Monday, September 25, 2017


The Washington Post's James Hohmann wants you to believe that the president's war on sports protesters is uniquely Trumpian:
The most fitting slogan for Donald Trump’s populist campaign, which continues nearly a year after the 2016 election ended, might be “us against them.” ... He is the divider in chief.

Trump, who was a developer before he became a reality TV star and then a politician, has long been a builder of straw men. Everyone knows that he trades on controversy, but his chaotic approach to governing also depends on constantly presenting the American people with false binary choices.
Already I'm confused. What does being a real estate developer have to do with dividing Americans? There's one line on Trump's résumé that Hohmann leaves out: political commentator on Fox News during the Roger Ailes era -- though what's probably more important is that for years he's been a Fox viewer.
Picking a fight with professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem, a controversy from last year that had mostly blown over, is just the latest example.
This was a controversy "that had mostly blown over"? Not on the right. This years, right-wingers have continued to be furious at anthem kneelers, and have been full of schadenfreude because they believe anger about this is hurting NFL TV ratings and attendance. Here are some Drudge Report headlines from earlier this month, well before Trump raised the issue on Friday night:

The anger about this on the right is still fresh.

More from Hohmann:
Trump talks about the world in black-and-white terms: You’re either with him or against him....

He is also looking for distractions. Trump went all-in last week on the Cassidy-Graham health-care bill, which could fail this week. The candidate he endorsed in Alabama could go down in a GOP primary. Puerto Rico has been ravaged by a hurricane, and there are mounting questions about the federal response....

[Trump] thrives on feuds, and he likes setting up binary contrasts between himself and others....

Trump allies see the NFL spat as the perfect wedge issue. The president relishes culture wars that rile up his “forgotten man” base and telegraph that he’s on their side against the elites....

In the next three months, you can take it to the bank that POTUS will start speaking again about “the war on Christmas,” another trumped-up issue that plays well with conservative evangelicals who feel like they are losing their hold over American culture.
And where did Trump pick all this up? Did he learn this during his years in the New York real estate industry? No. In those years, he put a lot of effort into getting his name in the news -- but he mostly tried to sell himself as a business genius and a stud.

Trump learned racism at his father's knee. It's quite possible that the pre-Fox Trump would have attacked kneeling black football players -- in 1989, years before Fox News went on the air, he took out an ad denouncing the Central Park Five and demanding the restoration of the death penalty.

But by then he'd spent years watching Mayor Ed Koch rally New York City with rabble-rousing, backlash-courting pronouncements similar to this. (Yes, Koch was a Democrat, but he was a Trump-style divider, a Rudy Giuliani before Giuliani was Giuliani.) The young Trump also learned backlash-courting from watching Richard Nixon as president.

But Fox News really taught Trump how to use anger over a wide range of cultural issues, such as the "war on Christmas" -- a ginned-up non-problem whose cultural potency he probably wouldn't have been aware of if it weren't for Fox.

If you watch Fox, conservatives are never wrong, never embarrassed by failure or by being on the wrong side of history. If other news sources portray conservatives that way, Fox changes the subject, because there's always a non-white protester or professor or Hollywood star whose words and deeds can be made to seem much more important than any conservative failure. There's always a threat to be averted -- a threat to the flag or Christianity or gun rights. There's always sharia law. There's always Hillary Clinton.

Trump learned that from Fox, and he's deploying it. He stole from the greats. Give them the credit, not him.

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