January 17, 2017
Perhaps the best early harbinger of Donald Trump’s political success was a picture of a bumper sticker that circulated widely on social media in the summer of 2015.
It read: “Donald Trump 2016/F*** your feelings.”
One of the things Trump’s supporters liked most about their candidate was his ability to provoke outrage among detested classes. A candidate who can simultaneously mortify the Republican establishment, the press, social justice warriors and Europeans was bound to find a receptive audience in many quarters of the GOP.
As his Republican adversaries soon learned, outrage is pure plutonium for Trump’s nuclear reactor. Now, Democrats are proving even slower to understand the physics.
So far, a couple of dozen Democrats have announced they are boycotting Trump’s inauguration, a protest spurred in part by the president-elect’s nasty feud with civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
Lewis said of Trump the same thing he had said 16 years ago of then-President-elect George W. Bush, declaring the incoming Republican president not legitimately elected.
Trump, as predictably as the sun rising in the east, took to Twitter to attack the iconic congressman. Trump said Lewis should not be talking about the election results, but should be focused on his “crime infested” district and that Lewis was, of course, “Sad!”
And for good measure, Trump did it just ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The response was a predictable tsunami of umbrage and Washington nearly drowned in waves of moral outrage. A trillion pixels were murdered considering the question, including an Atlanta Journal Constitution front page that actually responded to Trump’s allegations about crime in metro Atlanta.
We know the cycle well by now. Someone says something unflattering about Trump, Trump hits back with a disproportional response and then journalists spend days sorting through the social media wreckage.
Much less discussed, as a result, were Trump’s proposals on health insurance, controversial appointments, the validity of Russian efforts to co-opt Trump or how exactly he’ll prevent his family business from turning into a Republican version of the Clinton Foundation.
That is not to say that Trump issues these attacks as strategic diversions. No slight, seemingly no matter how small, escapes notice of the president-elect.
A famous congressman calling him an illegitimate chief executive was certainly bound to get a response. And remember, that what actually blows the rest of the news away isn’t the unkind thing that Trump said, but rather the reaction to it.
In essence, the story became about the hurt feelings of Lewis and members of his party. Without them, the story would have been dead within hours.
Democrats have been obsessed with the question of “normalizing” Trump and have vowed to decry his very existence for as long as they have breath in their lungs. And it adds up to a whole lot of hot air.
Always remember the Al Czervik rule when it comes to Trump: you are either with the lovable slobs at the caddy shack or with the stuck up snobs at the clubhouse. Trump thrives on the offense taken by elites and enforcers of behavioral codes.
It is unthinkable to many Americans who grew up in the Civil Rights era that someone would so crassly dismiss such an honored figure from the movement. But if you look at it through the lens of the Czervik rule, Trump is just calling out stuffy, old Washington.
That’s why Trump insulting a civil rights icon for negligence on crime is pure ambrosia for Core Trumpists. It is perfection.
It’s not working so well for Trump in the sense that his overall approval numbers are getting lower and lower. Trump will unquestionably enter office as the least liked new president of the modern era and the damage he does now to his relationship with key voting blocs and lawmakers will linger.
But he will become the president on Friday and has a chance to steamroll through his agenda. His ultimate success or failure will depend on how that agenda fares.
Rather than discussing hurt feelings, Democrats should be singularly focused on attacking Trump’s policies and administration if they want results. Being offended does not grant politicians special status in the minds of voters. In fact, complaining about Trump’s crummy comments or boycotting the inauguration manages to make them look even smaller.
We all get it: Trump says mean and provocative things on social media and in interviews. Stipulated. Now what? Should half of the country remain emotional hostages to his provocations?
The most urgent work for Democrats right now is precisely to normalize Trump so they can fight him in the normal space of governance rather than the utterly abnormal world of endless outrage.
Maybe somebody ought to get a copy of that bumper sticker and pin it up at the DNC.