The headline bombastically claimed the speech “may have been the most hate-filled in modern history,” which Gerson later qualifies as “the most hate-filled presidential communication.”
I’m glad he at least made that distinction, or we’d be arguing in Godwin’s law territory. In any case, was there any salient difference between this particular Trump rally speech and any other he’s ever given? Not really. Trump’s rallies are his opportunity to vent his spleen, speak extemporaneously in a stream-of-consciousness, and make absolutely no point at all except he’s a good guy in a world filled with “incompetent, dishonest” people (e.g. the media).
Trump fans eat it up like liberals binge-watching Steven Colbert.
Gerson made two errors in his analysis. First, he shouldn’t watch a Trump rally after reading Vaclav Havel. That’s like having the tasting menu at The French Laundry personally served by chef Thomas Keller for dinner, followed by a birthday cake shake at Zaxby’s for dessert. The combination is going to cause a gastric volcano.
The second, and most serious error, is piling all of his bile on Trump.
The great temptation, in Havel’s view, is for people to conclude that politics can’t be better — that it “is chiefly the manipulation of power and public opinion, and that morality has no place in it.” This demoralized view of politics would mean losing “the idea that the world might actually be changed by the force of truth, the power of a truthful word, the strength of a free spirit, conscience and responsibility.”
And Trump read “The Snake” lyrics to an appreciative crowd. Trump is merely the messenger here, not the source of the message. The message is that people are tired of being herded into a glorious progressive future by nanny-state liberals, who chiefly use the “manipulation of power and public opinion,” minus the Biblical morality upon which our country was founded.
Who first abandoned the “truthful word, the strength of a free spirit, conscience and responsibility?” Donald Trump is the shot fired across the bow–or even the ordnance fired for effect–by an American public so jaded by a liberal press, entertainment and political establishment that forces a distorted and false view of reality down the gullets of Americans.
“Genuine politics,” argues Havel, “is simply a matter of serving those around us; serving the community, and serving those who will come after us.” And this responsibility grows out of a moral and spiritual reality. “Genuine conscience and genuine responsibility are always, in the end, explicable only as an expression of the silent assumption that we are observed ‘from above,’ that everything is visible, nothing is forgotten.”
Trump carried Pennsylvania and all the other states that won him the election, because his message, as coarse and corrupt as it is, is less corrupt and distasteful than the tripe liberals have been foisting on the electorate. It’s easier to identify with the fact that not all motives of all immigrants are pure than the rainbow unicorn view that everyone in the world agrees with us.
The alternative to Trumpism is the democratic faith: that people, in the long run, will choose decency and progress over the pleasures of malice. The belief that they will choose the practice of kindness and courtesy. The conviction that God blesses the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the stranger. Faith in the power of the truthful word.
Incorrect. The alternative to Trumpism is faith in a moral lawgiver–the Creator God. Otherwise, words like “decency and progress” are mere expressions of opinion. Either there is a God who has imbued us with certain inalienable rights, or we are simply people subject to each other’s opinions of what rights we possess. The first path leads to true righteousness (“the quality of being morally right or justifiable”), and the other leads to Jacobinism.
Gerson claimed that Trump has normalized the language of hatred. That’s wrong. The language of hatred, fear, racism, and violence has always been with us. Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have done far more to advance its normalization than Trump, who is merely the messenger for those who don’t possess the expanded vocabulary to use euphemisms when the lyrics of “The Snake” will do.
If we want to bring American politics back to a more moral footing, we must start with society. But it’s foolish to lay all of the blame at Trump’s feet.
C.S. Lewis wrote “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” If Trump is painful and shouting, look to God, who is less than a whisper among devil-may-care liberals. Attend to the pain, but don’t blame it for the disease.