/Links 9/15/2020

Links 9/15/2020

Re: The People v. Donald J. Trump

I remember when liberals wanted to bring George W. Bush and members of his administration to justice for doing things many, many times worse than what Trump has done so far. Now in the Trump era George W. Bush has been rehabilitated as a “good Republican.” I don’t know if this is just due to Americans having notoriously short memories or because there is something different about Trump. Undoubtedly, there is some truth to the first theory but I think Trump really represents something different.

The best theory that I have read is that Trump represents the Back Row Kids beating the Front Row Kids. Trump and his followers represent the stereotype of the boorish underachievers from school. The fact that the political version of Mr. Kotter’s Sweathogs beat the overachievers and their queen was too much for the Front Row Kids to handle. A lot of this fantasizing about sending Trump to prison is about the culture war between different sections of America that now really do hate each other with a passion. You can say the same about Trump supporters who really thought or still think that Trump will send Hillary to prison. It seems to be less about policy and more about aesthetics, class, culture and tribalism.

Again, using George W. Bush as an example, Bush and his allies arguably deserved to be prosecuted for lying us into a war but Bush was a “normal” Republican. Sure, Bush had the Texas cowboy act and often spoke poorly but he was still seen as a normal member of the political class. While there was a lot of anger directed at Bush I don’t recall it being anywhere near as intense as what we have seen with Trump, who again, in my opinion, has not been nearly as bad as Bush was.

I was much more politically active during the George W. Bush years than I am now and my social circle was about half Republicans and half Democrats and I honestly do not recall there being this level of hatred and vitriol between partisans. There were some heated debates but nobody ended friendships over politics, at least in my experience.

The only other theory that explains the difference is that maybe the growth of the internet and social media in particular has made political tribalism worse, which is probably true but I think that is only one factor operating here. Had Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz won instead of Trump, I still don’t think you would be seeing this kind of intense hatred and anger developing.

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