The Washington Post's Marc A. Thiessen is deeply confused. After a full year of Trump making America great again, why is he so unpopular? No, seriously, he really said this.
Despite a year of achievements — including historic tax and regulatory reform, confirmation of conservative judges, elimination of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate, repeal of the unpopular Obamacare individual mandate, a booming stock market, a growing economy and unemployment near 45-year lows — Trump’s approval rating on the eve of his address was just 38 percent.
A president this successful should not be this unpopular.
Thiessen, like many white Republican voters, lives in an impenetrable bubble where what's good for them is good for everyone else even if it comes at the expense of everyone else. And like the dead people in The Sixth Sense, they only see what they want to see. Thiessen saw an uplifting triumphant speech of unity because that's what he wanted to see.
Theissen is, of course, delusional. He's under the delightfully insane impression that because Trump read a speech last night for 80 minutes or so without blurting out a racial slur, he's suddenly convinced the nation that he's, dare I say it?, "presidential" (someone check on Fareed Zakaria to see if he's swooned again). Theissen's column is literally titled: "Trump's speech nailed it. Let's see what he does now." which comes across more as a desperate plea to "give Trump a chance", the drunken mating call of the white Republican voter, than it does a description of reality.
But out here in the real world, Trump's speech was full of race baiting against Latinos, as Paul Krugman points out, for crimes that don't even exist:
A lot of Trump’s speech — and an even greater share of the emotional energy, since he seemed bored reciting misleading economic numbers — was devoted to lamenting a wave of violent crime by immigrants. Was this racist? Yes, of course. But saying that doesn’t capture the full evil of what he was doing (and I use the term “evil” advisedly).
For he wasn’t exaggerating a problem, or placing the blame on the wrong people. He was inventing a problem that doesn’t exist, and using that imaginary problem to demonize brown people.
Trump continued this white nationalist theme by attacking not just illegal immigration, but legal immigration as well:
Crucially, Trump cast his proposed immigration restrictions as a boon to immigrants who are legally here (pitting them against future immigrants) and said they are “compassionate” in that they would insulate American workers against foreign competition. But that, too, is based on a distorted narrative about immigrants putting downward pressure on U.S. wages. Trump’s deeper argument remains that immigration at anything close to current levels is basically a malevolent and destructive force. In fact, the opposite is true.
And while unemployment for the black and Latino communities are indeed quite low, a fact Trump is ludicrously claiming credit for, he has very little to do with the drop and everyone knows it (Thanks Obama!). On the other hand, both communities are acutely aware of how Trump's extremely racist policies are making their neighborhoods far more dangerous than they were under Obama.
While Obama's second term had more overall deportations than Trump's first year, they were generally confined to the border states and recent arrivals. Trump, on the other hand, has ordered his "unshackled" immigration officers to round up undocumented immigrants anywhere and everywhere they can find them resulting in more arrests, taking great pleasure in terrorizing Latinos communities all across the country. Under Obama, breaking up families was a bug. Under Trump, it's a feature.
At the same time, Jeff Sessions, the first Neo-Confederate Attorney General, is renewing the long since failed war on drugs and taking rabidly racist police departments off their chains. The goal, of course, is to terrorize black communities lest the Negroes get too uppity after having a black president for 8 years. Can't have that!
But since Trump called for unity last night, we're supposed to overlook all of the cruelty of his presidency towards minorities. After all, it's not hurting Theissen and white Republican voters so it's not like it really counts, right?
Theissen, like most white Republican voters, has the memory of a senile goldfish and he would very much like for you to forget, well, every horrible thing Trump has done over the last year. He would like you to forget that Trump egged on Nazis in Charlottesville after they murdered a young woman. He would like you to forget he left Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to rot because they're not white, therefore not "real", Americans. He would like you to forget the white nationalism, the racist tweets, the tax cuts for billionaires, the open corruption, the lying, the sexual assault accusations, the nuclear brinkmanship, the constant calls for authoritarianism, the contempt for the Constitution, the weakening of our international diplomatic and economic standing, the obvious obstruction of justice, and, oh, definitely forget about that whole Russia thing and how our president seems to be working directly for a hostile foreign power. Nothing to see here!
I almost feel bad for Theissen. He really really wants America to join him in his bubble of unreality where it's always Morning in America. Too bad that some time in the next 24-48 hours, Trump is going to tweet about how ugly a female reporter is or threaten to nuke North Korea again or retweet another white nationalist meme and all this imaginary good will and "presidential" cred Trump has (but not really) will disappear faster than Melania's smile when Trump isn't looking at her.
More importantly, once this is all over and The Trumpenburg goes down in a spectacular ball of flame, Theissen and those like him will suddenly declare they were suspicious of Trump all along and they never liked what he stood for. It will be up to us to remind them, just like we're doing now, of all the white nationalist filth they celebrated under Trump and refuse to let them absolve themselves of the guilt of enabling it. They may have infinitely rewritable memories, but we're not going to forget who was complicit in this attack on democracy and common decency.