President Trump is changing the norms that empower his media antagonists
As usual, President Trump is outraging the political-media establishment, who all assume that his early-morning tweets yesterday zinging the Morning Joe odd couple, "hitting back ten times as hard," as wife Melania once characterized his tactical doctrine, were the result of some form of derangement. They are not equipped to understand the strategy that lies behind his tweets. Like fish unaware of the water in which they swim, they operate on the basis of unconscious beliefs.
President Trump understands that the current informal-but-very-real rules of the game have allowed Mika and Joe (and the rest of the media-political world as well) free rein to savage him and his family, while he is supposed to be a gentleman and just take it while they get support for attacking him.
That's what President George W. Bush did, and it cost him dearly, unto this day. His suffering may be noble, but that form of greatness does not seem to interest President Trump.
Trump understands that the culture governing D.C. and the media has to change because it systematically favors his opponents. They set the rules, and those rules give the media the ability to call the shots, and the media overwhelmingly oppose him. Media criticism cows Republicans into submission and boosts the causes of the left.
So President Trump, who is a doer, is actively working to change that culture by violating its norms. Norms are the key to the way behavior is actually regulated in the workplace (and other social groupings). Norms are the informal rules, the shared understandings, the proper way things are done in a particular group. The best way to think of them is as a shared sentiment that begins with the words "people ought to..." People within a specific culture almost never question their norms and, in fact, are unaware that they exist...until they are violated.
As a matter of fact, I spent two decades as a scholar and consultant working on modifying corporate cultures to adapt to new challenges, and I did this research in and consulting for a number of the largest corporations on earth, here and overseas. (The subtitle of my doctoral dissertation at Harvard was "Strategy, Structure and Culture.") It led to a lot of academic and consulting opportunities. When a company that started in one national culture becomes a global corporation, the ways of doing things back home and the assumptions that underwrote them no longer work everywhere the company operates. Smart managers recognize the need to reshape the unconscious sentiments, assumptions, and perceptions their members carry around. It isn't easy.
When an organization confronts a norm that has become dysfunctional, the concepts attached to it can be so ingrained that even rules to the contrary can be worked around by members of the organization. There is no alternative in some cases but to force unpleasantness upon a situation and force adaptation.
The Progressive left has been exploiting the basic strategy for over a century, attacking the norms of Western cultures. The most immediate example is the normalization of homosexuality, a process that consistently displayed provocative behavior and then allowed the resulting outrage to be mocked and eventually suppressed. The concept of "street theater" often uses violation of norms as a means of attacking them. It is a stage of the change strategy.
Right now, we are at the outrage stage, with various degrees being expressed by both the left and the right. It is clear that some of the outrage is genuine, not simply political, on the part of D.C. conservatives, such as Charles Krauthammer, who believes that Trump has revealed a defect in his character.
Of course, President Trump's supporters are comparatively few. And right now, it is only the conservative commentators less respectful of norms who are willing to forcefully state his case, such as the colorful Ace (hat tip: Instapundit, Glenn Renolds).
How can the flailing old women of the Nominal Right huff themselves up so much to pretend outrage that a guy being attacked by the media everyday decides to occasionally attack them back?
I understand the leftist media's interest in pretending that they're behaving normally and haven't rewritten the professional code of conduct to allow attacks on Trump which would have been near-hanging-offenses on Obama.
But what is the interest of the sissified Nominal Right over defending the media and pretending along with them?
We are not in a normal situation. Why do the sob sisters and pearl-clutchers of the Pretend Right insist on pretending the media's behavior is normal and that it's only Trump who's guilty of "norm-breaking"?
How much are we supposed to pretend to satisfy these sissies' demands that we pretend we're all Good Friends so that their delicate constitutions aren't too discombobulated?
Can anyone argue that "pretending we are all Good Friends" when the other side doesn't works to Trump's (or conservatives') best interest? The norms associated with it need to change. There will be unpleasantness along the way. President Trump is setting about it in his own way and in his own style, which almost always occasions outrage, as it did in the presidential election. It turns out that the norms of the Beltway elite are not universal, and that a culture far larger than the media-political elite also has a voice in the end.