Beyond the noise of controversies real and invented, a 24-hour news cycle demanding perpetual outrage, and hyperbole and partisan polarization on grounds more stylistic than substantive and cultural than ideological, the Trump Age has provided a signal that is incredibly clarifying.
The behavior in response to the Trump presidency has proven remarkable, with actors switching sides and positions understood to be deeply held in a matter of years and sometimes minutes, revealing their true colors and motives in ways few would have anticipated.
To wit, the Trump presidency has exposed the American political elite by illuminating the internal contradictions, deep-seated biases and core hypocrisies of its major players. At heart, what it shows is that power is the elite’s single unifying principle.
Here are 10 of the richest ironies of the Trump age:
- Leftists are federalists
There was a time not long ago when the Left put states’ rights in euphemistic scare quotes intended to discredit legitimate conservative efforts to assert Tenth Amendment rights in the face of an increasingly omnipotent federal government by associating such efforts with the Confederacy, slavery and racism. On January 20, 2017, with the inauguration of President Donald Trump, that all changed. The next day, The Economist printed a piece signaling what was to come titled “Democrats are learning to invoke states’ rights.” Since then, we have seen Democrats resist policies at odds with their agenda in unique ways, including becoming sanctuary states, barring lawmakers’ use of taxpayer dollars to travel to states with laws on LGBT issues they do not like, and engaging in lawfare against the Trump administration on all manner of issues, from the attempted transgender military ban to Obamacare and deregulatory environmental policy – and all of this just in California. Who would have thought progressives would embrace the notion of states as laboratories of experiment?
- Leftists oppose executive power
Relatedly, when once the Left lauded the power of a president’s “pen and phone” to implement policy through executive action, today it celebrates the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches – and even the executive agencies themselves – to thwart the president. The Left and even some putatively on the right are perfectly content to sponsor legislation seeking to block the president from firing subordinates and even from ordering the firing of weapons at military adversaries; for federal judges to block clearly lawful executive orders on utterly frivolous grounds; and for administrative state holdovers to refuse to carry out requests of the commander-in-chief. Can anyone imagine the howls if this president were to seek to do an end-run around the Senate and enter into a de facto treaty a la the Iran Deal without the Senate voting on it as such? The impeachment papers would be drawn before the president could compose his next tweet. Apparently, the left only believes in championing executive power when its partisans are at the helm.
- Leftists care about civility and decorum
Let us ignore the exploits of Democrats from Lyndon Baines Johnson to Ted Kennedy to Bill Clinton for a moment. In the face of the coarse, crass, politically incorrect President Trump, after the Left is done tsk-tsking the president’s rhetoric at awards shows or questioning his mental health at White House press briefings, well, these images illustrate the left’s devotion to civility during the uncivil Trump era:
Ironically of course, the anything-goes culture from which this bile flows — antithetical to the traditional Judeo-Christian values and principles conservatives have long defended — that glorifies drugs, sex, violence and profanity is one the Left created.
- While celebrating muckraking and an adversarial press in movies like “The Post,” the media has no desire to investigate one of the most explosive potential scandals involving alleged national security apparatus abuses in U.S. political history
Journalists have held themselves up as brave, virtuous truth-seekers in an era in which facts are in the eye of the beholder, ironically given that much of our moral relativist elite acts as if there is no such thing as objective truth. But while they have doggedly pursued a narrative that has careened from and between “Russia stole the election” to “Trump colluded with Russia” all the way to “Trump is a Russian asset,” there has been no “there there” on practically any count. The veracity of the dossier that underpins much of the speculation has fallen apart. The arguably illegitimate special counsel – in that it is based on a counterintelligence investigation and does not name an actual crime, contrary to law – purportedly existing to investigate Russia collusion has ensnared several Trump campaign and/or administration officials on minor and/or wholly unrelated grounds not pointing to anything resembling the non-crime of “collusion,” let alone any sort of grand conspiracy. Worth adding is that it is almost unimaginable in a presidency that has seen so much leaking and internal strife and external animus that if some truly damning smoking gun existed, we would not know about it already. Conversely, we have seen mounting evidence that virtually the entire narrative is unraveling in the face of a number of at best dubious and at worst highly illegal acts taken by officials in and out of government, from the alleged unmasking of Americans and illegal leaking, to collecting and disseminating unverifiable but probable Russian disinformation/Democratic opposition research that served as a core piece of evidence in the Carter Page FISA application(s) justifying surveillance of the Republican opponent’s campaign, to investigatory pro-Clinton anti-Trump bias and payments made to journalists by the very Fusion GPS that compiled the dossier, among an infinite number of other acts that call into question the legitimacy of our intelligence, law enforcement and media institutions. In spite of all of this, the Left has attacked Americans seeking a thorough investigation of all of these issues as “Russian bots,” and is standing aside while the Department of Justice is allegedly obstructing congressional oversight of potential abuses by the types of officials on the kinds of issues that would normally horrify them.
- The Left now loathes Silicon Valley
While for years progressives have absolved the entrepreneur-turned-oligarchic Silicon Valley titans — who contribute to toxic mass “inequality” of outcomes — of their sins by way of the titans’ contributions to all the right progressive causes, the tide is turning. Since Russia has become the root of all evil, the Left has asserted that the Russians exploited Big Tech, in particular large social media companies, to propagate messages contributing to Hillary Clinton’s loss and/or the destabilization of our democracy by further polarizing the Left and Right, for example through $100,000 in Facebook ad buys, or the support of hashtags in which Americans overwhelmingly outnumbered Russian bots. George Soros’ attack on Big Tech at Davos should be seen as a leading indicator that Silicon Valley is squarely in the crosshairs of a political class itching to regulate it under pretext of the Russia “crisis,” which they cannot let go to waste.
- The Left now reveres law enforcement and intelligence officials
The media and the Left have portrayed conservative efforts to probe law enforcement and intelligence officials over both their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s ties or lack thereof to the Kremlin as egregious attacks on the institutions themselves. Leave aside the evidence we have seen to date indicating these probes are merited. And leave aside the fact that oversight has mainly been focused on the conduct of senior officials – which likely includes the most politically astute within these highly competitive institutions, not rank-and-file agents or the institutions themselves. The Left and many civil libertarians have attacked law enforcement and the intelligence community from J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to supposedly systemically racist police forces today, and the CIA from the Church Committee through Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s torture investigation. The primary substantive criticism has been that these authorities have violated civil rights. So what has changed in the Trump era? In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Left must believe that law enforcement and intelligence officials were sicced on the right people this time.
- Russia is now the Left’s biggest enemy after 80 yearse
Relatedly, Russia is now Democrats’ enemy number one for perhaps the first time in eighty years. Recall that the entire anti-anti-Communist phenomenon was of the Left’s making. Conservatives were cast as reactionaries and conspiracy theorists during the Cold War, with the Left generally supporting nuclear disarmament and appeasement. A mere president ago, the Left had no qualms about promising Dmitry Medvedev greater “flexibility” on among other things U.S. missile defense, or “little green men” seizing Ukraine, or mocking a Republican presidential nominee for pointing to Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical threat. My how things have turned in one election.
- Moral relativists have turned politics into a sport of competitive virtue-signaling
When Hillary Clinton defined a large segment of then-candidate Trump’s supporters as “deplorables,” she was being as honest as she has ever been in a political setting. Hers was perhaps the defining comment in modern politics because it laid bare the meta-narrative of the 2016 presidential election and virtually all else: People on the Left are good people because they hold the right ideas, so the anti-Leftist candidate and his supporters must therefore be bad people holding the wrong ideas. Progressives believe they are on the side of angels – that they are moral, virtuous and just by dint of their superior views. Deplorables on the other hand in the Left’s reading are immoral, wicked and unjust by dint of their retrograde beliefs. How ironic is it that a Left that combines amorality with a ‘60s, anything-goes rebellious libertinism and an Alinskyite ends-justify-the-means modus operandi today is so intently focused on virtue-signaling (and social status enhancement). According to the Left morality, virtue and justice are not absolutes. All is relative and based on judgment calls and a hierarchy of identities constantly in flux. Can the Left even honestly define any of these terms? For to do so would be to imply that there are objective standards, and therefore undermine practically all of progressivism.
- Leftists accuse Trump of being a Nazi while he has achieved a more pro-Israel agenda than even many Zionists wanted
In the annals of cognitive dissonance, almost none is greater than the Left’s cartoonish decrying of Donald Trump as a modern-day Hitler while at the same time castigating him for two of the most pro-Israeli decisions in U.S. history in acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and commencing the long-promised but never fulfilled process of moving the U.S. embassy to the capital. These are decisions that the American Jewish political establishment – many members of which consider themselves staunch Zionists – considered too radically “right-wing,” lest the decisions cause modern-day Islamic supremacist neo-Nazis to attack. Figuratively punching Nazis by recognizing reality and fulfilling a bipartisan promise is not ok for the Left, but literally punching Nazis is, or something.
- A president who does not describe himself as a conservative achieved more conservative successes in his first year than Ronald Reagan
Indeed, President Trump never defined himself as a traditional conservative, nor did he describe his agenda in orthodox conservative terms. Yet he has helped achieve more conservative victories in the first year of his presidency than Ronald Reagan by measure of the Heritage Foundation. On the courts, regulatory policy, taxes and a host of other issues, President Trump undeniably pushed policy in a more conservative direction than any Republican president in recent memory, this perhaps because of his anti-progressivism and anti-establishmentarianism. The tactics Trump has used to achieve his goals are ones with which the Left is familiar – fighting free of suicidal rules of engagement, creating compelling emotional narratives to clearly and convincingly highlight the merits of his positions over those of his opponents and rarely giving his political enemies an inch. The Left plays to win. Trump does the same. He has been a wrecking ball for conservatism in ways that NeverTrumpers and Leftists alike would have never expected.