Trump’s tweets about Elijah Cummings and Baltimore were effective

Trump’s tweets about Elijah Cummings and Baltimore were effective
(Image via Twitter)

Jim Geraghty did an extended critical treatment in his “Morning Jolt,” posted at National Review’s The Corner on Monday, of Trump’s tweets from the weekend about Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and the Baltimore district he represents.

In a 1240-word tour d’horizon of shortcomings – Trump’s and Cummings’s – Geraghty managed to entirely miss the point of Trump’s tweets.  Geraghty offers this, for example:

Cummings has real flaws. He’s had serious personal financial problems in the past — having more than $30,000 in unpaid federal taxes in the mid-1990s, having a campaign donor co-sign a loan, court fights to pay overdue bills. (No doubt Trump is familiar with that.) He fathered two children out of wedlock, and paid child support and for his children’s education. He’s been let off the hook for driving a car without insurance. His wife’s charity received generous contributions from donors who have business before Cummings’s committee. He accepted donations from a businessman convicted of tax evasion, then donated the equivalent to charity. His wife called Maryland governor Larry Hogan “a dog whistle white nationalist.” He was one of 75 House Democrats who voted to keep funding ACORN after the infamous videos from James O’Keefe.

All of this information about him was a Google search away, and provided fodder for plenty of specific, credible criticism of Cummings. But Trump chose to go with the “your district is a rat-infested mess” line of attack.

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Well, yes.  The reason Trump chose to do that was painfully obvious from the first words of his first tweet on the matter, which Geraghty actually quotes:

Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA. . .

. . . .As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place

Those who consider it childish, boorish, simplistic, whatever, for Trump to defend the Border Patrol in this way against Cummings’s attack during a hearing on 18 July (a mendacious, demagogic, and unfair attack) have every right to their opinion.  But they’re wasting their time making such points.

Cummings’s original remarks, unfiltered:

Jim Geraghty wasted even more time shifting the premise of his argument to the proposition that Trump meant only to personally discredit Cummings.  That’s obviously not what Trump’s focus was.

Trump intended to contrast Cummings’s unfounded accusations about the Border Patrol and conditions on the U.S. border with well-founded accusations about conditions in Cummings’s district.  LU’s alert Ben Bowles, in fact, had no trouble discerning that in his earlier article on the topic.

The important difference between Trump’s tweets and Geraghty’s proposed line of attack is not in whose was polite or socially intelligent.  Let us agree to give Geraghty that award.

The difference is that Trump’s tweets achieved two signal political effects.

I will state up-front my conviction that Geraghty’s litany against Cummings would have had no political effect whatsoever, other than to elicit perfunctory charges of “racism” from the mainstream media.  That litany against Cummings has been repeated regularly for years, because it’s been around that long, without ever having a useful political effect.

Thing One

Trump’s tweets, by contrast, were effective.  The first effect, a very big one, is that they broke the momentum of the combined-forces attack from the Left on the Border Patrol and ICE.

They broke it so effectively that no one even remembers now how short a time ago the airwaves were filled with demon-shrieks about the Border Patrol as an Orc Army wreaking havoc and destruction on innocent women and children at our Border of Death, and about ICE as the cave-troll gate guard for the detention mines of Moria where the pit of destruction is kept.

Instead, the mainstream media are now chanting “racist, racist, racist” about Trump, in the context of videos of obviously rat-infested trash piles behind the homes of unfortunate residents in Baltimore, while Democrats and Republicans alike – in the most tin-eared fashion possible – are making this whole thing about tone, seemliness, and the honor of Elijah Cummings.

Like him or loathe him, Trump has found the secret of breaking the info-ops momentum of the Left.  When the Left is trying to railroad America extra-constitutionally into selling every last vestige of liberty, rights, and the rule of law down the river, as it is with the info-ops campaigns against border security, Trump’s ability to simply shatter a line of effort with a handful of tweets is an absolute blessing.

Thing Two

The other effect was to focus attention in a way nothing else has on the real problems in Cummings’s district in Baltimore.  As Jim Geraghty says, the district contains other neighborhoods and areas that are far better off.  But the area with the boarded-up windows, the untended yards, the unpicked-up trash, the dumped piles, the vermin, the crime, the glazed eyes and depression and loss of hope – that area is real.  And until Trump put out his abrasive tweets, it was getting attention only occasionally, from local news and the odd, quickly-forgotten, retail-politics-focused visit by public officials with camera crews.

Yet this pattern in Baltimore is the reality behind the riots there in 2015 after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, and the appalling, ever-climbing number of homicides.  Most of us are old enough to remember 2015, when the pictures and videos were all of the rioting and property destruction: young men climbing on cars, torching them, breaking windows, stealing from shops, taunting and throwing projectiles at police.

What we didn’t see then was the kind of videos and images that have come out prominently in the wake of Trump’s tweets.  And that’s important, because what’s come out in the last 72 hours is material millions of people can relate to.

Why doesn’t the trash get picked up?  Where are city services?  What if my yard looked like that, because people were coming by and dumping trash in it?  What if I were one of the householders still making an effort to keep a tidy yard, cheek-by-jowl with a pile of mattresses and broken appliances and oozing bags of filth – a yard with a painted railing on a neatly swept back stoop, and a grill and picnic table arranged bravely for summer nights?

Sean Hannity and Lawrence Jones had a segment on Monday’s Fox broadcast in which Jones interviewed a number of those residents.  If we got such interviews in 2015, I don’t recall seeing them.

Somehow, what Trump’s tweets have brought out is evidence beyond the heavily politicized talking points about inner cities, discontent, and riots.  We’re being reminded of previous coverage of the actual problems faced by residents in some parts of Baltimore.  We’re seeing the actual problems, and the actual people.

We’re seeing why the rituals of conventional politics mean so little to those people, just as they mean little to the Trump voters who had been losing their jobs, their home equity, their life savings, their sense of freedom and hope, before Trump came along in 2015.

I admit, I didn’t see Trump in 2015 or even 2016 as a beacon of hope.  (I thought even then that he was better than electing Hillary Clinton.)  I tend to find my beacon of hope elsewhere, and I’m OK with that.

But I think you have to be blind to not recognize by now that his effect is to get the problems of actual people in the public’s face.   He exposes – for good, in a useful and meaningful way – the deceptive emptiness of our politics, and the priorities of our political class, for their problems.

It will be mildly interesting to see if it makes any difference to the relevance of GOP politics, for the congressional Republicans to hold their annual retreat in Baltimore, as they reportedly plan to do.  The Washington Post implicitly offered this as an example of Republicans trying to distance themselves from Trump, although WaPo didn’t have a lot of places to go with that hackneyed theme.  It doesn’t do the Left any good to talk up “Republicans going to Baltimore”; it just makes the Republicans sound kind of more woke than the Left, for a least a few inches of column.

Especially when a group of Democrats is off on a CODEL jaunt at a pricey hotel in Venice, Italy.  (Reports that Cummings is there with them seem to be incorrect, so be advised: that is not a claim being made by Liberty Unyielding.)

But these exertions are just fresh examples of how politicians capering about the countryside lobbing the same old bumper-sticker talking points at each other are basically nothing but a burden on the people now – and Trump is not one of those politicians.  He doesn’t talk like one, he doesn’t act like one, and they all hate him.  The media say so.  What the media don’t understand is that more and more of the people see that as a feature, not a bug.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.