It turns out there are two Americas.
There’s the America that got through the Trump inauguration without doing this:
An anti-Trump protester screams 'no' as Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th US President pic.twitter.com/qmsaFmMSkr
— ITV News (@itvnews) January 20, 2017
And there’s the America that didn’t.
Today, Saturday, 21 January, the first America is doing things like being at work (earning a living), stacking sandbags because there’s another storm coming in, recreating with the kids because it’s Saturday and time is precious, watching the NBA games, preparing to watch the NFL conference championships tomorrow, getting in some target practice at the range, doing the weekly chores, knitting, whittling, painting, singing, reading, snowboarding, weightlifting, volunteering, playing bagpipes, playing chess, having ritual cigars and brandy, hanging out with the other old coots at the doughnut shop, shopping eBay and Amazon for people’s upcoming birthdays, barbecuing in the snow (because who doesn’t?), picking up trash on highways, driving miles and miles to visit in-laws and grands, attending concerts, ice-skating, parasailing, going to cooking class, and kvetching on Facebook about, among other things, the decline and fall of English grammar.
The second America, meanwhile, has been shrieking about Trump for weeks, continued shrieking about Trump throughout the inauguration ceremony on Friday, and is now shrieking about Trump some more.
The folks on the left I understand. Let’s say I’m not surprised by them. They see Trump as a threat to the political privileges they have had for the last 25 years, amplified and empowered by both the media and the overblown bureaucracies of America’s federal, state, and big-city governments.
The left-wing protesters can’t articulate how Trump threatens their actual rights, of course. That’s because he doesn’t. But in general, the activist left is simply reacting in what has become its typical pattern.
The folks on the right, on the other hand, have had the power to surprise me. Some of their reactions to Trump’s inauguration speech have bordered on unhinged. Even the elegant and unflappable George Will simply lost it yesterday, and he wasn’t the only one.
Regulars readers know that I haven’t by any means been a card-carrying Trump supporter. I still have my concerns about what he’s going to do. But I’ve been a politically engaged person basically my entire life (do let me know if you spent two summer weeks watching the political conventions on TV, utterly mesmerized, when you were younger than eight); I’ve been an old-school “Reagan conservative” for all of it; and I simply don’t feel this itchy, visceral animosity toward Trump that’s coming from the right.
I get the disappointment about voters preferring Trump. I preferred Cruz. But I don’t get the need to – well, to caterwaul about Trump. To try and prove something – what? – by letting loose with undisciplined barrages of adjectives and epithets. I don’t know; he just doesn’t provoke that in me.
What I see instead, with Trump at the helm, is an improvement in strategic position for some if not all of the essentials of liberty, economic regeneration, and American survival. Our situation has genuinely come within hailing distance of desperate in the last few years, and actual shifts in our footing are what we really need. Those improvements are more important than the tone of Trump’s discourse. The improvements aren’t guaranteed, but there is a foreseeable path to some of them now.
I even think Trump brings politically kinetic qualities that will be more effective than the stately kabuki dance of posturing and suasion we’ve grown accustomed to.
In fact, instead of kabuki, let’s use football. The Republicans, no matter how well they fare in the draft every two years, have hung onto a coaching staff that tries to run it up the middle on every play, regardless of how obvious it is, and how many times it fails. On defense, the staff seems to have signed some agreement to be suckered by the play-action whenever the Democrats pull it.
The Republican team plays every game in sheer terror of losing the ball by taking a risk. Punting every fourth play, and losing over and over? That’s fine. Rules adhered to, risks minimized. Check; check. But the fans are awfully tired of that.
I know there are a lot of people in the first America who really like Trump, and many who probably see things in him that aren’t there. Why this is so annoying to some of our legacy leaders on the right escapes me. There hasn’t been a single political figure in my lifetime about whom that could not be said.
But it appears to me that Trump’s vociferous critics on the right are every bit as blinded about him as some of his most uncritical supporters may be. In that sense, it’s a weird situation.
Still, the dividing line seems to fall right where I outlined it above. If you’re able to get on with your life this weekend, feeling no compulsive urge to howl and beat your chest about Trump, or even to register genteel disgust about him, you’re in the first America. Doesn’t mean you’re a card-carrying Trumpista. From where I sit, it means you’ve maintained some perspective – as many a dubious, worried American did when Obama first took office.
If you just have to shriek, you’re in the second America.
But here’s the thing. The shrieking is already going in one ear and out the other, for most people in the first America. It’s just a noise machine at this point. And frankly, it’s legitimate to stop taking it seriously. The noise it makes is not the sound of an actionable political position about anything. There’s nothing to work with there; nothing to reach out to or deliberate sensibly. It’s just a primal scream.
I see a lot of people issuing a taunt on social media: that the anti-Trump throng, with its profanity and vandalism and setting people on fire, is merely guaranteeing that Trump will win again in 2020. And, you know, they’re right. The first America will never sign up to be jerked around in a dysfunctional relationship with the tantrum-throwing second.
Declaring its independence from that dysfunctional pattern is a big part of what the first America did in 2016, by electing Trump. The first America will do it again. The tantrums aren’t going to work as intended – no matter which side of the aisle they come from.
For my part, I have less and less interest in chronicling the tantrums. I see all the angry faces, and think what a waste it is. So much human potential, so misdirected. No one learns to be happy by studying anger and resentment, and I think we really need to keep that in mind as the days unfold before us. The last thing we should do is encourage the second America to keep fanning its own attitude of irrational despair.