Thursday, September 28, 2017

It isn't Trump. It is Trump's audience.

Trump did not come from out of nowhere.  People appalled by Trump are unhappy with the wrong thing.  

Trump is a reflection on America.  He speaks for a great many Americans.  Perhaps not for you, but for people who live in your community.  Fellow Americans.  Voters.

Progressive and culturally liberal Americans are at risk of learning the wrong lesson from this season of 24-7 Trump.   Trump is a master of showmanship and grabbing media attention, and so we think it is all about Trump.   It is not.  Trump is the vehicle, not the message.

Indeed, Trump has done so many things that would appear to disqualify himself from holding public office that it demonstrates that Trump-ism is as strong or stronger than Trump.  Many people voted for Trump despite Trump being Trump.

The election of Roy Moore in Alabama is a bit of evidence.  Rush Limbaugh described it as the Trump voters having Trump's back.  They voted Trump-ism notwithstanding Trump's weird, qualified, apparently uninformed or mis-informed endorsement of Luther.

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Asked the question in a Remington poll, should NFL players "stand and be respectful during the National Anthem" some 64% of voters said yes; 25% said no; 11% were unsure.  A majority of Americans disapprove of the NFL players.  They don't see the issues of the protest.  They see it as disrespect for America.   Is this wrong, misinformed, unfair?  Maybe, but it is reality.  Taking a knee at the National Anthem is big body language.  People read it as they see it.   America is being dissed, not honored.  A great many people don't like that.

In the past 24 hours multiple news sites have headlined that polls show a majority of people--57%-- do not favor the outright firing of all NFL players.  The implication is that Trump's position is being rejected.  

I believe the real meaning of the poll is the opposite.  A majority disapprove of the protest.  In fact, their disapproval is so strong that a significant minority want them outright fired.  This includes a strong majority of the Republican base, but there is crossover into Independents and Democrats.   Those 19% of Democrats who feel so strongly that the players should actually be fired are voters that would be expected to vote Democratic but who are being estranged from their party on this cultural issue.

Click Here: It's a simple matter of disrespect for America.
Readers of this blog likely respect nuance and likely distinguish between a message of protest against racial injustice versus intentional disrespect for the flag, but angry rants like the one shown here on Fox do not happen in a vacuum.  They happen because they reflect the beliefs of many people, including people in upper midwest states who were presumed to vote Democratic but who do not.  

Jon Oliver's satire show this week used a clip of this astonishing rant by the Fox commentator as an example of laughable over-the-top invective.  Her comments did not need amplification or exaggeration to make the satirical point.  It is shocking on its own, and indeed funny.   Look at the crazy lady.  But there is another, opposite, reality to consider, and that is that for a great many people her outrage and invective and passion were not laughable.  They agreed with her.  She did not air that talk as comedy.  She did it straight and in earnest.  

Today's news is full of discussion of civil war within the GOP.  Senator Robert Corker of Tennessee is leaving office, realizing this conservative senator will face Tea Party opposition in a primary.  He just doesn't need the hassle.   Senators in the "governing" wing of the Republican party are on notice.  Steve Bannon and the insurgents are on the warpath.  Being very conservative is not enough.  One must be angry and uncompromising.  Congressman Eric Canter and Senators Bob Bennett and Richard Lugar are cautionary examples.  

GOP officeholders see it happening.  The GOP electorate is not the party of Romney and Dole, and indeed they are now the enemy.  It is a party of talk radio and Trump.   Republicans in Oregon had every opportunity to vote for Governor John Kasich instead of Donald Trump in May of 2016 when the choices had been whittled down.  They overwhelmingly chose Trump.  They did not conservative and sensible.  They wanted someone Trump-like, and Trump was the genuine article.  There is a Trump-ian plurality among American voters, and on cultural issues very probably a clear outright majority.  The cultural and economic changes happening in America are unsettling and Trump promised a return to better days.  

Trump leads a populist revolt, but he did not create it.  It was here.

The challenge for Democrats is to recognize the reality on the ground among voters.  Belittling Trump, mocking his quirks, even impeaching him if they had the majorities to do it, would be like killing the rooster because they disliked the dawn.  The Democrats have huge advantages.  They likely lead majority opinions on issues of taxation and health care.  But they lose those majorities when they dismiss the cultural fears and resentments of voters.  It's the economy, stupid, but it is also whether Democrats communicate that they share American values.

Democrats can and must remain a party of racial tolerance and justice, with commitment to racial, religious, and ethnic inclusion.  Patriotism and pride in America can be the unifying glue, but Democrats have ceded that to Republicans.  Take it back.  Trump is claiming his tax plan is designed to help the working and middle classes.  Democrats need to re-claim that mantle as well. 

The Bernie Sanders campaign demonstrated there is a large constituency of liberal populism and anti-elitism.  There are common-man sensibilities regarding patriotism, religion, and coastal elitism that cross party lines and over-lap between Tea Party cultural conservatism and Sanders populism.

Democrats will not lose in 2020 because their policies are wrong.  If they lose it will be because their cultural sensibilities are exclusively those of snobby coastal elites.  They will have failed to assure voters that they are proud to be Americans.


  1. So ... are you going to be the one to tell NFL players that they are free to protest racial discrimination and social/economic injustice, but they just can't do it in the way they have chosen? Are you going to be the one to tell them what comprises an "acceptable" form of protest?

    If I was the last person in the country who still believed we have fallen short of meeting our goal of creating a truly egalitarian society, I would still talk back to power. It seems that you want us to slither around and cozy up to it.

  2. 38% of all people would fire the players for not standing. Really? Is it possible that it could happen? Or would happen? Would you get rid of Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, who was kneeling last Sunday along with his players? Or other owners who come out to support the players? Let's face it, billionaires stick together. Trump's new tax plan would put some money in their pockets. So, why would the owners oppose Trump? The dollar. The huge dollars. The NFL owners make their billions off their players. They never would do anything that would upset the players. About 60% of the players are black. Without them, there is no game. Just ask Bear Bryant, whose team was crushed by USC way back when U. of Alabama was segregated. Bear told the university that if they didn't integrate, they might not win another game. Funny how football trumped politics.

    When it comes to the NFL, the bottom line is all that matters. They pay their players well because they put money in the owner's pockets. Nobody, not even Trump, will be allowed to fool with that.

  3. Peter, in 2006 Corker promised to leave Congress after two terms, i.e. 2018.

    Glad to see that your comments do not resonate with some of your readers, "The progressive left is in its own bubble. Outside that bubble Republican candidates harvest the electoral benefits of the culture war." "The grand total: a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency." ("Democrats lost over 1,000 seats under Obama," Fox News 12/27/16)

    Your criticisms of Trump the human being are well made and I too cringe over his personal behavior. But as long as progressives stay beside themselves in a perpetual "holier than the rubes" hissy fit, Trump can give his base what it loves, as to the immigration, Islam as incompatible with Western civilization, and especially the economy.

    "The good news for Trump is that many parts of the economy are still humming. Trump is taking credit particularly for strong job growth and record high stock prices. The housing market is another bright spot. And the trade deficit has narrowed." ("These charts show how the Trump economy is really doing," CNNMoney August 8, 2017)

    Trump is a politically inexperienced boor sticking it to the elites using patriotism, a believable concern for middle America, at times Christian-speak, and a good economy. On the one hand "We feel so good about ourselves" progressives with their relativistic puritanism collectively say, "Screw Joe Sixpack who just wants to watch football." Trump, on the other hand, builds upon Joe's revulsion to whining left-wing millionaires who contribute nothing to society beyond entertainment and all the while dissing Joe and the USA. ("Majority of polled Americans agree with Donald Trump: NFL players should stand for anthem," New Jersey Real-Time Sports, September 27, 2017).

    As long as your counsel is rejected I expect Trump will be with us until 2024, that is unless he gets a third term. So please quit blogging and go grow melons because if the left listened to Sage advice it could cost Republicans the White House in 2020!

  4. Scott, thanks for commenting!

    I am well aware that we have "fallen short of meeting our goal of creating a truly egalitarian society." The ongoing message of my blog is that the primary message in politics is sent through body language, not the careful denoted words in speech. People see and feel the message; they don't parse details. So I don't "tell NFL players" anything. I send advice up into the web ether. My advice is to send the right message, not the wrong one. Praying for America's redemption isn't slithering or cozying. It uses power to judge power. It allies the players with sacred values in order to point out America's failure. It is better to do social criticism that works than it is social criticism that backfires. The NFL players are Americans who have a good point. By praying for America's redemption they force Trump and the cheering crowd to recognize that they are on the team, and the team has fallen short. By not joining in the National Anthem they allow their critics to accuse them of not being on the team and therefore having no right to judge them. My advice: might as well do this the smart way. My concern: a great many of my fellow progressives insist on doing this in a way that backfires, and that is in fact what they are doing. I will repeat the wisdom of King Henry the 4th of France: Paris is worth a mass. Use religion to judge a political wrong.

  5. It's The Media, Not the Democrats

    On the culture war issues that almost always hurt Democrats, the problem is largely due to the media. The NFL issue is a good example. I have seen no significant visible Democratic advocacy on that issue. It's the same on mass immigration, antifa violence, college safe spaces, monuments or even trangender rights. Instead, the liberal media is sensationalizing these cultural issues. They barely quote a Democrat. This is the double edge blade of having powerful allies like the NYT, CNN, Wash Post and MSNBC-- most people assume they ARE the Democratic leadership.

    Trump has relentlessly joined liberal media and Democrats as a single entity. Pelosi and Schumer and other Democratic leaders do little to claim a voice separate from the media. They don't take public stances that the national anthem is important to patriotism,that antifa is a threat to free speech, that illegal immigrants are breaking the law, or that college safe spaces are a serious risk to balanced education.

    Democrats pay for the media excesses, not the media corporations themselves.


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