Monday, November 16, 2020


In The Atlantic, Never Trumper Peter Wehner urges opponents of Donald Trump to be measured in our response to Trump's downfall.
Choose Repair, Not Revenge

Stop obsessing over Trump, and begin the hard work of rebuilding.

... My concern ... is that instead of psychologically moving on from Donald Trump, many of his critics won’t let go of him.... The end of his presidency has inspired feelings of joy and relief, as you would expect, but it may also perpetuate a cycle of retaliation and bitterness toward the president and those who enabled him.
What does Wehner mean by this? He assures us that he doesn't mean we should let Trump and his circle get away with crimes.
“It doesn't mean that you don’t want to hold people accountable for their actions or that you don’t want to seek justice,” William Mikulas, a professor of psychology at the University of West Florida, told ABC News. “With revenge, you are coming from an orientation of anger and violence or self-righteousness: ‘I want to get him, I want to hurt them ... I want to make them pay.’ You're coming from a place of violence and anger and that’s never good.”
So no exacting revenge, but it's okay if we hold Trumpers accountable? In reality, we probably won't be able to do either. Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of most of the members of his circle we tried to punish for actual crimes; he'll probably pardon the rest on the way out the door, quite possibly including himself. Trump and most associates who still face possible legal accountability will probably weasel their way out of trouble, the way Trump has his entire life. Wehner thinks justice is okay? Too bad we probably won't be able to get it.

Wehner writes:
There are people who have suffered real, tangible harm from Trump over the past four years that far exceeds what I and most others have experienced—parents and children who have been separated, victims of his cruel conspiracies, individuals whose careers were destroyed by Trump, people of color who have been the targets of empowered white supremacists, people with disabilities who were mocked by him, women who have accused him of sexual assault only to be derided by him, and those whose loved ones have died, or died alone, because of the president’s epic mishandling of the pandemic. To ask them to move on from Trump is asking far more than it’s asking of me, and it may well be asking too much. I know enough about the science of trauma to know that moving on from it before processing it can be unwise.
There you go. How many of these people are likely to find justice in a post-Trump era? We'll be lucky if a handful do. How can we even think about revenge when it's going to be such hard work obtaining simple justice for a few Trump victims?

I'm struggling to understand what kind of revenge Wehner imagines. He alludes to violence, but surely he knows that people who read The Atlantic aren't likely to try to blow up Trump's golf cart or stone Rudy Giuliani. So what does Wehner fear?

Well, Wehner is a cultural elitist, someone who travels in the best circles and writes for the most high-minded periodicals. I think, as a man who spent much of his life working at the highest levels of the Republican Party, he's afraid his readers will take professional revenge on people of his caste who chose to work in the Trump administration. Heaven forbid we should hold them accountable for their life choices! That would be corrosive to our souls -- and to their careers!


Wehner also seems to believe that we'll remain fixated on Trump.
... obsessing over Trump, even as he burns out like a dying star, is emotionally unhealthy. It is the political equivalent of mice pressing a lever to receive a dopamine rush, which leads to addiction. If over the past four years your days began and ended focusing on the latest Trump outrage, you may find the habit hard to break. For many cable-news hosts and commentators, Joe Biden—the president-elect, a calming influence, restrained and dignified—is almost an afterthought.

“My entire personality is hating Donald Trump,” Melissa VillaseƱor’s character puts it in a Saturday Night Live political ad parody, “Trump Addicts for America.” “If he’s gone, what am I supposed to do? Focus on my kids again? No thanks.” (“You know he’s bad for you,” the ad concludes. “But it’s hard to imagine life without him.”)
Wehner isn't the only person who thinks we'll continue to crave a Trump fix. So does Politico's Jack Shafer.

When Shafer posted this, I conducted a Twitter poll. I admit it was unscientific, but here are the results:

Ellis Weiner wrote:

I don't think we'll get the chance to miss Trump. We know he doesn't intend to go away. The media loves covering him, and the media also loves portraying Democratic presidents as weak and ineffectual, comparing them unfavorably to aggressive Republican loudmouths who are deemed the voice of the Real America (Newt Gingrich in the Clinton years, the Tea Party in the Obama years). It would be nice if Trump decided to leave politics behind and devote his life to golf and TV; assuming he continues to hold rallies and write politcal attack tweets, it would be nice if the press just ignored them. I'd ignore be delighted to them too. I think we all would. We want him to slip into irrelevance, like Sarah Palin.

But he won't, will he? The press won't let him. The GOP will recognize him as the party's best base motivator. We'll never be rid of him. Under those circumstances, I reserve the right to continue hating him.

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