Thinking About Things: What Will They Do Without Trump to Bash?

By John DeQ. Briggs

First of all, good riddance to 2020 and welcome 2021! Second, no year is off to a proper start without a look back at the prior year through the memorable eyes and hilarious brain of Dave Barry. However bad 2020 was, his review of it is enough to bring laughing tears to the eyes of left and right alike. Indeed, he is one of the few people left in the world who can skewer everyone with a light touch and not seem generally, well, hateful – without that special malice which seems to so afflict the left. His column is here, sadly behind the Washington Post paywall for some. Dave Barry’s 2020.

Third, I have been wondering what all those reporters, their staffs, the editors, OpEd writers, late-night comedians, Big Tech, the universities and their academic apparatchiks, sonorous and not so sonorous voices on public and private radio, and the rest of the center left will do once the curtain finally falls on the remnants of the Trump administration. Certainly, the New York Times writers seem as energetic as ever – even just yesterday exclaiming about the “lack of decency” in the country, especially that part of it that might have supported any aspect of the Trump administration. Republicans: Traitors to Democracy and Profiles in Cowardice. So much for healing and unity. The Grey Lady seems bent on vengeance, like Madame Defarge but without the knitting.

I am reminded, in a way, of Richard Nixon’s first farewell speech in 1962. Those of you under a certain age may not remember that after losing a close election to John F. Kennedy in 1960, reportedly thanks to then-Mayor Daley and the cemeteries of Cook County, Illinois, Nixon ran for governor of California but got badly trounced by Pat Brown. In the wake of that he gave what, at the time, was a “famous” press conference during which he announced to the national press corps that they “…would no longer have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Film clip here. The national media generally disliked Richard Nixon and Nixon disliked the media. But compared to the relationship between the media and Donald Trump, it was all light-hearted kids’ play.

Yet after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and indeed even before then, the national press turned on the Democratic administration and its handling of the Vietnam war, the slow pace of civil rights, women’s rights, the environment, and more. One wonders whether that can happen today. Huge segments of the print, cable, and broadcast media; of Congress; of Hollywood; of Big Tech have spent four years in an all-out no-holds-barred pitched battle against President Trump, everything associated with his administration and, more shockingly, all of his 74 million supporters. In the process, inch-by-inch and step-by-step any semblance of objectivity was set aside. Late-night comedy reportedly never hosted non-woke celebrities, politicians, news makers, or just plain folks. By the time of the Long Hot Summer and BLM, the media was bringing us day after day and night after night Orwellian stories, headlines, and on-screen runners about “mostly peacefully looting,” “mostly peaceful arson,” “mostly peaceful car bombings,” “mostly peaceful shootings” and so forth. We were asked to believe these voices of authority, and certainly not “our lying eyes.”

So, I wonder, what topics will occupy producers, directors, scribblers, editors, and their staffs? And as the emotional toll of hating Trumpism wears out will anybody watch or read their material anymore? Will they pay attention to the frailty of the President, the mediocrity of many of his cabinet appointments, the developing and serious battle for supremacy between the Democratic progressives and the old-line Democrats like President-elect Biden? Even today, two months after the election, the editorial pages, the op ed pages, MSNBC, CNN, and the broadcast networks still manage to find the energy to attack Trump and to attack any Congressperson who engages in the precise same conduct that Congresspersons engaged in when challenging the Trump victory in 2016 or the Bush victory in 2000. Treason is Matter of Dates.  

One worries that we have reached a level of hypocrisy so extreme that it cannot realistically be “walked back.” And beyond hypocrisy, the renaming of classrooms, buildings, statues, parks, and anything else that might have a suspect name moves forward apace. This is the creeping towards the mainstream of Critical Race Theory. As an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal put it on Christmas Day, no one has noticed, or at any rate pointed out, the basic contradictoriness of exposing, emphasizing, and displaying our national sins on the one hand, while on the other trying to obliterate every trace of them from historical record. The woke see no evil — and Nothing but Evil.

In California, they have established a “Renaming Committee” (as Dave Barry would say “I am not making this up”) which has flagged forty-two separate San Francisco schools whose names the Committee has declared must be removed because of associations was slaveholding, colonizing, oppression or some other crime against Critical Race Theory. We thus say goodbye to schools named after Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, California Missionary Father Junipero Serra, the writer James Russell Lowell and many others, including surprisingly that conservative stalwart Senator Diane Feinstein, Stranger still, Proposed House Rules for the next session of Congress would eliminate gender-specific family terms like Uncle, Aunt, Niece, and Nephew and replace them with “Parents sibling,” “Siblings’ child” and other such as that. New House Rules.

Thus far, the signs of much push back are modest, although one suspects that there is much silent push back going on in the country. Nonetheless, there appeared a few months ago quite an interesting article in a publication I have never heard of (New Discourses) taking up the question of “The Woke Breaking Point.” The article is a fascinating guide to having conversations with friends or acquaintances who have not yet reached their woke “breaking point” and interrogating them as to whether there is anything that could ever cause them to reach that point, referred to as “peak woke.”

Anyway, we are about to be launched into the Biden administration and we truly do not have much of a clue as to the policy inclinations of the new administration, whether with respect to taxes; immigration; packing the Supreme Court; making Puerto Rico a state so as to add two Democratic senators; foreign policy in general; U.S, policy towards China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan in particular; or much of anything else. The electorate voted by a healthy margin (based on the popular vote anyway) for “not Donald Trump.” One senses that the election outcome was based more on a severe case of “Trump Fatigue” than based on opposition to a number of his policies, although to be sure those policies tended to be presented in ways that were, shall we say, suboptimal. Almost everybody who thinks about immigration policy agrees that we need a mechanism to citizenship for many of the so-called “Dreamers,” although they are surprisingly small in number. People seem to agree in general that we need to have secure borders, although nobody was willing to agree with Mr. Trump’s articulation of the solution, which seemed at bottom insulting to Mexicans and peoples from Latin America.

Most of the leadership of the Democratic Party agree that we have a serious problem with China, both economically and militarily. Russia, with a GDP roughly the size of Italy, is altogether a different sort of problem than China, which has a navy larger than our navy, and will soon have a larger economy. It certainly has more influence in the world, influence not maintained, one must note, through alliances along the lines of NATO or otherwise. China’s foreign policy is very much a “China First” policy writ large. China does not engage in bilateral or multilateral activity in any meaningful way.

So, we are entering interesting, but perhaps at least momentarily calmer, times. Perhaps a time of American decline in the world, much like Britain in the 1950’s after Suez. Or perhaps a time of economic renewal. In any case, deep in the bowels of the new administration, we may find that the thought police tyrants will organize themselves in the shadows more so than in the open. A fascinating article, again from this new to me publication called New Discourses, along those lines can be found here.  But as this issue goes to press, we are about to begin the runoff elections in Georgia, certainly one of the more consequential state runoff elections in the memory of most of us living.

Let us hope that the rage of recent years has not become addictive. As Jonathan Turley mentioned in a post yesterday, this sort of rage “… becomes a license to hate. While few will admit it, the Trump years were a release from decency and civility. We have become a nation of conflict junkies.” My hope, however, runs the other way. I am trusting that the unserious journalists, editors, news directors and other influence peddlers will have to stop focusing on the center right despicables (f//k/a/ Deplorables) and actually get back to informing the general public of newsworthy events within the new administration. This may not require courage so much as just a return to the good old days when they could look good and attract eyeballs by making those in power look bad. It seems to me a strange hope that the press will cherish and use its freedoms in a rough approximation of non-partisanship but, as ever, hope springs eternal.

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