I love Joy Ann Reid, our "Good Guy of the Year" winner in the Crookie Awards for 2016.
Last night on 'The Last Word' she said something that seemed at first listen to be lyrical and bright (as she nearly always is), comparing the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and how, perhaps, their presidencies should be defined as "emblems" of the American psyche:
If you think of the presidency as a national avatar, Obama is who we hope we are, and Donald Trump is who we fear we are, right? That there's something sort of, guttural, about Trumpism, where it's like, playing to all of your base fears of other people, your anger, your rage, your neediness. The core of his need, the black hole inside of him, is kind of what America fears, the crass part of ourselves is becoming. Whereas Barack Obama is the emblem of what presidencies used to be: the Eisenhower model. You know, the sort of model of the presidency as aspirational.
But Reid uses two terms that for me always ring alarm bells, as they do here.
The first, of course, is "Trumpism." As I argued (in the most important thing I will ever write) last summer, Trumpism doesn't exist. Donald Trump was elected by the Republican Party, and was endorsed by Republican lawmakers (sure after some hesitation, but in the end Party over Country won the hearts of the GOP Congress).
And he did so by repeating Fox News/Republican orthodoxy about Mexicans, Muslims, and "nasty" women.
The other term that rings alarms for me, sadly, is "America." Dear Ms. Reid: it makes my stomach hurt to watch you point to your own heart and say that Trump represents "the crass part of ourselves." He doesn't represent ANY part of you. There is no "America" which is a little bit Trump and a little bit Obama. This isn't a Donny and Marie skit.
I do understand that Reid is speaking for posterity. She's looking at "the presidency" through a longer lens than the current moment. But she also knows full well that we are living through a moment of cold Civil War, and that for the moment the racist zenophobes have the Oval Office. We simply can't afford to "take the long view" during the battle against Republican White supremacist orthodoxy.
Imagine a commenter saying during the early 1860's,
"If you think of the presidency as a national avatar, Abraham Lincoln is who we hope we are, and Alexander Stephens is who we fear we are, right? That there's something sort of, guttural, about the Confederacy, where it's like, playing to all of your base fears of other people, your anger, your rage, your neediness. The core of the Klansman's need, the black hole inside of the confederate, is kind of what America fears, the crass part of ourselves is becoming. Whereas Abraham Lincoln is the emblem of, you know, the sort of model of the presidency as aspirational."
We are at a point in history where nine million children do not know where their health insurance is coming from. A nation where hundreds are sweating through the night wondering if a family member is about to be detained or deported. A nation where women, the population of more than half of the United States, cannot look to the leader of the free world for a vision that includes them as equal employees, let alone citizens.
And Donald Trump is bitch tweeting this morning about Anna Wintour.
We. Are. At. War. With. Our. President. And all that he AND HIS PARTY stand for.
Now is not the time to take the long view, Joy Ann Reid. Now is not the time for aspirational speech.
We have no time at present for high-morals poetry. What we need instead is our own Thaddeus Stevens, who yes, today would be tweeting this (as a DM!) to Donald Trump:
As my husband Driftglass often says, "This nation cannot long endure half-Fox and half-free."
Joy Ann Reid responds. (See, I told you I love her!)
(Click the tweet to read the entire thread)