On the ‘Journey to Supporting Trump,’ From Someone Wise Enough Not to Take It
I am not surprised that I am in the minority among Bearing Drift contributors in my opposition to Donald Trump’s re-election; I am the only declared Democrat in the bunch, after all.
Still, I was surprised at Matt Hall’s recent attempt to replicate a Maoist “self-criticism” from the Cultural Revolution. Personal without being introspective, passionate without being empathetic, and detailed without being granular, the post is quite the case study in how a “journey from hating Candidate Donald Trump to supporting President Donald Trump.”
Hall starts with the mea culpa that must come from anyone who changes their minds on a major political issue – nothing wrong with that per se, as I’ve written more than a few of those in my time. Things get more interesting when he “went looking for reasons to why this happened” – which led him to Hillbilly Elegy and a discussion of his father.
My dad is the hardest working human being I know. He wakes up at 4 AM to get to his manufacturing job in the textile industry at 5 AM. He works from 5 AM to 2PM. He gets off work to go take care of my elderly grandparents, usually visiting them every day. He then comes home to work on cars or work on his garden. All he wants to do is a weekend or two a month to bass fish, and to teach the same Sunday School class he has taught for 30 years. My dad never asks for help from others.
For far too long, my dad was ignored. Not all, but many Republicans and Democrats, for a long time sneered at people like my dad. He’s an evangelical Christian, hard-working, always pays his taxes, and when there is no Republican on the ballot, he writes in his dog Daisy. But people sneer at my dad. He has watched his friend’s jobs get shipped to China. His wages haven’t gone up. His faith is mocked by the liberal media. No one cuts him a break. He is called all sorts of names. He’s a simpleton. He doesn’t matter to the corporate elite.
I could spend the rest of this post discussing how Trump’s trade policies will do nothing to arrest “jobs … shipped to China,” but note that much of the second paragraph addresses slights to the elder Hall: “sneered,” “mocked,” “called all sorts of names.” Clearly, this journey was more personal for Matt than policy-driven.
Other examples of this are marbled throughout the post, albeit disguised as policy errors, emphasis on symbolism, or simple misstatements of fact.
For example, Hall puts a big deal on Trump announcing our Embassy in Israel was moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (“President Trump stood up for something”). However, when it comes to the actual issues that drive the differences between Israel and Palestine, Trump stood up for … nothing.
Today’s actions — recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the relocation of our embassy — do not reflect a departure from the strong commitment of the United States to facilitating a lasting peace agreement. The United States continues to take no position on any final status issues. The specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders.
In other words, he moved a building, but he didn’t change government policy – at all.
There is a similar disconnect when it comes to Trump’s judicial appointments – the sine qua non of every Trump apologist … at least until Gorsuch made it clear that textualism meant the Civil Rights Act of 1964 included protections for LGBT Americans. In this case, as Matt himself has no problem with that view, he can still look back upon that selection with pride and joy.
I would have thought the recent unpleasantness in his District 5 would have made it clear to him that most Republicans take a darker view on these matters. I would have also thought the aura he places around Justice Kavanaugh (that’s one N, Matt) would have faded when it became clear the new addition to the court was not looking to destroy Roe v Wade but rather shore it up by taking it out of the picture (Esquire).
Then again, I actually read Kavanuagh’s opinion June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, where it became clear he was looking to defend Louisiana’s medical credential law within the Roe framework – and I freely admit normal people don’t do that.
I was more surprised that Matt clearly didn’t take a closer look at the Mueller report. Otherwise, he would never have embarrassed himself by calling it “the biggest nothingburger in American political history.” He would have known that Paul Manafort was cooperating with a Russian intelligence agent. He would have known such cooperation included internal polling data on the Upper Midwest and discussions of a “peace plan” that Putin is largely imposing on Ukraine as I type this.
Indeed, the best example of the tunnel vision in Hall’s post is the fact that Ukraine is never even mentioned. Of course, there are other gaps in the discussion of what Trump has done: his withdrawal from Syria and abandonment of the Kurds (while allowing ISIS to recover), his determination to abandon Afghanistan, his penchant for growing government (Reason), the damage done by Trump’s tariffs and trade wars (AAF), etc.
Particularly disconcerting for yours truly was Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have done more to check the economic power of the Chinese Communist Party than any tariff, but again, that might be my rabbit hole, not Matt’s.
More to the point, Matt makes clear with his tipping point story what’s really going on here.
We were watching the first Democratic debate for President. Nancy and I were enjoying a lovely glass of Cabrenet (sic) and watching these Democrats. Candidate after candidate in the Democratic field talked about how the country I love was terrible. That people like my dad were terrible because they were god-fearing, gun owning, and good Christian people. And Beto O’Rourke opened his mouth about how gun ownership was ruining America.
And I literally tweeted out, F**K THIS S**T, I’m voting for Donald Trump in 2020.
“Candidate after candidate in the Democratic field”… is a rather strange reason to decide one should openly support Donald Trump. I was never willing to vote for Trump in 2016, but I needed more to vote for Hillary Clinton. The idea that Beto O’Rourke, who was already heading for ex-candidate status at warp speed when he decided to out-flank everyone on gun control (which didn’t slow him down), was the trigger seems all the more odd.
In the next paragraph, however, the fog clears as Hall plants his flag not on civility, but a counter-smear.
Because you know what. I love America. I am proud to be an American. I am a gun owner. I am a Christian. I work for a living. I am not the problem in America! I am what keeps this country going.
Read that last line again, “I am what keeps this country going.” With those seven words, Matt makes his pitch: I am better than those people. I want to be recognized as the superior American I am and I want them recognized as the inferior fools they are.
The tunnel vision in Hall’s summation is as inevitable as it is sad.
“President Trump passed the USMCA, which will protect millions of America (sic) jobs, especially people like my dad” – never mind that USMCA is barely any different from NAFTA, and that the difference will hurt sectors that rely on imported inputs.
“President Trump backs our police officers who keep our streets safe” – never mind George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Jacob Blake, etc.
“President Trump backs free speech” – never mind his vituperative rhetoric against professional athletes who take issue with his performative racism
“President Trump loves this country.”
No, Matt, Trump does not love this country. He loves a clouded and distorted vision of what this country supposedly resembled nearly a century ago – and that’s only because people who looked like we do weren’t paying enough attention to people who didn’t.
Does this mean I consider Matt impervious to reason? Of course not – after all, at this point in the 2016 cycle, I was still supporting Gary Johnson. It wasn’t until October, when the differences on Syria became unavoidably clear to me, that I began moving towards Clinton.
So I remain hopeful that Matt can still see reason, if not from me, then perhaps from someone like Miles Taylor.