What a month your little corner of the Times has had. Condolences. Let’s move on to your June 13 column, in which you argue that the presidency of Donald Trump had not been irreparably damaging to the right until this year. With the chaos in your department, these notes may arrive too late to do much good, but here you go.
Have you recently bonked your head, causing you to forget the events of the past three years? That would be the best explanation for this passage:
In conversations with conservative friends about the Trump presidency these last three years, I often found myself thinking about Mother Bonaparte. Before Donald Trump’s election I made a lot of dire predictions about how his mix of demagogy and incompetence would interact with real world threats: I envisioned economic turmoil, foreign policy crises, sustained domestic unrest. Having lived through the failed end of the last Republican presidency, I assumed Trump’s administration would be a second, swifter failure, with dire consequences for both the country and the right.
In 2017, 2018, 2019, those predictions didn’t come to pass. Trump was bad in many ways, but the consequences weren’t what I anticipated. The economy surged; the world was relatively stable; the country was mad online but otherwise relatively calm. And as the Democrats shifted leftward and Trump delivered on his promised judicial appointments, many conservatives who had shared my apprehensions would tell me that, simply as a shield against the left, the president was doing enough to merit their support in 2020.
Can you establish proof for the claim that the United States under Trump, from 2017 to 2019, was “relatively calm”? Four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the history of the United States happened in that span. The government shuttered three times in 2018, with one of those occasions lasting 35 days, the longest shutdown in the country’s history, all because the president couldn’t get funding for his pointless border wall. How about when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, and Trump’s horrendous response time caused more damage and loss of life? Didn’t the president pretend that the death toll was a fake number, and claim that the hurricane had resulted in 17 casualties instead of over 2,900? Surely that qualifies as an event disturbing the country’s tranquility.
As for the lack of foreign policy crises you allege, what would be the term to describe Trump’s Muslim ban, or his immigration policy that separated migrant families with no intention of reuniting them? Ross, when you saw children in cages, did you and your conservative friends (and your Catholic pals) see that as a minor storm that could be weathered? Was all that worth denying control to Democrats? When Trump vetoed a bill to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen, did you reckon that as a peccadillo?
Once again, Ross, you seem to be blurring online and real life. The country may have been “mad online,” but the fury also existed outside of the internet. You might have missed all of it, from your orange-tinted universe. Certainly the combination of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy’s instability, and the nationwide unrest over extrajudicial police killings has exacerbated Trump’s inability to govern, but there have been hundreds of disasters since 2017 that effectively showed how repellent this man can be to the public, how damaging to the nation’s claim to respect—within its borders, and without—and how calamitous he has been to what passes for order in this sad old world. I’m not saying simply that all these crises have come to a head; you need to explain to our readers how the conservative base has been able to ignore them for more than three years, other than by admitting to complete moral bankruptcy. You’re a principled and religious man, so that should be child’s play for you.
Another brief point, regarding this section:
You can see the convergence of these spirits in the disaster at Lafayette Park, where an authoritarian instinct led to a chaotic and violent police intervention, a massive media freakout, blowback from the military — and left the president with an impious photo op and control of six blocks around the White House to show for it.
That last image, the president as a dictator of an island and impotent beyond it, seems like a foretaste of what would await conservatives if Trump somehow slipped through to a second term. Maybe he would get to replace another Supreme Court justice — maybe. (In a Democratic Senate, not.) But everything else the right needs would slip further out of reach.
This is a Möbius strip of illogic. If Trump, a Republican, “slipped through to a second term,” that would require a substantial number of votes from American conservatives, who would be casting those votes because they want Trump for a second term. Why would they be ashamed or deterred by any one image of him being petty, impotent, and cruel? Who is this warning for, besides yourself?
Finally, this is neither here nor there, but you strike me as exactly the type of person who would refer to someone using “Mother” as a title. Please stop doing that.