As a member of the political left, I’ve been harrowed to see the sensational and ever-escalating narratives about Donald Trump (and the election generally) coming from my own supposed half of the spectrum. Trump has many negative qualities worth talking about, but they’re more or less lost in the noise of absurdist alarmism.
As much as I’ve wanted to be objective about him and honestly care about or adequately criticize these flaws, I find myself instead defending Trump from what I see as a stunning lack of honesty, objectivity, or reason from the party that’s supposed to be on the side of facts, education, science, and a compassionate moral high ground.
Donald Trump Is a Lot of Things the Left Likes
Bafflingly, I found Trump to be an obviously more acceptable candidate than anything the GOP has put in front us, a noted improvement for a Right that just one election ago was on life support. He’s a Republican candidate who couldn’t honestly claim to be a religious person and who didn’t make religious belief in any way central to his campaign. For the secular left, shouldn’t this be an obviously good thing worth noting?
He’s also a Republican candidate who has expressed very pro-legalization, anti-war-on-drugs positions and expressed during the election his support for a state’s right to legalize drugs — something President Obama was pretty sketchy on.
The other day I caught a “Daily Show” clip in which Trevor Noah grilled Trump for walking back the promises he had sold his base on while running, things like jailing Hillary. What is the point of this? That he’s dishonest? That’s not a mystery to anyone, it’s not in any way a revelation. What it does reveal, however, is that the things Democrats literally cried about in a YouTube video because they were so afraid and #literallyshaking are things that he doesn’t intend to do, and yet nobody hears that perspective from Noah or CNN or friends with Hillary icons as their Facebook photos.
Is Trump monstrously anti-LGBT, threatening the safety, rights, and lives of the LGBTQ+ community? No, quite obviously not. He has no positions that would indicate this, and in fact brought on Peter Thiel, a homosexual man, as an adviser. At the Republican National Convention he had Thiel speak, and Thiel received applause after announcing he’s “proud to be gay.”
These are people who are so committed to right-wing politics that they attend the RNC and they applauded a gay man for saying he’s proud to be gay. These are the supposedly bigoted supporters that are being lumped in with fringe neo-Nazis in a bid to panic the nation into believing that their next president is Literally Hitler.
The bar here, too, is set by a woman who actively worked to get the Defense of Marriage Act passed, and who said she and Bill Clinton will never fully condemn it. This is a woman who takes the donations of Saudi Arabia, a country where the punishment for being gay could be being hurled from a rooftop to your death, and she most likely did so in exchange for weapons.
Elon Musk Is a Counterweight to Mike Pence
Yes, he brought on Mike Pence as his vice president, and Pence is ultra-conservative. Consider, though, why Trump might do this without being an unforgivable bigot. Could it be that a big criticism of Trump from the Right was that he wasn’t a real Republican, and that he needed a more GOP-friendly VP to secure his base for the election? Imagine if Hillary had made an effort to appeal to the large portion of the Left that she and the Democratic National Committee had severely alienated. Do you imagine that the Tim Kaine pick did anything to persuade us? Did it persuade anyone? He lost a debate with Pence, for goodness sake, and I say that as a liberal person with no love for Pence or his ideas.
Something that’s also never discussed, other than by people who want to note that this is never discussed, is that he was the only viable candidate who opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a core issue of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, and one thing he’s clearly serious about. If you’re not familiar with why opposing the TPP is a good thing, you should consider reading up. It’s about so much more than trade.
It’s been noted that his transition team and cabinet picks are a bit of a horror show of return villains we thought defeated, such as Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. Don’t ignore, however, that he brought on Elon Musk. Would Obama ever have done this? Would Hillary? I’ve heard people correctly ask, “In all of the people in the world, it’s between these two? Where are the Elon Musks?” Well, they’re now advisers to the president.
Think about how unusual that is. Through Obama’s term we were still in a version of our political reality in which things like that simply didn’t happen. You could count on them not to. In that time some norms were so rigid you only very slowly broke them despite the rapid pace of cultural change. When Obama ran it was politically untenable to support gay marriage, and only after he came out in support of it is it now politically untenable not to.
Trump Cares about Popularity, Not Policy
We’re in a political reality in which these kinds of restrictive norms are simply not relevant. Now we could potentially create some of the most positive change we could imagine, regardless of political affiliation. After all, Trump is not an ideologue. I’m convinced there’s little he strongly believes or is entirely committed to.
He is a populist. He wants to be popular. Tell him what you want, give him a chance to be popular with you. Take an objective look at what he does and does not do and let him know when he’s extremely unpopular with you. He is everyone’s president now. He ran as a Republican, but he is not one. He is his own thing. He is Trump, and Trump is the president of the United States of America.
This probably isn’t going to win me any goodwill with readers, but look: the reason you believe a lot of what you do about Trump and about the election is because you’ve been on the receiving end of propaganda only slightly more sophisticated than the Right’s Fox News. It’s time to wise up, to stop yelling about “treason” like the Left did this week while attempting an Electoral College coup only months after passionately stating that Trump claiming he might not accept the results of the election due to fear of rigging was a “threat to democracy.”
This sounds like the nationalist Right or like the McCarthyites of the Cold War. These are people liberals would otherwise have grounds to mock. It’s time to stop comparing Trump and his supporters to Hitler and the Nazis. It’s time to stop being so offended about everything and trying to police what is and isn’t acceptable to say or think. This Left sounds like the puritanical parents who went into hysterics over rock music, video games, and Satanism.
It’s time to stop pretending that the near-constant acts of terrorism around the world that are seemingly motivated in some way by a belief in the teachings of Islam are actually the result of climate change. It’s getting embarrassing, and all of the smart people are going to leave.