Looking at the Democrats Tuesday night I thought of zombies. No living man or woman could have sat motionless through words to which no living, thinking man or woman can be indifferent. Perhaps Democrats have been feeding on so much #Resist zombie paste that they can no longer think.
But they need to think, and think soon. The possibility of Robert Mueller’s investigation ensnaring Trump has dwindled to remote at best. With the release of the Nunes’ memo on FISA misconduct later this week, the political value to Democrats of a continuing investigation will pass from zero to negative.
Think, because if Trump had proven unable to perform the duties of the office effectively—given his lack of experience, a genuine possibility to consider in January 2017—it would have been a low-risk undertaking to pull him down. His supporters would have been embittered and protested, but there would have been a good chance that a sufficient majority would have tolerated his being deposed in the name of putting incompetence out of its misery.
But think again. ISIS is destroyed; the Dow is up 33 percent; a remarkable tax reform has been made law; unemployment, especially minority unemployment, is down; and Kim Jong Un is exhausted from getting taken to the woodshed, alternately by his Chinese patrons and by Trump.
Having proven himself not just competent, but unusually so, removing Trump from office now would martyr Trump, elevate his status, and empower further the “deplorable” political forces he has harnessed. The only way forward now for Democrats is to start winning elections. But that will mean changing their walking dead shuffle and antagonistic rhetoric of #Resist, which is leading them into astonishing political pratfalls.
During Tuesday’s SOTU Democrats refused applause for tax reform, standing for the national anthem, the reduction of regulatory burden, infrastructure spending, secure borders, and the rights of Americans over foreigners—legal and illegal. Democrats sat there, dead flesh reanimated, but only for the purpose of eating Trump’s brains. This politics of cantankerous, mindless spite will not bring them political victory. A CBS News poll found 75 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s SOTU. If Democrats don’t find a cure for their affliction, they will be left to wander soullessly as ghouls in the background while Trump and an invigorated GOP make America … all together now … great again.
Democrats will have to come alive to Trump as a very serious statesman, because Tuesday’s SOTU evoked another kind of living dead, the good kind and another piece of evidence in the case for Trump. Far from being the narcissistic Russian-spy autocrat whose brains look delicious in Democratic fantasia, Trump increasingly appears to possesses what Aristotle described as megalopsychia, or magnanimity.
Trump over the course of his campaign and first year in office revealed himself to the American people, and to some extent himself. No one really knows how they will react in battle until they are in battle. And both the American people and Trump did not really know how he would react to the demands of office, or how he would even know what to do. Some longed for a theoretical ground to Trumpism to assure them. I have never thought this would be needed or helpful. All that is needed is for Trump to have a sound model in his mind’s eye to serve as a lodestar, much like Reagan modeled his statesmanship on a Winthrop’s City on a Hill sermon. Trump continually has shown he possesses the right psychological composition to have this quality.
Trump, in his campaign and when he first took office, repeatedly referred to the dead as actively participating in the affairs of the living. He said on separate occasions that his father was looking down, his mother was looking down, and that other heroes, for example Specialist Ryan Owens, were looking down. But he never fully completed the picture, until Tuesday. In the SOTU, Trump concluded:
Atop the dome of this Capitol stands the Statue of Freedom. She stands tall and dignified among the monuments to our ancestors who fought and lived and died to protect her. Monuments to Washington and Jefferson—to Lincoln and King. Memorials to the heroes of Yorktown and Saratoga—to young Americans who shed their blood on the shores of Normandy, and the fields beyond. And others, who went down in the waters of the Pacific and the skies over Asia. And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument to the American people. A people whose heroes live not only in the past, but all around us—defending hope, pride, and the American way.
Freedom, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and King, and all the heroes who fought to preserve the nation they founded, saved, and bettered, walk among us, guiding and judging. These are the gods that animate Trump’s political imagination. And this is the moral horizon of a magnanimous American statesman.