Tuesday, October 23, 2018


There's been a lot of discussion about David Gelernter's Wall Street Journal op-ed "The Real Reason They Hate Trump" (also available unpaywalled here). Most readers -- Jonathan Chait, Isaac Chotiner -- question Gelernter's insistence that "what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America," and that Trump "is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents."

I don't want to bother arguing that, because Gelernter's op-ed isn't really about Trump at all. A better title would have been "Liberal Disapproval of Trump Is an Excellent Excuse for Me to Tell You How Repulsive I Think Liberals Are."

Does Gelernter hate liberals more than he hates Hitler, or cancer, or child-raping serial killers? Probably. Let's take a look. Emphasis added below:
For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again.

For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful.

... Many left-wing intellectuals are counting on technology to do away with the jobs that sustain all those old-fashioned truck-driver-type people, but they are laughably wide of the mark. It is impossible to transport food and clothing, or hug your wife or girl or child, or sit silently with your best friend, over the internet. Perhaps that’s obvious, but to be an intellectual means nothing is obvious. Mr. Trump is no genius, but if you have mastered the obvious and add common sense, you are nine-tenths of the way home. (Scholarship is fine, but the typical modern intellectual cheapens his learning with politics, and is proud to vary his teaching with broken-down left-wing junk.)
Do I need to go on? This isn't about Trump. In this piece, Trump is really a MacGuffin -- a pretext that allows Gelernter to tell us why liberals are so unspeakably awful.

It's true that Gelernter's praise of Trump reads like a Jon McNaughton painting in prose form:
... the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable. Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents.
But Gelernter's real subject is liberalism, or the cartoon version that lives rent-free in his head:
The difference between citizens who hate Mr. Trump and those who can live with him—whether they love or merely tolerate him—comes down to their views of the typical American: the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife. The leftist intellectuals I know say they dislike such people insofar as they tend to be conservative Republicans.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama know their real sins. They know how appalling such people are, with their stupid guns and loathsome churches. They have no money or permanent grievances to make them interesting and no Twitter followers to speak of. They skip Davos every year and watch Fox News. Not even the very best has the dazzling brilliance of a Chuck Schumer, not to mention a Michelle Obama. In truth they are dumb as sheep.
This doesn't make Gelertner unusual. In fact, he's a typical Republican, because liberal derangement syndrome is the glue holding the conservative movement together. Trump is loved because he seems to induce more liberal tears than anyone since Reagan. He could be anyone advocating anything and doing it in any style -- the important thing is that he pisses us off.

They hate us. Gelernter hates us. That's the appropriate takeaway from this op-ed.

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