Mainstream media outlets were caught off guard by Donald Trump’s electoral college victory in 2016, and one of the most annoying measures they took to avoid getting blindsided in the future was to hire Trump voter-whisperers as analysts and columnists. That and the damned diner stories!
Arguably, recalibrating coverage made sense. But staging Cletus safaris and importing red state apologists to wag their fingers at readers who are appalled by Trump and his voters was the wrong response because it didn’t add anything of value to the conversation.
WaPo’s Gary Abernathy is a prime example of the genre. He has spent the past five years defending Trump voters as salt of the earth types who embraced Trump as a reaction to elite disdain. He confidently predicted they’d reject Trump after he tried to overthrow the government and install himself as dictator. Then he made excuses for them when they didn’t.
For those of us who live among Trump die-hards and/or count Trumpists among our loved ones, the question posed in the title of Abernathy’s column today (gift link) is a valid one: “On Trump, no one is changing their mind. So what do we do now?”
Instead of engaging his own question honestly, Abernathy gets knotted up in special pleading about Smith’s January 6 indictment, i.e., Trump is innocent until proven guilty. That’s fine as far as it goes, but we all witnessed — and are victims of — the crimes alleged, and Trump is still lying about the 2020 election and inciting sporadic violence in the run-up to 2024.
Moreover, Abernathy aims a squid cloud of butt-hurt at Never-Trump Repub Tom Nichols, who actually did offer an answer to the titular question, for the recommendation Nichols made to address the real and pressing problem of the Trump cult:
Nichols declared that “every American citizen who cares about the Constitution should affirm, without hesitation, that any form of association with Trump is reprehensible, that each of us will draw moral conclusions about anyone who continues to support him, and that these conclusions will guide both our political and personal choices.”
Let me understand: I’m supposed to jeopardize my relationship with my parents (on the eve of their 70th wedding anniversary no less) along with other treasured family members and lifelong friends by asserting a “moral conclusion” that their support for Trump makes them unworthy of further association? Not in this lifetime.
Abernathy is an ass whose babbling isn’t particularly worth discussing except possibly as an example of a larger problem, i.e., the party’s unwillingness to come to grips with reality. Among Repubs, there’s the 30% to 40% who are still in the cult, and there’s an additional plurality, of similar or larger size, who claim to be ready to move on but are unwilling to do the work that moving on demands.
Nichols isn’t denouncing anyone who refuses to cut all ties with Trump supporters. He’s saying we’ve got to stop indulging their delusions to move forward and save our democracy. He’s right, and if the cultists demand deference to their delusions as the price of maintaining a relationship, that’s on them.
Fuck their feelings.