The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Crowd Wars

Both our new president and some of his most vociferous opponents have spent his first weekend in office flaunting the number of people they were able to draw into the streets. Trump has insisted that the size of his inaugural crowd not be understated, and the organizers of the various anti-Trump women’s marches around the country (and the world) have sought to make a point by showing off the crowds they could attract. 

This likely will not be the last time that Trump and his sharpest liberal detractors turn out to be mirror images of each other. And in this case, their common instincts about how to approach the broader public point to a problem they share: Both wish to understand themselves as intensely popular, but both are in fact distinguished by a marked lack of popularity. 

Trump enters office as the least popular new president since the invention of polling. Yet he insists, and maybe he believes, that he has ridden into Washington on the back of a mass movement the likes of which America has never seen. The activist Left enters this era having managed to lose a national election to Donald Trump. Yet it behaves as though it takes itself to be the obviously rightful voice of both reason and the masses. Both seem persuaded that they would be even more popular if only they were more like what they already are. 

They would both be wiser to consider how to broaden their appeal, rather than doubling down on what has limited that appeal and searching for ways to flaunt its reach. Yet both have acted in these opening days of the Trump era in ways likely to intensify the allegiance of those who are already committed and to diminish the chances of drawing more supporters. 

The imperative to mind the limits of your own popularity and to try to be less off-putting and more broadly inviting and winsome ought to come naturally to anyone engaged in the public life of a democracy. Yet the instinct to make such broad appeals seems now to be in short supply. This shortage looks to be rooted at least in part in the fragmented character of our national life. And it contributes an awful lot to the tenor of our times–with the emphasis on awful. 

Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Most Popular

Culture

Cold Brew’s Insidious Hegemony

Soon, many parts of the United States will be unbearably hot. Texans and Arizonans will be able to bake cookies on their car dashboards; the garbage on the streets of New York will be especially pungent; Washington will not only figuratively be a swamp. And all across America, coffee consumers will turn their ... Read More
National Security & Defense

The Warmonger Canard

Whatever the opposite of a rush to war is — a crawl to peace, maybe — America is in the middle of one. Since May 5, when John Bolton announced the accelerated deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of a possible Iranian attack, the press has been aflame ... Read More
Immigration

The Merit of Merit-Based Immigration

Having chain-migrated his way into the White House and a little bit of political power, Donald Trump’s son-in-law is shopping around an immigration plan. And if you can get past the hilarious juxtaposition of the words “merit-based” and “Jared Kushner,” it’s a pretty good one. As things stand, the ... Read More
Film & TV

A Sad Finale

Spoilers Ahead. Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been ... Read More