This Is How You Get AOC
In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory, his supporters (both the proud and their more timid “anti-anti-” handmaidens) preyed on the shattered realities of their opponents with the slogan “This is how you got Trump.”
The antecedent to TIHYGT could be any right-of-center hobbyhorse, from the biased and condescending elite media, to Obama’s executive overreach, to new “politically correct” emojis. (Even women who refused to date conservatives were proffered as a reason Trump won.) It is a bottomless well, providing for endless dunking.
While TIHYGT masquerades as moral lesson, in practice, the phrase is wielded as schadenfreude, even menace. “That thing you, my liberal friend, hold dear? That was the instrument of your doom. And I’m not going to pretend Trump is going to be good for you. You will hate every minute of it.”
Like so much of our current debate, TIHYGT is a flex. No one who tweets “learn to code” at a laid-off journalist expects them to pick up a new trade. And there are no illusions that Democrats will question their values as the result of an election they view as freakish, if not illegitimate.
Whatever enjoyment comes from reminding liberals of their shortcomings is fleeting.
Republicans should worry that the left will soon be playing the same game: the rule book is out, and punishing your foes is a higher virtue than rewarding your friends.
A radicalized class of House Democratic freshmen and the left’s flirtations with socialism offer hints of how a Trumpified GOP might soon be hearing, “This is how you got Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
Last week, Democratic presidential aspirants submitted to a positively Bolshevik “Green New Deal” that envisions the end of air travel and rebuilding or retrofitting every building in the country. Democrats who once supported tough anti-illegal immigration measures (including physical barriers) now slouch towards open borders. The Overton Window on marginal tax rates has shifted to serious discussion of a top rate of 70 percent. The gun control debate has moved beyond universal background checks and waiting periods to threats of confiscation by force and pre-purchase social media screenings.
Is this the same party that voted in record numbers for ex-Goldwater Girl and Iraq war-supporter Hillary Clinton? Yes, but it’s also a party that, like a hit dog, hollers for vengeance, with an activist base that views policy moderates like Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar with suspicion.
Might Democrats fumble the ball by embracing an agenda that’s dangerously out of step with the American mainstream? Sure. But what was mainstream about a Trump campaign that advocated a ban on Muslim immigrants, or a concrete wall stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, or a trade war that would imperil our economy for the sake of a few favored industries?
A Democrat could be forgiven for deciding that Trump’s perceived flaws — his character and his ideas — were in fact central to his victory. His vulgar cruelty was not an impediment to governance, but evidence of his will to dominate. His proposals were judged not by their extremeness or impracticality, but by the rage and anguish they would evoke among progressives. And when has Trump stumbled? As a Trump supporter lamented to the New York Times during the recent government shutdown, “he’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
Democrats might also infer that Trump’s re-election effort will suffer the same fate as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, their stay-the-course messages overwhelmed by scandal and their supporters fatigued.
If Trump is destined for defeat (as reports that suburbanites and women are fleeing the GOP suggest), who could blame Democrats for rallying behind the candidate of their revenge fantasies? Elizabeth Warren’s 3 percent annual wealth tax on billionaires might wreak havoc on capital markets and job creation, but imagine the wails from the Adelson, Koch and Mercer families.
Yesterday at NRO, Jay Cost admitted his fear “that Trump’s unpopularity could ultimately bring a socialist into the White House.” Precisely. It’s time for Republicans to move with haste to back a serious primary effort that will bring lapsed GOP voters and right-leaning independents home.
MAGA cultists and the grifters who feed off them will be unmoved by warnings of what comes après Trump. But establishment Republicans who have accommodated themselves to his presidency should consider the costs of his continued party leadership.
Otherwise, prepare for a soul-crushing TIHYGAOC struggle session in your not-too-distant future.