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Atoning For Trump

I had a Yom Kippur-themed column in The Week yesterday [1]:

Richard III is described as the scourge of God, sent to cleanse England of everyone with a speck of civil blood on his or her hands, from the murder of Richard II down through the War of the Roses. He is able to thrive not merely because people are complacent or see a chance for advancement, but because his society had already suffered civil ruptures so deep that most if not all of his crimes had already been normalized before he achieved their apotheosis.

Similarly, the biblical understanding of the relationship between the Israelite monarchs and their people is not merely that it’s a bad idea to allow a bad man to become king. Rather, God allows bad kings precisely to punish the people for their transgressions.

This is not a modern, liberal idea. But it has a proper modern, liberal analogue, and that is to see the ascension of a demagogue like Trump not merely as due to our failure to take him seriously, or to condemn him vigorously enough, but of our failure to be fellow citizens together. It is our failure to see those civic bonds as more important than victory for the side we see as right that has, above all, made Trump’s rise possible.

It flatters us to say to ourselves that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, because it implicitly casts us as the good people, and our opponents as the evil. That is why no amount of moral condemnation will put an end to the Trump scourge. After all, The Deseret News was hardly the first newspaper to condemn Trump. Trump has managed the astonishing feat, after all, of being supported by essentially no national newspapers, most definitely including those that traditionally endorse Republicans. Similarly, he triumphed in the Republican primaries in spite of nearly universal opposition from the party leadership. He is being condemned and denounced daily, by leaders in both parties as well as by nonpartisan leaders. All of that only confirms to those who express their die-hard support that he must be on to something.

It may be more than enough to defeat him at the ballot box — Trump has never mustered sufficient support to win the general election, and he’s not likely to gain that support now. But defeat will do nothing to address the reasons why Trump was able to come so far in the first place.

I should probably have atoned for writing another Trump column.

But seriously: this isn’t going to be over when Trump loses the election. Trump will still be out there, actively promoting the myth that the election was stolen from him by some combination of a deck-stacking media [2], a back-stabbing party [3], and a vote-fraud-perpetrating opponent [4]. The temptation will be powerful for Republicans to turn those very charges into the cornerstone of their recovery, and for the Democrats to dismiss the entire Trump phenomenon as evidence of “deplorability,” rather than for either to attempt to repair the civic bonds with the people who were so disgusted that they would cheer on their own destruction so long as the collapsing temple crushed their enemies with them.

And, equally, the temptation of those who lost with Trump — particularly the more sophisticated sort such as frequent this magazine — to despair of ever succeeding in changing the country’s direction, and nurture even more extreme fantasies. But the fact is, victory is impossible, and so is civic divorce. They may not like it, but the burden will be on them as well to imagine their way into actual future, which means imagining their way into civic reengagement with people who they are convinced hold them in contempt, rather than turning that contempt into a badge of perverse honor.

Trump is not a builder; he’s a destroyer. But he is our destroyer. We are all responsible for conjuring him up, and we all have to participate in the exorcism.

UPDATE: A commenter writes:

Trump is one of us. He and Clinton both [are] mirror reflections of our culture. And our humanity.

If we forget the ubiquity of that fact, then we are destined to be self-righteous and feign innocence.

What Trump has said and done we have all at least thought of at one time or another. No one can speak as an outside to the human race.

The Yom Kippur liturgy speaks to that, does it not?

That was pretty much the point of my column.

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "Atoning For Trump"

#1 Comment By SteveM On October 13, 2016 @ 6:28 pm

Re: “Trump is not a builder; he’s a destroyer. But he is our destroyer. We are all responsible for conjuring him up, and we all have to participate in the exorcism.”

How about a little symmetry?

Hillary Clinton is not a builder; she’s a destroyer. But she is the destroyer of the 1%. They are all responsible for conjuring her up, and they all will never participate in the exorcism.

BTW, about Trump’s potty mouth 11 years ago and asymmetry. At the Democratic convention in 1980, Ted Kennedy was lionized by the Left and by the media 11 years after he had driven his car off a bridge and abandoned a young woman to drown.

Kennedy’s riveting close to his convention speech, “The dream shall never die” did not include the dreams of Mary Jo Kopechne.

There’s asymmetry for you…

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 13, 2016 @ 6:32 pm

“Trump is not a builder; he’s a destroyer. But he is our destroyer. We are all responsible for conjuring him up, and we all have to participate in the exorcism.”

I just never cave into these hyperbolic exhortations. Anyone who thinks of the executive as a monarchy is going to be hard to take seriously or things are much worse concerning executive power.

No. It has always been contended by his supporters that the election was going to be a hard fought victory and that upon winning, it was going to be more difficult to manage the governance of his agenda.

Here’s the dubious twist — casting Mr Trump as the monster is convenient tripe. It ignores why the establishment is divorced from its electorate. It ignores the issues.

The overall issue is most of the policies rejected by the party members and perhaps the general population at large were held by the established representatives.

That occurred long before Mr. Trump arrived on the scene. It also ignores the growing communication gap, which again started before Mr. Trump became a candidate.

The battle has been fear on the part of the leadership. Not fear that M. trump was going to dismantle moral decency, but rather that they might be far less influential than previously. And that is the reason the leadership of both parties aligned on Mr Trump.

That rested in the very concerns of the republican party members, that Republicans seemed to hold the same positions as democrats with increasing frequency. Scapegoating Mr. Trump is now convenient when previously the leadership called people like myself immoral, and just plain dumb.

These are the people that engaged:

unnecessary war

a debacle in both Iraq and Afghanistan extended by the democrats in Libya, Syria and the Ukraine

Whose immigration policy has upended the fortunes of citizens by the millions.

Trade deals that seem to benefit the least in need of financial gain while pressing downward on the rest . . .

Should Mr. Trump lose, life will go on. The fortunes of the Republican party were set to be a tough road when they engaged in the war in Iraq, their assumptions proved to be incorrect and the responses worse. The fact that the democrats have all been all in or mostly in on torture, and war is not lost on me nor is the fact that that in the smoke of the mess they have mange to pass the buck.

Two references I think are valid here;

the party leadership as shown amazing cowardice and the deck has been stacked against Mr. Trump in more ways than I can count — and he has actually faired well under the strain of what has been a unprecedented assault from domestic and foreign foes alike.

And despite being called a moral reprobate for my support. He is the nominee and he will have my support and that support includes areas that I think he is in err.

I like underdogs. I won’t pretend that I have not been critical of some positions — but he has my support. Nothing has occurred so deep as to change that.

And if you think me deplorable fine. I would put my character against that of the Sec. of State any day.

#3 Comment By Colm J On October 13, 2016 @ 6:50 pm

What a load of oily pseudo-pious claptrap. It’s difficult to pick out the most egregious passage in such an absurd piece, but I think I’ll settle for “Trump will still be out there actively promoting the myth that the election was stolen from him…” Talk about getting your retaliation in first, Minority Report style! In Mr Millman’s singular universe, an allegation is already a “myth”, not just before it’s been made, but before the event about which it has not been made has even happened.

Millman’s jittery preemptive approach to allegations of vote fraud reminds me of the Billy Bunter character in the Frank Richards English public school novels. When suspected of planning some misdemeanour, Bunter was prone to outbursts of hyper-defensiveness, as in: “I didn’t have any intention of going to your study and stealing the cake that was there, in fact I didn’t even know there was any beastly cake there, and I certainly didn’t know it was hidden in the left corner of the larder, behind the box of fruit…”

#4 Comment By Mark On October 13, 2016 @ 7:23 pm

Trump is one of us. He and Clinton both our mirror reflections of our culture. And our humanity.

If we forget the ubiquity of that fact, then we are destined to be self-righteous and feign innocence.

What Trump has said and done we have all at least thought of at one time or another. No one can speak as an outside to the human race.

The Yom Kippur liturgy speaks to that, does it not?

#5 Comment By Scott Miller On October 13, 2016 @ 7:31 pm

When are you going to atone for your “spelling”?

#6 Comment By mythomane On October 13, 2016 @ 7:36 pm

” actively promoting the myth that the election was stolen from him by some combination of a deck-stacking media, a back-stabbing party, and a vote-fraud-perpetrating opponent. “

I’d be a bit cautious with language here. There’s no question that the there’s a deck-stacking media, a back-stabbing party, and vote-fraud-perpetrating opponent. That’s not a “myth”. It’s the blazingly obvious evidence of any sentient creature’s own eyes.

The question is whether, in the end, that will have stolen the election, or whether he will have lost on his own paltry merits.

Indeed, I’ve never seen such a deck-stacking media in my life, so blatant – here or anywhere else. For that matter I’ve never seen such a back-stabbing party. The vote-fraud-perpetrating opponent remains to be seen, but if the big city machines of the northeast and midwest are true to form and run up her margins, that’ll be part of it too. Whether those things prove decisive is another matter.

#7 Comment By Scott On October 13, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

“What Trump has said and done we have all at least thought of at one time or another.”

Really? Sorry but I had not thought about going on live radio and talking about how my daughter has always been very voluptuous, or talk about having sex with women that are having their period, and the list goes on.

But I do agree that it is fitting given our culture today that the Republican nominee is someone like Trump and that the country’s potential first male First Lady is someone like Bill Clinton.

We fill the world with a pornographic, obscenity filled culture, so who better to represent our country than men like Trump or Bill Clinton. However, as a Christian conservative I will not vote for either.

#8 Comment By KevinS On October 13, 2016 @ 8:32 pm

“There’s no question that the there’s a… vote-fraud-perpetrating opponent.”

Actually, there is, though obviously not in your mind.

#9 Comment By Baldy On October 13, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

mythomane says:
“Indeed, I’ve never seen such a deck-stacking media in my life, so blatant – here or anywhere else.”

Yes the media has a liberal bias, but I’m sick of hearing fellow conservatives whine about it regarding Trump. What would more balanced media coverage of Trump look like? Ignore what he says and does? When you nominate a completely amoral clown you should expect negative coverage. We deserve all the derision this time around.

#10 Comment By MB On October 13, 2016 @ 9:31 pm

We’ve become a country of poor losers. The GOP couldn’t stand losing to the Dems so much that they willfully disrupted the country’s governance for 8 years, rather than accept the legitimacy of the democratically-elected president and move on. Bernie supporters thought his loss (by multiple million votes) was a conspiracy. Now Trump is on trend, denying the fact that he could lose the election even as he is losing his mind…

Obama blames social media, in that it keeps us from having to interact (and act civilly) with people who hold different views; people at church, work, in our neighborhoods. And perhaps on social media victory is so deceptively sweet because you don’t actually have to look in the eyes of the people you are gloating at, the “losers.”

Still, after the last crazy year, I think we must consider it a victory if our country avoids Donald Trump as our next president. Increasingly, the only people standing up for him even on this website are those who are clearly involved in white supremacist philosophy. And I’m sort of OK with making sure they know they’re always going to be the losers here.

#11 Comment By redfish On October 13, 2016 @ 9:35 pm

The fact that we’re routinely forced to choose between the lesser of two evils is a product of a political system that locks out third parties; it doesn’t go deeper than that. Trump and Hillary are the current evils, but we’ve been pretty much on this downward slide for a while. Hillary’s nomination was pretty predictable: she’s the candidate who “could win” for her party because she built her huge political machine, along which comes corruption. Nobody in her party challenged her for that reason except for Bernie Sanders, who did so because he isn’t a pragmatic politician. Trump is a product of a brewing reaction to these kinds of candidates, although the same factors have helped him — at some point in the primary race, Republicans wanted unity so they could defeat the Democratic candidate, no matter how bad Trump was.

And yea, the media and party machines and everything else Trump is blaming is part of this, though he’s made efforts to be the beneficiary. The media constantly undermines third parties by largely excluding them from the discussion and from televised debates, and by focusing on drama and soap opera rather than substantive issues. The party machines help exclude them by creating and passing restrictive ballot access laws. The debates commission by the way is not non-partisan; its headed by former chairs of the RNC and DNC.

But I’ve long been a supporter of third parties, simply because I think their presence in the debate would help reshape this process and make it less about a “lesser of two evils” choice.

As for one of the two — Trump or Hillary — being elected, I’m not looking forward to it, but I think our republic can survive either of them. We still have a system of checks and balances. The single officeholder of the President in our system has less power than we ascribe to them. I think the “world is falling” hysteria where people predict everything will blow up if Trump is President, or everything will blow up if Hillary is President, is part of the dynamic that keeps us voting for the lesser of two evils.

#12 Comment By redfish On October 13, 2016 @ 9:55 pm

I’d be a bit cautious with language here. There’s no question that the there’s a deck-stacking media, a back-stabbing party, and vote-fraud-perpetrating opponent. That’s not a “myth”. It’s the blazingly obvious evidence of any sentient creature’s own eyes.

The question is whether, in the end, that will have stolen the election, or whether he will have lost on his own paltry merits.

Yes, both can be true.

The political and media establishment could be corrupt … and he could be a bad candidate.. both at the same time.

#13 Comment By George On October 13, 2016 @ 10:22 pm

Forget Trump. Your atonement is not wanted. Worry about Hillary Clint– and just maybe yourself.

#14 Comment By JR On October 13, 2016 @ 11:09 pm

“But the fact is, victory is impossible, and so is civic divorce. They may not like it, but the burden will be on them as well to imagine their way into actual future, which means imagining their way into civic reengagement with people who they are convinced hold them in contempt…”

We will have to see if “victory is impossible,” …what galls is the presumption of any kind of “civics” remaining in a global oligarchy that would like nothing better than dissolve the nation-state in the solvent of Globalism and suicidal “free trade” deals for America that are nothing but crony capitalism and lawless commerce.

Hillary and her ilk are quite willing to let whole swaths of her “fellow Americans” die due to their communities devastated by offshoring and stupid wars for their own sake. She is what our founding fathers would have called, “a domestic enemy.”

The Bushes/Clintons are our enemies and they deserve no deference from the silent majority they no longer even pretend to respect.

#15 Comment By CharleyCarp On October 13, 2016 @ 11:40 pm

Know who else is one of us? [5].

All is not lost.

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 14, 2016 @ 9:12 am

“What Trump has said and done we have all at least thought of at one time or another. No one can speak as an outside to the human race.”

You’d have to be more specific here before I agreed to any of this. Asking to cross a bridge too far. I say that regardless o where I stand amongst other human beings. Most importantly what is accurate is that in this process of weighing candidates is that we are weighing human beings. Thus far, nothing brought to for disqualifies Mr. Trump.
_____________________

“We’ve become a country of poor losers. The GOP couldn’t stand losing to the Dems so much that they willfully disrupted the country’s governance for 8 years, rather than accept the legitimacy of the democratically-elected president and move on. Bernie supporters thought his loss (by multiple million votes) was a conspiracy. Now Trump is on trend, denying the fact that he could lose the election even as he is losing his mind…”

Well, that is not entirely the case. I did not vote for the urgent exec. And was caught off guard that the country was so angry that it elected him. And they were.

But my anger does not an unreasoned opponent make. There are plenty of reasons to reject the candidates policies.

Bailouts, were in question when they were first proposed under Pres. Bush’s admin.

Healthcare, has never gone overwell as a government program, it was pressed under a good deal of fear concerning economic collapse.

Enough of the party has supported regime change that your comment loses any veracity at all. And many in the party are on track with Sec Clinton and are lobbying for more war in: Syria, Libya, the Ukraine, still pressing for action in Iran, may decide o push against Syria and certainly Russia . . . Your push completely falls apart

I dare not bring up China and the opportunities via Philippine UNCLOS dispute

Foreign trade . . . your suggestion is but a red in the wind.

And on immigration . . . I will some nonsense someone gave me today . . . as a yada yada yada

These are some of the issues that have caused a split between the nominees that lost and the rest, including those in office. Note, I remember well the inauguration of Pres. Bush. Near riots in the streets. I find it amazing that Pres, Bush would align himself with the democrats after that display. And the subsequent policies of the Sec and the rest.

Ha it not been for Sept. 11, everything spelled a raucous tenure.

Sorry, that dog of noncooperation simply won’t hunt.

#17 Comment By Wes On October 14, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

I swear…there is something about the artsy folks that become writers – and font’ get me wrong I truly cherish them as we all should, but there is something about them that elevates emotion and abstraction over concrete reality.

#18 Comment By Matt On October 14, 2016 @ 2:20 pm

Noah, you focus entirely too much on Trump after the election.

Once he loses there will be not much reason for the media to pay attention to him.

for the zillionth time, it isn’t Trump that needs to be understood, its the Trump voter. They will still be there. Is Trumpism (America first foreign policy, protectionist economics, immigration restrictionism) a viable electoral politics or was it all just a love affair with his bouffant? That is the question of the day.

#19 Comment By Charlieford On October 14, 2016 @ 11:07 pm

One problem is most of us move in limited circles of the like-minded. Whatever else we know of America comes from television.

So we miss the fact that for a whole lot of Americans, the last 50 years never happened. Or at least, they haven’t kept up. In fact they’ve resisted.

Racism, Antisemitism, sexism are all alive and well, and Trump has shown how to catch that wave.

He won’t be the last.

#20 Comment By Brian Stone On October 15, 2016 @ 4:13 am

I’m getting really f&%@ing tired of people telling me that I’ve said and done the stuff Trump has. (Since I am presumably part of “everybody”)

No, I haven’t. Ever. Not even close. And if you have, even once, you are a piece of human filth and possibly a criminal.

#21 Comment By John Willson On October 15, 2016 @ 8:29 am

Pseudo-sophisticated nonsense.

#22 Comment By RMThoughts On October 15, 2016 @ 10:54 am

Trump can atone for his own sins. Yom Kippur bagin Tuesday evening, September 22. On Yom Kippur the infamous Kol Nidrei takes place. Kol Nidrei is a ceremony whereby:

All the perjury you will commit in the coming year and all contracts you will sign and violate in the coming year, and all the promises you will break in the coming year — are absolved, with no heavenly punishment accruing as a result.

That’s the reality of Yom Kippur’s Kol Nidrei rite, and it’s one reason why Yom Kippur is the best-attended of all of Judaism’s synagogue ceremonies. Talmudists like to have an edge and during Yom Kippur that entails making God a senior partner in the sting – making God into an accomplice to deceit and oath-breaking, surrounded by a hypocritical show of piety and penance.

You have to pity people ensnared in this sordid charade of cajoling God into helping them cheat.

#23 Comment By Throw Them To The Lions On October 15, 2016 @ 12:36 pm

You can get all weepy and meditative about Trump if you like. Seems like a rather trivial subject for Yom Kippur, but your call.

In situations like this I sometimes find myself asking “what would Iggy do?”. (I refer to Jim Osterberg.) The answer is often wonderfully clarifying.

[6]

So his history’s a little mixed up, like Trump’s, but close enough for rock ‘n roll: what’s it gonna be? Agrippina? Commodus? Clinton? Trump? Take your pick …

#24 Comment By JSebastian On October 15, 2016 @ 9:52 pm

Trump isn’t a “destroyer”…you traitors at the American Conservative have revealed yourselves as the leftists you really are – the disgusting commie filth of our society.

In a perfect world, all you scum would be lined up and shot….because it is YOU who are attempting to destroy Western Civilization, and we are NOT going to let you do it. Try it and see what happens! Go on, give it a shot!

#25 Comment By Andrew On October 17, 2016 @ 11:52 pm

It would be more encouraging if you guys knew you were basically talking to yourselves, the anti-Trump hysterics. There’s more than enough of it in the MSM; it would be more encouraging if you and Dreher and Ross Douthat and some of those we expect to be saner weren’t giving off so many signs of being blissfully ignorant about this. It’s just depressing otherwise. Most people don’t see Trump through this hyperventilated tinted lens. It’s actually very understandable how he became the nominee.

#26 Comment By PAXNOW On October 26, 2016 @ 12:19 am

He is more like Christmas. A present for us who have given up in many ways and ceded the ruling to the tight reins of the cabal. I do agree – his loss will not end the spark of nationalism he ignited.