by Roger Kimball
At some point in these pages, I have had occasion to quote both Walter Scott’s famous admonitory couplet (from his narrative poem Marmion):
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
And this excellent completion by J. R. Pope (“A Word of Encouragement”):
But when we’ve practiced for a while,
How vastly we improve our style!
Both main chapters of the anti-Trump fraternity—the to-the-manor-born aristocracy of left-wing political operatives who oppose Republicans reflexively and the life-peers, so to speak, of the NeverTrump gaggle, who just hate Donald Trump—have been practicing assiduously since at least 2016.
Back then, and for some years following, the forces arrayed against Trump were formidable but complaisant. First, everyone knew that Hillary was going to win, so although Trump was thoroughly disreputable, he was also eminently ignorable since he could never win the election.
When, by some drastic failure of the electorate, Trump did win, the complacency was only partially modified by the ensuing shock, followed soon after by rage. Robert Mueller would get him, good and hard, and as the dawn raids, indictments, and jail sentences piled up, many confident predictions floated up about the imminent demise of the Trump Administration.
As victory continued to elude the anti-Trump forces, they gradually lost their complacency. The preposterous impeachment trial ginned up by the Democrats to punish Trump for talking on the telephone to the Ukrainian president was probably never intended to destroy Trump so much as hobble him in advance of the 2020 election. But the impeachment trial did reveal the incontinent fanaticism of the Left, their willingness to say anything, to do anything, to get their way.
The coronavirus lockdowns and tyranny of the health police: that has been one part concern about public safety and 99 parts political weaponization of a crisis. The Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots and the surrounding orgy of racialist intimidation, on one side, and craven public penance, on the other, have been deployed as yet another prop in the campaign against Trump. Do you want the riots to stop? Remove the Bad Orange Man from the public square. “Nice little country you have there. Pity if something were to happen to it.”
And now that we are on the home stretch to the election—only two and a bit weeks to go—we see the full panoply of this fully operational anti-Trump Death Star on view.
The media, in lockstep behind the anti-Trump narrative. Big Tech, eager to suppress, censor, skew, and dissemble to poison the well of public sentiment against the president. Recent efforts by Twitter and Facebook to “slow the spread” of revelations about Hunter Biden’s excellent Ukrainian adventure in influence peddling and self-dealing have been breathtaking and pointless.
They are breathtaking because they illustrate the desperate-measures-for-desperate-straits mentality that has gripped the anti-Trump community. It’s not just that Mark Zuckerberg and his Chinese-American wife have poured $250 million into defeating Trump; he also used Facebook to limit any pro-Trump messaging. Twitter locked the account of the New York Post, America’s oldest newspaper and still the fifth-largest, because the paper had the temerity to publish news damaging to Joe Biden. The company has also intervened against the president’s own Twitter account and that of his press secretary, limiting their reach.
In brief, the assault against Donald Trump, involving deceit and the dissemination of disinformation on an industrial scale, has shed its reflexive complacency and evolved into a monolithic, caterwauling tsunami of by-any-means-necessary hatred.
A man who was beneath contempt and who moreover posed an existential threat to their political sinecures and the security of their tribe had been catapulted into the actual seat of power. Adding injury to the insult, he had also determined to wield that power, rolling back the regulatory state that was responsible for so many of their perquisites and sources of patronage.
Trump also had, mirabile maledictu, used his constitutional powers to intervene in such cherished Petri dishes as academia. Imagine! Trump’s secretary of education actually going after institutions like Princeton and Yale for fostering the woke racialist policies of politically correct discrimination even as his foreign policy ended wars and remade the Middle East, an achievement that stands in such embarrassing contrast to their own legacy of failure.
It was simply not to be borne.
Donald Trump is socially and aesthetically impossible. That is reason enough to despise him. But he has also been assiduous about keeping his promises. He said he would move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But presidents have been saying that since at least Bill Clinton. The Senate even passed a resolution demanding it. No one dared because, it was said, it would set the Middle East ablaze. “The Arab Street” would explode. But Trump did it and what happened? It turned out to be the prelude not to war, but to peace. A year or so later, Trump brokered the world-historical deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, itself the prelude to burgeoning comity among nations in the Middle East.
Trump’s economic policies crushed unemployment, especially among blacks and Hispanics; in the era B.C.—before coronavirus—both groups saw their unemployment numbers at historic lows while wages at the lower end were rising. The stock market—and the peoples’ retirement plans—also soared to historic heights even as taxes for the vast majority—something like 85 percent—of taxpayers went down because of Trump’s tax cuts.
Trump promised to nominate judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia—that is to say, judges who would interpret the law, not use the bench to promulgate social policy; he has seen some 300 confirmed, not to mention two, soon to be three, Supreme Court justices.
He promised to rebuild the military: he has spent a few trillion dollars doing just that, not only upgrading the nation’s arsenal but also investing heavily in increased wages for our military personnel.
Donald Trump, like George Washington, and like every president until Woodrow Wilson, put America first. That meant trade policies that sought the best deal for American workers—free trade where possible, fair trade as an irreducible demand.
And of course “America First” is about more than trade policy. At its core it is about saying “yes” to what used to be called the American creed, the conviction, spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, that, as a matter of moral prerogative, all men are created equal and should be treated as individuals. This conviction has an historical as well as an educational component, as was signaled both by Trump’s executive order banning the teaching of “critical race theory” (i.e., Marxist dogma) in federal agencies and his establishment of the 1776 Commission to celebrate America’s founding vision.
The irrefragable truth is that Donald Trump has kept more campaign promises than any president in memory. It is possible, of course, that you do not want what he promised: peace through strength, prosperity, less burdensome government, pride in America, an impartial judiciary. But, I submit, if you approve of those things then the irresistible conclusion is that Donald Trump has presided over the most successful first term in recent history—maybe ever.
So, given all this, what does the hysterical and monolithic opposition to Donald Trump signify? What does the extensive and unremitting erasure of his achievements, of the public record of his words and deeds, mean?
Partly, it is a matter of power politics. Trump was elected without the permission and over the strenuous objections of the left-wing commissariat and their adjutants in the rancid levies of the GOP and throughout the world of culture and the media.
But the challenge to the president involves something in addition to the Hobbesian or Machiavellian calculus of political advantage. It also involves the presumption of an existential election. Indeed, that presumption seems to me to undergird the grubby jockeying for advantage that is always part of the political process.
Hillary Clinton famously or infamously spoke of a large swath of the American populace as an “irredeemable” “basket of deplorables.” Armed with that conviction, her political heirs think it merely business as usual, simply the working out of public virtue, to do “whatever it takes” to dispose of so tainted an opponent, even if doing so requires their complicity in the destruction of everything that underwrites American strength, freedom, and prosperity.
The good news is that we deplorables have noticed their machinations and are prepared to challenge their assault not only at the ballot box but also on their preferred theater of operation. I am confident that Donald Trump will win handily on November 3. If I am correct, but the Democrats refuse to acknowledge defeat, do not expect their opponents to go gently into that good night.
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Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art’s Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).
Photo “President Trump” by Arlington National Cemetery.