Squeamishness Shouldn't Stop Americans from Voting to Save Their Country

The real tragedy of this upcoming election is not just our inability to separate the politician from his shortcomings (the so-called "shiny object"), but that many of us may not have been given a full picture of how we got here.  How has Donald Trump's base remained so steady?  And why do I believe that anyone who supports Trump's agenda for America are making a critical error when they abstain from voting for the man simply because they're turned off by his crudeness?

Trump's nomination was a direct response to an unpopular Bush presidency and a materialistic Romney campaign.  It was more a reaction to the establishment and the media in particular.  The secret sauce of MAGA — patriotism, Republican Party disillusionment, and contempt for our national media — has succeeded directly as a counter-measure against one of the levers of power in America, particularly the mainstream media.

If MAGA were a religion (you mean a cult!), a prophet would be Andrew Breitbart.  The following quote from 2010 helps establish the MAGA zeitgeist:

The mainstream media portray themselves as objective observers of reality, when they're no such thing. They're partisan critical theory hacks, and have nothing but contempt for the American people. They declared war on us; we did not declare war on them. We have an obligation to fight back!

Twenty sixteen could have been a vital wakeup call and time for reflection in America.  Instead, after the heated campaign, while Trump extended a gracious olive branch, his opponents, both in and out of government, both Republican and Democrat, were orchestrating the worst scandal of sabotage of a presidential transition in our nation's history.  In addition to a record number of leaks from within his own government, an unprecedented resistance emerged with the stated purpose of casting doubt on Trump's legitimacy to govern, calling for constant subterfuge.

America kvetches nonstop about a lack of diversity except in thought — and this is where real systemic bias thrives.  Think of the mainstream media as the Matrix.  All of the narratives that put voters of different political backgrounds under the Trump umbrella — identity politics, cancel culture, climate catastrophe, foreign interventionism, systemic racism, globalism, anti-Zionism — are really resisting the media, whose job has been to infuse these accepted narratives and then reinforce a herd mentality in the culture.  In doing so, the media have grown from bias to corruption, a shill for one side.  It shouldn't be surprising to anyone because this is a truly incestuous group of people.  They live in the same cities, sleep with the same people, and share the same political ideology.  Americans as a whole is not this way.  A 2020 poll by Gallup showed that over 70% of Americans identify as "moderate" or "conservative."

In response, as Breitbart prophesied, conservative talk radio exploded as the role of Morpheus, "red-pilling" millions from media propaganda.  If you have ever listened to conservative talk radio, you know that all they really do is critique media narratives all day.  There's a reason liberal talk radio goes nowhere — they quickly run out of things to wail about.

This is what you had boiling under the surface of the American electorate when the "Russian collusion" came roaring onto the scene after Trump's victory like gasoline on a forest fire.  You're going to tell me the anti–fake news/anti-establishment candidate is now going to be taken down by the fake news and intelligence establishment?  The irony of Russian collusion was that it reinforced in the eyes of not just Trump voters, but the man himself how much hatred for him there was within our government bureaucracy and, more importantly, the power of their unholy alliance with big media.  "Russia collusion" and its offspring therefore would never weaken Trump's base — it would only emulsify it.  This set the stage for four years of open war between Trump and the media.

Trump was officially our nation's first anti-media president.  Here's one example.  After the height of the recent pandemic in early spring, reporters asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "Would you do anything differently?" in light of his state's uniquely high death toll.  Around the same, on more than one occasion, reporters shouted at Trump, "Do you not have blood on your hands?"  You can argue who was more directly responsible (even though Cuomo directly administered New York's nursing home policy), but it's the same question to the same event.  Now think, which question might elicit a contrite response, and which might elicit a chokehold?

So 28 years after Rush Limbaugh took to their airwaves, ten years after Breitbart's call to arms, and after eight years of a vapid Obama presidency, where race relations got worse by a factor of 5, I remind you: 40% of America said we can play this game, too.

What Republicans failed to grasp, and what MAGA firmly knew, was that the current situation called for a wrecking ball, not just a candidate.  When you are forced to send a bull into a china shop, he's going to break a lot of china.  When you have a malignant cancer, you call for chemotherapy, no matter how painful the side-effects.  And with Trump, who is particularly crass, petty, and inarticulate, there are sure to be side-effects aplenty.

To those who think we will return to "normal" if we get rid of Trump — look how far left the Democrats are going.  Look at how conservative voices are now censored by tech companies and harassed at college campuses.  And don't fool yourself that it's the fringe — as the popular liberal Trump-hater Andrew Sullivan has noted, "[w]e are all living on campus now."

The lesson of MAGA isn't whether the GOP can get back to a pre-Trump normal.  It's whether they can learn anything from the Trump era — to build off what he has done and said — with perhaps less name-calling. 

So to those who like Trump's agenda but not the man, I implore you to look past the shiny object.  Please do not risk giving up on the incredible success of the Trump presidency by giving power to a party that wants to fundamentally change our system of government.  That is a privilege that millions of Americans who benefited from greater prosperity at home, and millions who benefited from greater peace abroad, cannot afford.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.