to go before I sleep.
“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made. Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made, nothing entirely straight can be built.”
Addendum: Apparently, the removal of Gone With the Wind from the HBO Max platform is not permanent. Several African-American actors are going to record an introduction giving it historical context. This is cool.