If you’ve spent enough time watching the likes of Tucker Carlson and other ostensibly reasonable Trump apologists, you’ll notice a pervasive theme. It’s one of pretend civility and the notion that the left is to blame for the toxic discourse in America. Carlson routinely tweets about the dangers of identity politics and the scourge of militant liberalism:
More & more it feels like racial division is the subtext of everything. Topics that seem totally unrelated to ethnicity are suddenly racially fraught. The effect is a deeply angry, divided & terrified country. How long do we have to live this way? How did we get here? #Tucker
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) June 2, 2018
For generations, liberals championed free speech, privacy & due process. Now they lead the charge against civil liberties & all who dare defend them. What happened to liberals? They lost power. That drove them off the deep end. They plan to get it back, no matter what it takes.
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) July 6, 2018
Carlson promotes this narrative on his show nightly, and millions of Fox News viewers now ardently believe that their country is under attack from effete college students and militant feminists who want to lock up white people for expressing their beliefs and turn the country into a Spanish speaking illegal immigrant haven. This sort of nonsense is printed daily on places like Breitbart, where reality is turned on its head and Trumpism portrayed as a reasonable political movement battling back hysterical liberals.
This is the Trumpist prerogative, and fair play to them. The movement wants to survive as best it can, and it has worked out that going on the attack is the best way of doing that. The more they fight with liberals, the more they can justify fighting with liberals. The problem then, is what the left can do about this. The more the left attacks, the more ammunition the Trumpists then have to fight back. The country is seemingly at an impasse with neither side willing to give ground on what constitutes reality or the normalization of Trump. Trump is either the greatest leader in American history, or a lying charlatan who presents an existential threat to mankind.
The media tends to do extremely well in these situations — a deeply partisan political atmosphere is great for ratings, and they can milk the horse race to death. The narrative throughout 2016 was that both sides were “just as bad,” and Hillary Clinton was comparable to Trump in her awfulness. As it always is, the American presidential election was treated as a sporting contest with the red team taking on the blue team. Hundreds of analysts made their money discussing the polling, explaining fancy graphs, and predicting which way “middle America” would vote. This resulted in disaster, so much so that there has been a notable change after Trump got into power. The news media seems to recognize that it played a part in getting him elected.
Reporting on the Trump administration has been quite good of late, and the media finally seems to be fulfilling its obligations to the country and refusing to ignore the president’s inability to tell the truth. Of course this is all too little too late, and as Trumpism cements its grip on a sizable chunk of the population, the media is now largely powerless to challenge the fictional world created by Trump and the Alt Right movement.
Knowing that Trump’s supporters can no longer be reached is a frightening prospect for liberals and sane conservatives. If Trumpism it is an implacable force that feeds off of negativity and hate, then how do you fight it?
Unfortunately, the options are not good ones. If Trumpism is left alone and normalized, the president will be left unchecked to continue his unrelenting war on civilized society. He helms a party that exists only to service the needs of the super wealthy, and helms a political movement that blames all their problems on immigrants. If left alone, Trump will continue wrecking international agreements, tearing down environmental regulation, and separating immigrant families at US borders. Trump ran on a platform of ethno-nationalism, and he has shown no inclination to change course.
Those opposed to Trump really only have one option — to fight until Trump and his political movement have been completely and utterly destroyed. Long time Republican strategist and former John McCain presidential campaign manager Steve Schmidt has urged Americans to just this.
“If the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan is to be redeemed and resurrected, then the party of Trump must be obliterated. Annihilated. Destroyed,” said Schmidt in an interview with Rolling Stone.
“And all of the collaborators, the complicit enablers, the school of cowards, need to go down. Maybe something can regenerate from that.”
“I don’t view it so much differently than I view a forest fire,” he went on. “A forest fire is part of a natural cycle of the forest. The forest burns, and through its burning and destruction, it is regenerated and made healthy again. For the Republican Party and the conservative movement, with its rot, its corruption, its indecency … before there can be any talk of restoration, there must be a season of burning.”
There are some on the left who enjoy fighting the right for the sake of it — it has become a lifetime mission to be opposed to someone or something, and Trump represents the perfect enemy. This, I believe, is a mistake and not a healthy way to live one’s life. Trumpism needs to be destroyed, but this is nothing to celebrate. It is a dark, deeply unpleasant mission that needs to be done purposefully and with careful thought. Fascism was fought in Europe by those who refused to succumb to hatred, by those who saw the bankrupt political philosophy for what it really was, and decided that they would resist it at all costs. I take no joy in writing about Trump or exposing the rottenness of his political ideology — but it must be done if enough people are to rally around to defeat it.
If opposing Trumpism means feeding right wing hatred, then so be it. It is, at least in my estimation, a zero sum game where there can be one winner and one loser. The cost will be tremendous, but there can be no mediating, no negotiating and no normalization of this poisonous political movement.
I may refuse to hate, but I will not refuse to fight.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.