Reprinted with permission from Washingtonpost.
The split in American politics we may be missing is not left vs. right or pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump but normality vs. the Trump-inspired Washington circus.
If the doings in the nationâs capital seem strange when you are there, they look positively lunatic at any distance from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
First, the entire White House is seized byÂ vicious infightingÂ over its inability to tell the truth about what it knew when concerning allegations of domestic violence against a top aide. Itâs remarkable how sealed off from reality this self-involved snake pit has become. President Trump has ratified the maxim that a leader gets the staff he deserves.
Combine this with the astounding disconnect between what Trumpâs own intelligence officialsÂ told usÂ on Tuesday about the threat of Russian meddling in our midterm elections and Trumpâs denials and inactivity. The signal is that Trump doesnât care what happens to the nation he leads. He is only concerned that Russian meddling taints the triumph he loves to boast about and that further investigations of it could get him into real trouble.
Oh, yes, and there was also thatÂ payoffÂ to the porn star.
Last are his fiscal policies. They achieve something rather astounding by contradictingÂ bothÂ his promises of budgetary prudenceÂ andÂ his pledges to be a pro-worker populist. What we have instead areÂ policiesÂ that tilt toward the wealthiest, punish the least advantaged and throw the nationâs finances into chaos â an impressively perverse trifecta. And hisÂ infrastructure programÂ is not a big bang of new construction but a whimper that effectively relies on everyone but the federal government to do the new building.
Trumpâs foes reached their conclusion about his contradictions and misadventures long ago. They have responded by surging to the polls in just about every election held since 2016. The latest example was the Democratsâ pickup of a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in aÂ special electionÂ on Tuesday. In a district that favored Trump by about five points, Democrat Margaret Good prevailed thanks to a roughly 12-point swing toward her party. It was the 36th Democratic state legislative gain since Trumpâs election.
These victories are also the product of a demobilization of Trumpâs own constituency. The hardest of the hardcore Trump loyalists are still likely to cast ballots this year. But he also drew support from loyal Republicans and white working-class swing voters. Many of them were not enthralled by him but couldnât abide Hillary Clinton â or were just plain angry. Itâs hard to imagine theyâre overjoyed with the past 13 months.
Some members of this dispirited group overlap with a third key constituency that is underanalyzed because its ranks are not exceptionally partisan or ideological. They are citizens who ask for a basic minimum from those in charge of their government: some dignity and decorum, a focus on problem-solving, and orderliness rather than chaos. Trump and the conservatives sustaining him are completely out of line with this behavioral conservatism built on self-restraint and temperamental evenness.
It is not to romanticize the heartland to say that anyone who spends time in the Midwest runs into such solid citizens all the time. They are horrified by spousal abuse. They include small-business owners who prefer low taxes but care about schools, roads, libraries and parks. They may be critical of government, but they also expect it to do useful things. They donât much like bragging and find an obsession with enemies unhealthy.
They are churchgoers who donât watch TV preachers, may have doubts about this or that doctrine, and donât tell others how religious they are. But they take from their faith and scripture that they have obligations to their communities and a duty to try as best they can to live by the standards they uphold.
They like to look up to their leaders with respect, and they feel betrayed when the powers that be give them every reason not to.
The obvious political calculation is that this fallâs elections will be decided by which side mobilizes its most ardent supporters. But here is a bet that there is also a quiet revolution of conscience in the country among those who are sick to death of the chaos they see every day on the news, a White House whose energy is devoted to stabbing internal foes in the back and a president who canât stop thinking about himself. In the face of this, demanding simple decency is a radical and subversive act.
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