Back during the campaign, my interest in reading columns by Roger Simon fell precipitously when he became among the first conservative blogger types to embrace the candidacy of Donald Trump. Without what we might call a tolerability cascade, the other Republican candidates wouldn’t have fallen aside as they did.
But things have turned out as they have. In my view, Simon is now too far on the limb of rationalizing Trump as a positive, although he has a point that somebody not as boorish as Trump would not have provided the shock that has loosened up our political system a bit for positive change. Simon also has a point with this:
He is our Rorschach test, our mirror. He tells us as much, if not more, about ourselves as we do about him. Those who cherish good manners and a certain measure of formality and protocol despise the man. Those who call themselves progressive and, usually, don’t pay much attention to good manners and certainly not formality (cf. pussy hats) despise him even more. They see in him what they want, like that Rorschach ink blot.
Then there are those of us who are contrarian by nature. We enjoy Donald just because he wants to shake things up. (Yes, like it or not, I have that trait.) Others like him because they feel as if they were neglected for a long time, the forgotten men and women.
Most of this is only tangentially related to policies. It’s about our personalities and our culture. That is why someone like Epstein who agrees with virtually everything Trump has done can be so squeamish.
I sympathize with the contrarian nature. When I encounter a question that requires fresh thinking, I often find myself starting by disagreeing with everybody and then modifying my position toward agreement as I’m persuaded. I enjoy the contrarian character, but I’m uncomfortable with his having the final say (even when it’s me).
As I said in a recent podcast, though, the practical reality right now is that we are where we are. Perfect policies are useless if they never come to be, and they have to manifest through actual people, who aren’t perfect. I wonder how many of my fellow Christians can look back at some flawed leader in history and say something like, “God sometimes uses chipped and rusty tools.”
I don’t mean to invoke God’s provenance in the presidency of Donald Trump, but the mere possibility is important to keep in mind. And if that possibility were to prove true, it would happen through our always striving to pull the president and his more-enthusiastic supporters toward us.
Maybe the possibility of advancing virtue through a boor gets to the visceral anti-Trump reaction among some conservatives. The movie Amadeus comes to mind, in which Salieri’s sense that Mozart was essentially transcribing God’s musical vision. That possibility drives the Salieri of the film mad; he can’t accept that God would act through that petulant boor, so he sets out to tear him down as a rebuke to God more than to Mozart.
Obviously, the movie is a dramatization (and I’m certainly not attributing anything like Mozart’s genius to Trump), but I think it can play out more mildly and at a level far below theology.