Opinion: Trumpism wounded but not dead
And there’s more where that came from.
Or at least, let us fervently hope.
The Republican Party was thoroughly rebuked in last week’s election, and no party in modern history has ever deserved rebuking more. Nor has any party leader ever deserved spanking more than Donald Trump, the boy president whose backside voters decisively, if tacitly, paddled.
It is not simply that Democrats pummeled Republicans up one coast and down another, winning two governorships and a slew of municipal and state offices. Arguably more impressive was the way they did it — with a rainbow of candidates who served as an implicit stick in the eye to the GOP’s politics of resentment and exclusion.
In Hoboken, voters elected the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey history. Seattle chose its first lesbian mayor, Provo its first woman, Charlotte its first African-American woman. The new mayor of St. Paul is an African-American man — a first — while an openly transgender black woman will join the Minneapolis city council, yet another first. Ditto the election of an Asian-American woman to the Virginia Legislature.
And from the department of just deserts:
Robert Marshall, a Virginia lawmaker who authored a bill restricting transgender people’s use of public restrooms, was defeated by a transgender woman, Danica Roem. In New Jersey, Atlantic County official John Carman, who posted a meme in January asking if the women’s march would be over “in time for them to cook dinner,” lost his job to a woman, Ashley Bennett.
So some Democratic euphoria just now would certainly be understandable. But keep in mind that while Trumpism might be walking with a limp, it’s still walking. Timely evidence of this came the day after the election in the form of a must-read Politico piece by Michael Kruse.
He visited Trump Country, the city of Johnstown in western Pennsylvania, to take the temperature of the failed president’s ardent followers. There, Kruse found what you’d expect: cognitive dissonance that would embarrass a toddler, toxic levels of intolerance, and indestructible love for a man whose rants validate their rage, their petulant sense of themselves as a culture under siege, victims of change. It is an affection untethered by reason.
In one jaw-dropping passage, retired nurse Maggie Frear concedes Trump hasn’t kept his promise to bring the steel mills back, build a border wall, or repeal Obamacare. “But I like him,” she insists, “because he does what he says.”
In another, a bunch of sixty-somethings in this town of boarded-up homes and opioid addiction seem most exercised about the “clowns” in the NFL who kneel during the national anthem. “NFL,” says retiree Pam Schilling, stands for “(N-word) for life.”
One would be hard-pressed to find more vivid proof that if we intend to take our country back, the rest of us — a term meant to include the perhaps 17 principled conservatives who have so far managed to escape Trump’s re-education camps — will have our work cut out. You can’t persuade these people. You can only defeat them. Last week’s vote proves this isn’t impossible.
To the contrary, it is eminently doable if we are energized, organized and active — if we rise from our complacent backsides and vote, every election, every time. Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million. So people like those in Johnstown do not outnumber the rest of us. They simply outwork and outvote us.
But there are still more of us than there are of them. We are the majority, and it’s past time we acted like it.
Good things happen when we do.
— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.