As far back as October 2015, candidate Donald Trump billed himself as duct tape for a broken nation. “I’m going to unify. This country is totally divided,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
It turns out he was right about being a unifier, at least in Washington. Our fractured capital is experiencing a new flowering of bipartisanship. Everyone inside the beltway, at least those getting the press coverage, seems to oppose him.
It’s no surprise that Democrats like Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi hold the president in disdain. But even Republicans are jumping on the bandwagon.
Last week Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., took Trump to task for appearing to flag in his support of special counsel Robert Mueller. It’s not the first time Graham has pushed Trump away with a long stick. And John McCain, R-Ariz., chimed in with criticism of the president’s ongoing slap fight with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, an echo of the senator’s last-minute dirking of his own party’s efforts to roll back President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Is Trump the Real Problem, Or What He Reveals?
In day-to-day Washington life, a frightened administrative state is leaking like a porcupine’s wineskin, elements of the federal judiciary are finding Marbury v. Madison germane to every executive-branch twitch and wiggle, and the press, continually astonished by Trump’s refusal to make the customary genuflections, is sounding like those small, yappy dogs that make people think about feeding the alligators.
Not since the overcrowded-boarding-house days of early Washington have District insiders found themselves jostling with so many strange bedfellows, and we have Trump to thank for it, or blame.
But is it all Trump’s fault? Or is it another demonstration that the two supposedly warring political sides—at least at the leadership level—have much more in common with each other than with those of us out here beyond the Alleghenies? Job one: Don’t upset the apple cart. Job two: Appear to be upsetting the apple cart.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country is on the edge, unable to agree and at the point of blows over the most elemental notions of ethics, social adhesion, personal responsibility, race relations, constitutional protections, and simple common decency. You can read it on your Facebook feed.
Whipping Trump Won’t Help the Country Heal
And now criminals of belligerent political leanings have moved to open street fighting in Charlottesville, Virginia. Can we be far from organized sectarian violence? A cynical and spurious unity among politicians and special interests whose only real common ground is a grim determination to defeat Trump isn’t going to help.
Neither will the relentless demand by the press and its DC amen corner that he chant the precisely correct catechism in condemning the violence, which was on ridiculous display at a press conference on Tuesday. It’s just more of the nuance-blind ideological dogmatism that leaves people shaking their heads in dismay.
Almost a year ago large numbers of Americans expressed their disgust with Washington by electing a man with almost nothing to recommend him but an unabashed willingness to attack the status quo and a stubborn refusal to yield to it. Certainly it was naïve to expect the DC citadel—it’s much more organized and sentient than a swamp—to do anything but pull up the drawbridge and person the ramparts.
It’s also a mistake to think they didn’t get the message behind Trump’s win. It seems more likely that they understood it all too well. What they don’t understand is just how profoundly divided and dangerous this moment really is.