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The Lasting Effects of Anti-Anti-Trumpism
What began as coping tool is still causing serious damage to the Republican party.
The other day, Chris Stirewalt joined Bernie and me on The No BS Zone. I thought it was a strong and informative episode, and from the member-feedback we’ve received, it seems a lot of people agree. Chris is a great guy, with a wealth of knowledge and helpful insights, and he even seemed to open up a little more about his departure from Fox News than he previously had. If you haven’t checked that show out, make sure you do.
Because we were limited on time (due to a NewsNation spot Chris was scheduled for), I didn’t get to ask him a planned question about a column he wrote last month for The Dispatch.
The piece had to do with what was, at the time, the less-than-certain criminal indictment of Donald Trump in Manhattan (which has since come to fruition). Chris’s broader point was in regard to how the Republican party has been conditioned, through years of anti-anti-Trumpism, to respond to Trump scandals.
I haven’t used the term anti-anti-Trumpism much in my writing, but it’s been tossed around online a lot over the years. It’s basically a practice for defending Trump, not by staging a coherent defense, but rather by strategically navigating around the issue.
This is how Chris lays out the three-step routine:
Attack the accuser, don’t defend the misconduct
Minimize the misconduct as something “everybody does”
Say it’s time to “move on.”
Chris argues that it was perfected by the time of Trump’s first impeachment, and has remained a go-to formula for many on the right ever since. He also explains its origins, beginning as a “coping mechanism for having a truly rotten person as their nominee and then president,” and them morphing into an inoculant “far worse for the party than the afflictions it evolved to protect against.”
Anti-anti-Trumpism has kept Trump (and really Trump alone) from being held to any internal and even constitutional standards, and it goes a long way toward explaining why — after capping off his presidency by trying to overturn U.S. democracy, and causing and a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol (not to mention costing the GOP dearly in the last three election-cycles) — Trump is the strong front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, and has only increased his lead in recent weeks.
So much for the “binary choice” rationale for Trump that was shoved down every Trump-skeptical throat on the right for the last several years.
Anyway, I often hear from readers who insist that I do a great service to liberals, or am assuredly a liberal myself, for continuing to write about how colossally bad Donald Trump has been for the Republican party and the country. In fact, here’s a message I received just last week, through my website, from one such person:
Please stop trying to pass yourself off as a conservative. You are not. You are a center-left, country club Republican. You do nothing but moan and whine about Trump and Fox News over and over and over and over again, like a pianist who keeps banging the same key repeatedly, harder and harder each time. The only "conservative" value you espouse is to give corporations as much power and control over us as possible, with no regard or care whatsoever if they use their power and wealth to become de-facto governments. Just keep the tax cuts and cheap labor coming in so they can afford those second vacation homes in Martha's Vineyard! You have not a word to say about the cultural rot that has turned this into a country where you can't go more than a few months between school shootings, when major news outlets are naming men "Woman of the Year", where racial tensions are at a 50-year high. Trump sucks! Fox News sucks! Please stop the disingenuous role playing, get back to the pro shop and enjoy your round of beers while you praise Liz Cheney and lament all us right-wing hicks who are tired of getting trounced by the left-wing monster that's targeting our kids. Maybe you'll finally have the balls to write something about all this when your kid comes home with his schlong chopped off and demanding you call him Sally Mae.
There’s certainly a lot to untangle there (including multiple dishonest claims about where I stand ideologically and on public policy, and which topics I have and haven’t written about), but the key phrase in that fellow’s angry rant is that he’s “tired of getting trounced by the left-wing monster.” And for some reason, he believes that if I refrain from criticizing Trump, Trumpism, and Trump’s provably dishonest media-enablers, and instead focus my writing efforts on things like “chopped-off schlongs,” I would not only prove myself to be genuinely brave and conservative, but also help defeat (or at least fend off) the aforementioned “left-wing monster.”
Now, beyond the amusing irony of someone assigning me an MSNBC caricature of a conservative and conservatism (rather than acknowledge my long-described conservative positions), while suggesting that actual conservatism be measured by one’s participation in the great “chopped-off schlong” debate, there’s a pretty obvious problem with this fellow’s logic.
If the belief is that such “cultural rot” issues are inherently political — in that they are caused or enabled by, and can likewise be resolved by, political leaders — no one fretting over the “left-wing monster” should have any problem whatsoever with me or anyone else criticizing Trump, a guy who has handed more political seats to the Democratic party than any Republican in my lifetime. Complaining about a progressive takeover, without acknowledging why the Democrats hold so much governing and legislative power (despite their party-leader remaining terribly unpopular with voters), amounts to little more than a bitch session.
And maybe bitching is all that matters to today’s Republican base… or at least to most of it. Winning sure doesn’t seem to be a priority. Otherwise, a three-time loser like Trump would have been kicked to the curb by now.
The fact that he remains the top dog of the Republican party is a true testament to the conditioning of anti-anti-Trumpism, which the reader above is clearly a disciple of. To such individuals, Trump’s never the real problem (and never will be). People like me are.
Attack the accuser. Minimize the misconduct. Say it’s time to “move on.”
I and millions like me have been eager to move on since January, 2021. Unfortunately, the Republican party hasn’t been. They had an excellent opportunity to send Trump packing after January 6, but decided instead to rehabilitate him. Now, even after costing the party so much (even while out of office), and likely facing additional felony indictments in the near future (ones far more likely to result in convictions than the one in Manhattan), he’s the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination. And that would be true regardless of how many columns I wrote about “chopped-off schlongs.”
Is there time for the party to right the ship? Yes! And that’s why it’s important to be honest about this political situation, rather than fall back on the self-defeating idiocy of anti-anti-Trumpism. We are entering a presidential primary. This is a prime opportunity (the latest of several) to actually move on.
But if anti-anti-Trumpism remains the Republican law of the land (which seems so far to be the case), it will again be another wasted opportunity.
And that’s why it’s important to speak out.