The brilliance of Trump Straws is obvious. What they represent in the culture war, where journalists often cast conservatives as pouncers and seizers, is less self-evident, but arguably more important.
President Trump’s knack for picking the right fights, and then fighting the right way, is the best in modern politics, and that’s largely because his interests transcend conventional political boundaries, and his conduct flouts them.
Let’s consider this in the context of straws. Step one is recognizing the national proliferation of paper straws as a nonpartisan and apolitical gripe over a partisan and political product. Step two is using that gripe to persuade a nonpartisan audience that plastic straws are a casualty of the left’s radical effort to transform life as we know it. Trump is one of the few people capable of successfully fulfilling that mission.
Reportedly at the urging of manager Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign slapped “TRUMP” on some reusable straws, sold them in $15 packs of ten, and in less than two weeks made almost $500,000—some 40 percent of which came from first-time donors.
“Liberal paper straws don’t work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today,” is how the campaign captions its product. Trump has, of course, has mounted no policy thrust against paper straws, most of which are mandated in localities or by corporations. That doesn’t matter. For better or worse, he’s successfully cast himself as the symbolic bulwark against cultural leftism. Again, it’s a role that transcends the left-right divide.
Yet Trump’s not really the one picking these fights, is he? He may be more aggressive, but ultimately the president’s on defense, just like every other culture warrior. The straws illustrate that important point. We’re only brawling over these commonplace implements because the left picked the fight first.
From bathrooms to flags, they’re actually targeting valued fixtures of everyday life, putting everyone else on defense. The left politicized straws long before Trump did. His campaign just had the acumen to plunge into the fray (and with a smart approach).
All this is to say it’s fairly important to recognize what should be an obvious point about the culture war: that the left is on offense and the right is almost always on defense. But with a gladiatorial president and a media anxious to fault conservatives for fomenting divisive battles, it’s a point that often gets lost.