David Brooks's certainty that the election of Joe Biden will bring an end to Trumpism reminds me of President Trump's insistence that April would bring a miraculous end to the coronavirus.
President Biden’s First Day
Imagining Jan. 20, 2021.
The first thing you’ll notice is the quiet. If Joe Biden wins this thing, there will be no disgraceful presidential tweets and no furious cable segments reacting to them on Inauguration Day.
Donald Trump himself may fume, but hated and alone. The opportunists who make up his administration will abandon him. Republicans will pretend they never heard his name. Republican politicians are not going to hang around a guy they privately hate and who publicly destroyed their majority.
Some of you believe that. If Joe Biden wins and the win appears decisive, you think Republicans will declare Trump a loser and flush him down the memory hole.
I wish I believed that. I don't because no Republican, not even Ronald Reagan, has commanded a more passionate following within the GOP than Donald Trump. Fox News, talk radio, and the GOP establishment have spent decades turning GOP voters into maniacal grievance collectors, and no one does the politics of pure grievance better than Trump. We know he'll never acknowledge that he lost. We know he'll never officially concede. I think he'll leave the White House voluntarily, but he'll insist that millions of mail ballots constituted massive voter fraud, that China weaponized the coronavirus specifically to defeat him, and that he was brought down by the Deep State. The GOP voter base is full of QAnoners and coronavirus denialists -- do you think they'll abandon these delusions overnight, especially when their God Emperor continues to sustain them? David Brooks does.
But there will be a larger quiet, too. For two decades American politics has centered on a bitter culture war between the white working-class heartland and university-bred coastal elites.
Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were all emblems of this university class, and it was easy for the Republican media wing to gin up resentment against them. In 2016, Trump beat Clinton among the white working class by a crushing 28 points.
But Biden is not an emblem of this coastal elite. His sensibility was nurtured by his working-class family during the postwar industrial boom of the 1950s and 1960s. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and missed the late 1960s culture war that divided a generation.
It’s very hard for conservatives to demonize Biden because he comes from the sort of background that Trumpian conservatives celebrate. He elides all the culture war divides. He doesn’t act superior to the “deplorables,” because his family taught him to despise status games of all sorts.
It's been very hard for conservatives to demonize Biden in a way that's persuasive to swing voters, but that doesn't mean they won't persist. Even if Trump is in disgrace after the election, Republicans will continue to attack Biden -- attack politics is all they have. The narrative they're constructing now -- that Biden may be a left-centrist at heart, but he's a weak old man increasingly under the sway of radical socialist America-haters -- will continue to be promoted by Fox News and Mitch McConnell, because their base believes it. (Remember that Republicans will describe even moderate efforts to expand healthcare coverage, address climate change, or reform policing as socialist and radical, demonizing these efforts the same way they demonized Obamacare.)
It will become immediately clear that in a Biden era politics will shrink back down to normal size. It will be about government programs, not epic wars about why my sort of people are morally superior to your sort of people. In the Trump era a lot of people who don’t care about government got manic about politics.
Brooks misspelled "In the Fox News era." Does he seriously believe that the people weren't "manic about politics," or at least manic about hating politicians, during the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama presidencies? (Our side hated George W. Bush, but the dismissal of pre-9/11 intelligence and the Iraq War debacle and Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and Katrina were reason enough, even before he crashed the economy.)
What Brooks is telling us is that his fellow Republicans are reasonable, decent folk who are engaged in the politics of division right now only because they fell under the sway of the extremely divisive Donald Trump four years ago and -- even though they now see the error of their ways -- are stuck with him until November, regrettably. As soon as the votes are counted, Brooks believes, Republicans will put down their pitchforks and embrace a Biden future.
I don't think so.
Posted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog