What Hath Trump Wrought?

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Over at The Week, Damon Linker interprets the culture war under Trump.  Here is a taste of his piece:

On one level, [the Trump presidency] is a dream come true for the religious right — the prospect of it achieving a long-sought victory on an issue that helped to galvanize the social-conservative movement more than 40 years ago. Yet on a deeper level, it represents a retreat from the high hopes that originally inspired that movement. Those hopes were rooted in a vision of politics as a form of proselytizing. The goal was to win the war, to take back the culture by converting people of good will to the cause of defending innocent human life against the infliction of lethal violence. That would make America a more decent place, a more moral country, and a more Christian nation.

What we have instead is a different and far less decisive form of victory — one in which the Supreme Court may soon permit a dozen or so states to all-but-ban abortion outright, but also where many more states, including most with much larger populations, will move in the opposite direction, entrenching abortion long past fetal viability.

And that tells us something important about the culture war under Trump.

Rather than ending in a decisive victory for the left or the right, it has metastasized, with points of division multiplying and new fronts constantly being opened up. Immigration, guns, Israel, trade policy, violent crime, climate change, tax rates, government regulations, free speech, college tuition — seemingly every point of political disagreement has been recast as a cultural clash pitting comprehensive and incompatible views of the world against each other. It’s a full-spectrum smackdown between the liberals and the fascists. The effort to hash out a compromise, to reach consensus, is over. In its place is tribal warfare, an endless series of zero-sum conflicts over inches of ideological territory.

Instead of aiming to divide and conquer, the Trumpian right seeks to divide and then divide some more — in the hope that doing so will keep its own voters maximally energized to vote and provoke the other side into overplaying its hand, rendering itself unappealing to the few who have yet to join a side.

Read the entire piece here.

4 thoughts on “What Hath Trump Wrought?

  1. Article made me smile. As soon as Trump secured the nomination I knew there was trouble. Before that I thought, “No way will they back Trump, not with his track record.” But after he was the official GOP nominee I knew many people would pull the lever in his favor on merit of his affiliation alone, even if his republicanism is just a farce. So many elderly evangelicals have been programmed into party loyalty over the last five decades by faith-based rhetoric. They really can’t help themselves. They’re in too deep.

    Afterwards I think some saw what they’d done, what they’ve become, under Trump and the Republican party. They seem to understand that they sacrificed something important for a sense of power, something critical to their survival in the long term–like the authenticity of their faith and the respect of the next generations for their religious traditions. I think that’s one reason why the Republican Party, statistically speaking, is shrinking rapidly. It has become as transparently transactional as the political/cultural other it loves to demonize. But most evangelicals, especially the elderly and the undereducated (“I love the undereducated!”), seem to really be attached to the illusion of revitalization and power in this present moment, doubling down on their commitments to blatant moral compromise as a winning strategy. They aren’t reading the script all the way through to the end.

    Years ago I had a blue-collar evangelical friend that entered an abusive relationship with a pathological liar who preyed on his religious expectations, telling lie after fantastical lie to gradually erode his marriage and isolate him from his family and church. Everyone around him could see it happening and tried to warn him, but he just shut down to everything else but the fantasy world of the new relationship. It took several years for him to admit what had happened, even to himself. The pattern with Trump and the evangelicals feels remarkably similar.

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  2. Damon doesn’t seem to understand that Christians and other conservatives have tried compromise with the forces of the left. It does not work. I am glad Trump is bringing a new strategy into play.

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