Tuesday, April 10, 2018


David Brooks is feeling a despair you may actually share -- he wonders why the anti-Trump movement has been so unsuccessful in persuading Trump supporters to abandon the president:
Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president....

We have persuaded no one. Trump’s approval rating is around 40 percent, which is basically unchanged from where it’s been all along.

... Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is complete. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans now have a positive impression of the man. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 59 percent of Republicans consider themselves more a supporter of Trump than of the Republican Party.
This column appears at a moment when Trump is particularly under siege, reduced to plaintive howls after an FBI raid on his attorney Michael Cohen.

I believe Trump remains popular precisely because he's under siege. The more he's attacked -- by liberals and the Resistance, by anti-Trumpers on the right, by law enforcement -- the more his sense of grievance inspires fellow-feeling in the deplorables, who also feel sorry for themselves because everyone doesn't defer to them.

How does Trump connect with his base? I'm thinking of a passage in Jon Smith's review of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which appears in the Dublin Review of Books..
Trump is that strangest of creatures: a confidence man with no confidence. Following the appointment of John Kelly as his second chief of staff, he keeps asking people if the taciturn general likes him. During a speech at the CIA not long after his inauguration, he asks: “Did everybody like my speech? You had to like it.” Not since Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman has a man been so obsessed with being well-liked....

What Trump fails to understand is that you can’t please all the people all the time. In his eyes, says Wolff, “he was the winner and now expected to be the object of awe, fascination, and favour. He expected this to be binary: a hostile media would turn into a fannish one.” He does not realise the downside of playing to the prejudices of the right-wing media, his natural gallery: “what conservative media elevated, liberal media would necessarily take down ... [he] was desperately wounded by his treatment in the mainstream media. He obsessed on every slight until it was overtaken by the next slight.”
Trump unrealistically expects universal adulation, fails to get it, and cries out in anguish. Past presidents, most of whom were emotional adults, knew they'd be attacked and tried to appear above the fray, not just reveling in the admiration of their supporters but ignoring, or appearing to ignore, their antagonists and critics. Trump can't do that because he's so emotionally needy -- when he's under attack, the attack is completely distracting to him.

And that's precisely what resonates with his admirers. They wouldn't want the Reagan of "Morning in America" and the 49-state landslide; they certainly wouldn't want a Barack Obama, who tried to remain presidential even as antagonists endeavored to drag him down. Trump happens to have a whiny, aggrieved personality, and that suits heartland white voters perfectly. They feel sorry for themselves, and they like a president who feels the same way about himself.

Every attack on Trump resurfaces his sense of grievance, and that strengthens the bond between Trump and his base. So no wonder the anti-Trump movement is failing. Attacks are nutrients to the Trumpers.

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