The Corner

How Do You Argue Against a Trump Fan’s Anger?

I like and respect Ben Shapiro, but I find his latest argument – that anti-Trump Republicans need to find some way of arguing against him without “bashing” his supporters  – unpersuasive. First, I’m not sure that’s really possible; how do you say “this man is the wrong choice” without implicitly criticizing the people making that choice?

Second, Shapiro asserts, “Trump’s supporters don’t know enough about his politics yet, because Trump’s detractors have been too busy screaming bloody murder over Trump’s bloody Megyn Kelly comments.”

The contention that Trump critics – whether it’s officeholders like Rand Paul and Rick Perry, or writers like Jonah and Kevin, or strategists like Rick Wilson — haven’t focused on Trump’s political views is simply not accurate. An equally or more plausible explanation is that Trump fans simply don’t care that much about policy. As noted yesterday, Trump is seen as anti-bailout even though he supported them, is seen as tough on illegal immigration even though he wants a quick path to legal status, and is seen as an Obamacare critic even though he summarized his health care plan as “everything in Obamacare but much more.”

At one point, Shapiro writes, “Trump is running a GFY campaign because he is incapable of running any other campaign. And his supporters are in a GFY mood.” (I presume you can figure out what GFY means. Think of an anatomically difficult position.)

We’ve all had those moods, but those moods aren’t particularly conducive to good decision-making. There was a time when relatively-cheerful conservatives scoffed at the Daily Kos crowd and their widespread descriptions of stopping speaking to family members over political disagreements. They seemed furiously angry, all the time, about everything. It made them insufferable and repellent. Today it’s impossible to contend that only one side of the ideological spectrum is gripped by anger. Peter Wood’s A Bee in the Mouth offered a good, detailed look at American’s changing attitude towards anger and public expressions of it; how something once seen as immature and hot-headed became seen as mainstream, even healthy.

Sure, we’ve got a lot of reasons to be angry. But the country is in a very Dark-Side-of-the-Force mood, convinced that anger is empowering, not blinding. At some point, a person enveloped in relentless, fiery anger and grievances stops making sense to anyone else. When a movement’s philosophy is so easily summarized by “GFY”, it’s hard to believe they’re being unfairly “bashed.”

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