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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Trump’s Evil Genius

Trump’s evil genius has been on full display of late.

On one level his attacks on the four members of Congress known as the Squad has been racist. The variety of squirrely racism that delights his base and sends dog whistles to white supremacists, while still allowing him to to say, “What me racist?”

But on another level, he is elevating those he wants people to see as the face of the Democratic Party.

David Brooks made this point in his column today. Here’s Brooks on how Trump turns all this to his benefit:

“Trump has a vested interest in keeping the progressives atop the Democratic Party, and he powerfully influences that party. When Pelosi tried to marginalize the squad, Trump issued a racist tweet against the squad’s members. Democrats responded predictably, and the squad was back as the party’s defining element. Expect this pattern to recur.”

But Brooks had another, larger point in his column. The so-called Progressives, the Squad, represent the illiberalism of the left.

Brooks draws from Adam Gopnik’s recent book on classical liberalism.

“Philosophic liberalism, Adam Gopnik explains in his essential book, A Thousand Small Sanities, begins with intellectual humility. There’s more we don’t know than we do know, so public life is a constant conversation that has no end. In the liberal view, each person contains opposites and contradictions. You flatten and dehumanize complex individuals when you see people according to crude dichotomies and assign them to tribal teams.

“Liberals prefer constant incremental reform to sudden revolution. ‘Liberal reform, like evolutionary change, being incremental, is open to the evidence of experience,’ Gopnik writes. Liberals place great emphasis on context. The question is not: What do I want? It’s: What good can I do in this specific circumstance?”

Maureen Dowd made a somewhat similar point in her recent piece, “Scaling Wokeback Mountain.”  She contrasted the Squad’s tactics and the track record and approach of Nancy Pelosi. Here’s Dowd:

“The A.O.C. crew threw down the gauntlet in a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post by The Intercept’s Ryan Grim. He wrote that when Pelosi and other Democratic mandarins try to keep the image of the party centrist, they are crouching in ‘the defensive posture’ they’ve been in since the Reagan revolution.

“Corbin Trent, a spokesman for A.O.C. and co-founder of Justice Democrats, the progressive group that helped propel her, told Grim: ‘The greatest threat to mankind is the cowardice of the Democratic Party,’ with the older generation ‘driven by fear’ and ‘unable to lead.’

“Message: Pelosi is past her prime.

“Except she’s not.”

Meanwhile, Trump puts the Squad in the spotlight, ensuring even more sympathy for the foursome.

There is something demonic about his ability to twist all this to his game. As the leader of the illiberal right, he has a vested interest in encouraging his opposite numbers on the left. We don’t just need an election, we need an exorcism.

I’ve had my own little dust-ups along the way with some of the young and woke. On one hand, I’ve been impressed by their confidence and assertiveness at a young age. When their age, I was far more reticent, which isn’t necessarily a good quality.

But on the other had, I’ve wondered about the way some of the woke and young seem to regard themselves as something on the order of anointed. There’s certainly no deference to age and experience, quite the opposite.

I’ll give the last word to Dowd, who gets to the heart of the matter in her critique of the young and woke:

“The progressives act as though anyone who dares disagree with them is bad. Not wrong, but bad, guilty of some human failing, some impurity that is a moral evil that justifies their venom.”

As Brooks indicates this, whether from the left or right, does not bode well for a liberal society.

Anthony B. Robinson
Anthony B. Robinsonhttps://www.anthonybrobinson.com/
Tony is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. He is the author of thirteen books, including the best-selling Transforming Congregational Culture and the award-winning What’s Theology Got To Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. He is a frequent contributor to The Christian Century as well as other publications. He writes for the “The Daily Devotional” of the United Church of Christ. He has served four congregations, most recently Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC.

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