In an article titled, “Colbert, Trump, and the Roots of Liberal/Progressive Rage,” Roger L. Simon writes: “I have never seen America so angry — and I’ve been around for a while.”
I’ve been thinking the same thing myself. The Donald phenomenon. Something about the guy drives liberals stark raving bonkers and makes them desperate to bring him down, no matter what it takes to get it done.
Sure, Trump’s outlandish bragging and self-endorsement at every opportunity is a characteristic of the man repellant enough to give a lot of people the mutters.
Here’s an example from a Salon article titled, “Lessons in history from Donald Trump, who has ‘a very good brain’ and is ‘one of the smartest people anywhere in the world,'” by blogger Heather Digby Parton:
President Donald Trump said something profoundly ignorant on Monday. I know that shocks you. He is, after all, a man who has told us over and over again that he is smarter than just about anyone you’d want to mention. He has said:
“I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world.”
“I understand money better than anybody. I understand it far better than Hillary, and I’m way up on the economy when it comes to questions on the economy.”
When asked why he refuses to take the daily intelligence briefing, he explained it the following way:
I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years.
He has also said:
“Nobody knows more about trade than me.”
“Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.”
Regarding the legality of his travel ban, he opined:
I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody.
Plus he has said:
“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”
“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”
At the CIA headquarters right after the inauguration, Trump said: “Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person.”
Other statements: “There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.”
On whom he consults on foreign affairs, he said:
I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. … My primary consultant is myself, and I have, you know, I have a good instinct for this stuff.
It’s all in the genes, according to Trump:
My uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true!
That’s a dimension of bragging — not to mention self-deception — by a public figure that’s seldom (if ever) been heard before. It stands to reason that a lot of people, especially liberals, would take umbrage at his utterances.
Maybe even to the point where they actively dislike the man.
But it doesn’t account for the sheer malevolence of the resistance being mounted by liberals against the Trump presidency. It’s utter, unrestrained rage. Truly phenomenal.
But let’s get back to Roger L. Simon’s article; it posits an explanation for the anti-Trump phenomenon:
I have never seen America so angry — and I’ve been around for a while.
I remember well 1968 when the Chicago Seven (I knew several of them) led the protests at the Chicago convention. The whole world was watching. And the following year came the Days of Rage in the same city, when dozens of people were injured and 280 members of the Weather Underground were arrested. The year after that (1970) some of those same Weather people accidentally detonated a bomb in a Greenwich Village townhouse, resulting in the deaths of two of the bomb makers and causing disruption in the life of Dustin Hoffman and his wife who happened to live next door.
Violent times indeed. Of course something was going on that stimulated those events — the Vietnam War, for which roughly 650,000 young Americans were drafted of whom nearly 18,000 died. Adding in the volunteers, the number of our fatalities rose to 58,220.
I opposed the war then. I’m not so sure now, looking at how things have evolved, including in Korea. Call me ambivalent.
Nevertheless, these days no one’s being drafted. The number of American servicemen deaths, regrettable as they always are, has been reduced to a relative handful. Nothing even remotely similar is happening…
Oh, yes, Donald Trump got elected — seemingly a calamity equal to, if not greater than, the Vietnam War.
Since his inauguration, and to a great extent before, the whole country has gone more or less berserk. Just the other night, comedian Stephen Colbert, in what I presume we were supposed to take as an edgy witticism, accused our president of fellating Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Although I recall many bad things being said about LBJ back in the day (Barbara Garson wrote a play comparing him to Macbeth, and who can forget “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”), nothing approached Colbert’s angry joke in terms of pure unmitigated hostile vulgarity, not on late-night TV anyway.
But his was just the culmination (for now) of a modern Days of Rage which has metastasized into Months of Rage with no end in sight.
We all know the endless litany of events, from pussy hat parades to smashed windows and fires at our most famous public university to people marching through the streets of Philadelphia calling for the death of the president and his vice president, so I’m not going to bore you with them all. I am only going to ask the simple question: Why Trump?
If you were a visitor from a distant solar system come to our nation or even a time traveler from our own nineteenth century, I submit you would be perplexed. This Trump person (being?) doesn’t seem to be all that different from many leaders who have come before him. I mean, what has he done exactly? Enforced some immigration laws that were enacted by the Congress over several administrations? Tried to fix a mediocre healthcare plan with another plan that may or may not be as mediocre? Called for a tax reduction similar to those enacted by previous Republican and Democratic administrations? Cut back on some regulations that became overly burdensome? Called for a temporary halt to immigration from a half-dozen countries his predecessor had already cited as dangerous hotbeds of terrorism? Shot off a few dozen cruise missiles at the airfield of a dictator who was gassing his own people, but didn’t harm a single person in the process?
I could go on, but you get the point. Compared to the grand panoply of political theory and governmental actions in world history this is pretty puny stuff. In fact, it’s even less than that. It’s a piffle. And almost all of this, if it had been called for by his opponent, would have been perfectly acceptable anyway.
And yet the rage is, if anything, greater and more consistent than it was during Vietnam. How do we explain that?
I don’t think we have a choice but to say the explanation is in the realm of human neurosis, not politics. And make that pretty severe neurosis, almost psychosis. Something about Trump’s character and appearance — what he says and does or, more accurately, what they think he says and does, because they are completely incapable of seeing it with any clarity — has set off multiple trip levers in the minds of a huge percentage of Americans, including the media, Hollywood, the academy, etc. This, however, says vastly more about them than it does about Trump.