“Only Nixon could go to China.”
—Old Vulcan proverb.
When I started writing columns for cachevalleydaily.com a decade ago, there was an agreement between me and Eric Frandsen, CVD’s editor, about what my schtick was. As I had been on my occasional spots on KVNU radio, I would be the boorish Philly guy that took a sledgehammer to “Utah nice” when discussing events related to Utah; especially on the subject of politics.
Many of my CVD polemics were republished on Utah Politico Hub, where I served the same purpose. The wonky eggheadedness of UPH would be roused by my uncouth, libertine ideologies shared with a frenetic vernacular. My prose lacked the panache of iambic pentameter, and the voice in my head was as far from the hushed tones of the NPR cadence as I could invent.
In short, I was rude.
Intentionally rude. Unabashedly and unapologetically rude. The kind of rude that makes soft-spoken, pious people pound a table with their fists and yell, “Why are you so BLEEPING rude?!?!” at me.
I always liked heels in professional wrestling more than faces. Darth Vader is more fun than Yoda. Without Hannibal Lector, Clarice Starling is a boring nobody. Hamlet is just some whiny, aimless college kid without his pervy, sinister uncle stirring him to bloody thoughts.
Villains are just more interesting. And I played the bad guy very well in my columns.
And then in 2015, Donald Trump ascended down an escalator in Trump Tower with confidence and braggadocio—only seen before when Alan Rickman swaggered off the back of that truck in “Die Hard”—to announce he was running for President of the United States. From that moment onward, I was no longer a columnist playing a character. I was a morally offended American patriot.
Throughout his campaign, his election and the first two years of his presidency, I was myopic and inconsolable in my disdain for Trump, his supporters, and the Republican Party. I referred to Trump as a Russian toady. I made a historic parallel between America in 2016 and Germany in 1932. Doubling down on my World War II analogies, I referred to members of the GOP that bent the knee to Trump as “Vichy Republicans”.
I wrote a column entitled “Hillary For President”.
In an act of humble reflection, allow me to quote myself from that endorsement:
Trump has run a campaign that has intentionally incited and rallied the most deplorable and undereducated people to his cause. Trump is an effete elitist. Yet, he has somehow become a 21st Century Svengali who has recast himself as the vox populi for the purportedly forgotten masses. Trump uses terminology that is meant to subliminally suggest to rural White men that he will champion their causes. Trump romances the xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and bitterness of people who have embraced the false premise that everyone unlike themselves is out to get them. Trump feeds off the paranoia and misanthropy of ignorant people.
Damn! I am such a good writer, ain’t I?
Good writing or no, there is one glaring problem with that passage, that column and the whole era of my “Trump Derangement Syndrome”. All of my apocalyptic predictions regarding Trump’s presidency did not come true. And while I stand by my criticisms of some Trump supporters that I believed were more guided by the worse angels of their nature, I refused to see that most of middle-class America was more interested in results than polish.
And that, finally, gets to the crux of my argument here. During his presidency, Trump has produced more successes than failures on the issues that matter most to a majority of Americans. And the corporate media, which cannot help but hurl bile at Trump incessantly, has sold out objectivity in its’ sloven lust to rebuke him on every subject, relevant or not.
When Trump said there was a crisis at the southern border, the media laughed at him. Then they cried when illegal immigrants were prevented from entering the country, um, illegally. They used the word ‘crisis.’
They said Trump’s erratic behavior would cause another “Great Depression”. The stock market sets new highs all the time. Wages are up. Jobs are plentiful.
And Trump’s biggest successes in foreign policy are scandalously downplayed in the press. Middle East terror groups are so busy staying alive they do not have time to come over here and kill us. European socialism is waning under the strain of unbridled immigration and an embedded welfare state that Trump mocks. China has serious economic and social issues that are exacerbated by Trump’s firm hand.
And if, as Spock tells Captain James T. Kirk, that only Nixon could go to China, then only Donald Trump could walk through the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea to shake Kim Jong-un’s hand. No one else holding the office of President of the United States would have the heft of arrogance to do that.
And as of the day I scribed this column, Trump has convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to consider a peace plan that would recognize Palenstine as a state. This is an early developing story that can fall apart within seconds—but the very fact that Trump got Bebe to consider this is almost unfathomable. Let’s wait and see what happens.
What made me change my outlook? Much of my attitude adjustment can be attributed to moving back east in 2019. I live in a small New Jersey town that is a short drive from my beloved hometown of Philadelphia. The racial demographics of my residence is nearly equal white, black, Hispanic, Asian and Indian. Most people I live with just want a good wage for a hard day’s work, safe streets for their kids to play on and the ability to grab a beer and watch a game during the weekend.
I listen attentively to conversations at my local bar, which is also a nice demographic mix of ethnicities and ages. No one talks about impeachment, transgendered bathrooms, Twitter, #metoo, Harry and Meghan, the Mueller Report or Greta Thungberg’s stolen childhood. They talk about their upcoming vacations, the sadistically high taxes levied by the state of New Jersey on everything and, most decidedly, how terrible the Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receivers were this past season. Not long ago, I was relentlessly rude and contemptuous of these people for supporting Trump. Now I drink beer with them and enjoy their company.
This column is not an apology. It is a reassessment. I still believe Donald Trump is a narcissistic, morally bankrupt, pathological liar. What I must admit here is that these vices are not disqualifiers for steady, successful governance. Reading that sentence back, I still cannot fully accept that conclusion as normal.
And yet, here I am. Madness.