‘Anonymous’ Is Another Word for ‘Complicit’
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It seems some people in the White House think President Donald Trump is ignorant, dangerous and unhinged. They told author Bob Woodward that, though they wouldn’t allow him to use their names. One of them wrote an op-ed about Trump’s deranged reign for the New York Times — but wouldn’t allow his or her name to be used. And, of course, White House reporters have been quoting anonymous White House sources about the Trump wreckage since Trump began his erratic run for president.
Basically, everyone in the political business, including lots of people who collect taxpayer-funded salaries to pretend otherwise, know that Trump is a malicious, incompetent buffoon.
But who’s going to tell Trump’s voters?
After all, there are 63 million who voted for Trump. Some of those millions voted for him knowing full well that Trump is malicious. That’s what they like about him; he operationalizes their resentments and rationalizes their insecurities. Other voters in 2016 soothed their doubts by hoping that Trump, upon taking the oath of office, would magically rise from the ethical sewer in which he had spent a lifetime.
Nothing in the op-ed in the New York Times, or in the voluminous comments to Woodward about an unhinged executive, alters the political dynamics of the GOP or its red-capped, mutant offspring, MAGA. What these Republican insiders tell one another is that Trump is an abomination doing an abysmal job. What they tell their voters is something else.
Out in the great wide electorate beyond the Potomac, eight in 10 — sometimes as many as nine in 10 — Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing. And because Republican leaders have spent years telling their voters to distrust legitimate news media and to believe only loyal partisans such as Fox News, there is no reason to expect the op-ed or the Woodward book or any other manifestation of truth to penetrate the veil of carefully constructed unreality.
Six years ago, political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann wrote, prematurely, the Republican Party’s epitaph.
The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
In the ensuing six years, the party has intensified those failings while adding others. It has embraced Trump’s rampant personal corruption and grown comfortable with his attacks on blacks and Hispanics and women. The party has escalated bad-faith attacks on news media that accurately chronicle Trump lies, and on liberal institutions that resist the almost daily assaults on the rule of law and public ethics.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has devoted the last two years of his speakership to deploying the House Intelligence Committee as a fog machine, the better to obscure any Trump connections to Russian subterfuge or other illegality. Senate leader Mitch McConnell floods the judiciary with conservative white male judges devoted to preserving and extending the racial and sexual hierarchies of the 20th century.
Not one Republican in Congress has held a hearing to find out how this crime occurred, and who is responsible. The corruption of the party is endemic. Anyone who thinks they escape the moral and political taint of this administration by murmuring anonymous misgivings about Trump is a fool as well as a coward.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg Opinion. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.
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