Do you think Trump is the whole problem? Well, don’t…

I’ve made this point a bunch of times, but having been reminded of it the last two or three days, I thought I’d share it again once or twice.

Over the weekend, my friend Steve Millies in Chicago tweeted this:

What got me going was those last few words, “We should be capable of recognizing him as what he is, never voting for him.” Well, indeed. Anyone who walks into a voting booth should find the idea of voting for him unthinkable. But the problem is, there’s a big difference between should and the way things are. So I responded:

And there you have placed your finger upon the problem with America. Trump isn’t the problem. The problem is that there are actually people who will vote for him. Millions of them. And frankly, I don’t know how we solve that problem…

As regular readers will have noted, I’ve been trying to sort that out since 2016, when something happened that had never even come close to happening in our history. For the first time, American voters were willing to vote for someone as low, crude and grossly unqualified as Trump — enough of them to actually elect him.

Trump had been embarrassing himself on a public stage since sometime in the 1980s. But now, there were all these millions of people who thought he was a great choice to become the most powerful man in the world.

And those same people would do it again.

Anyway, this morning while working out, I got around to listening to Friday’s Matter of Opinion podcast, which was dedicated to the question, “Should Trump Be on the Ballot?” It was provoked, obviously, by the Supreme Court deciding to take up the question after recent developments in Colorado and Maine.

At some point, conservative Catholic columnist Ross Douthat said the following:

A deeper question here is just, do you think that the challenge to American democracy is just all about Donald Trump himself alone, this one guy, this distinctive figure, this reality TV show, proto-fascist, billionaire, whatever. And if we can just make him go away, things will go back to normal.

Do you think that? Because if you think that, then I can see how you start to talk yourself into the idea that this is a good idea, and you say to yourself, look, I’m sure that a majority of the Republicans on the Supreme Court do not want Donald Trump to be president again. So why shouldn’t they just wave a magic wand and get rid of him? Nikki Haley can run the table or maybe DeSantis could make a comeback. One of them will beat Donald Trump. Everything will go back to normal.

And that’s sort of a view that I had for the first year or so of the Trump phenomenon. And I guess, I don’t understand how at this point, with everything we’ve seen in Europe, in North America, around the world, that you could think of Trump as just sort of a force that you can just make go away, and everything will go back to normal. But clearly, there are people who think that. So that’s what I’m interested in, I guess, again, having thought that once myself…

Which brings us again to the question: If Trump goes away, does the problem go away?

I don’t think so. The problem is bigger and more complicated than that. If you want to paint a picture of it, it’s not going to be a portrait of this one weird guy. It’s going to be more like a Bosch painting. Good luck making sense of it…

14 thoughts on “Do you think Trump is the whole problem? Well, don’t…

  1. Ken

    The same might be said of a number of other world leaders:
    If Putin went away, would Russia be fixed? No, but it might be a step (or two) in the right direction.
    Same with Orban. Or Erdogan. Or Kim Jong Un. Or … the list goes on.

    This isn’t a matter of one-shot solutions.

    So, no, getting rid of Trump wouldn’t fix the electorate that votes for him.
    But it would sure help.

  2. DougT

    I think I’ve posted this before.

    George Wallace won the Michigan (among others) Democratic Primary. Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire Primary?
    That group of voters will not only not go away, they will grow because of Fox News, Tucker Carlson, etc etc.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, yeah — but that was it. There was never a real danger that either of them would become president. The system worked. I mean the system that relies on American voters not being stark, raving mad.

      I’d be happy, very happy, to return to the America we had in 2012. Even though the stirrings of crazy was running through the SC GOP — it was the first time since I had been working in SC that primary voters had gone with someone other than the safe, establishment Republican; they went with Gingrich — things were otherwise pretty normal still. There were murmurings about Trump running that year, but the electorate still reacted about the way they would have in any previous election in our history — they ignored him.

      I was at the SC GOP convention that year, and I tweeted this from the scene:

      I later wrote about what went through my mind when I tweeted that:

      This young man was the only person I encountered at the convention who expressed his wish that that would change.

      I distinctly remember debating with myself whether to post that. I didn’t want to seem to be holding the young man up to ridicule for advocating for something outlandish. But it seemed newsworthy, in something between a man-bites-dog and take-note-of way, that someone was actually pushing this position. So I compromised with myself. I merely noted the fact, with his explanation of why he was for Trump, without comment from me of any kind.

      The Tweet was mainly ignored. One person reTweeted it, I now see. Probably not approvingly, given what I see on her feed.

      Look how far we’ve come now. That one young man, we now know, was a harbinger. The first robin of spring (or, if you’re of a more apocalyptic mind, the first White Walker of Winter.)…

      Indeed. And it happened so fast, between 2012 and 2016…

  3. Doug Ross

    The problem was Hillary. Trump was the response. Then Biden was the response to Trump. And later this year, the public will correct the Biden mistake. Until we have better candidates, the cycle will continue.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, I’ll ask you again, in my constant quest to get you to say something helpful and constructive:

      You say “the public will correct the Biden mistake.” I’ll set aside the absurd assertion that Joe is a “mistake, and just ask, How? What will be this solution? What will be this good outcome for the country?

      You’re always about how stupid everybody is and how horrible everything is, and never offer even a hint of something that could be construed as Here’s how to fix it. And I mean something credible, not something like “elect Tulsi,” which you know people aren’t going to do. Something real, based upon the actual choices available to voters in the real world…

      1. Doug Ross

        I offer solution all the time — it starts with the parties not putting up terrible candidates. If they continue to put up terrible candidates like Trump, Biden, and Hillary, nothing will change. And that comes down to voters who are mostly ignorant and easily brainwashed waking up and forcing change.

        Choosing between Biden and Trump doesn’t solve a thing. Personally, I didn’t experience or see any big change in the country under Trump pre-COVID aside from the constant media and Democrat attempts to bring him down. Biden has been no better than Trump for the country. He hasn’t made a single attempt to do the one thing he said he would do – unite the country. Nothing. And now he’s in angry old man mode trying to paint every Republican as a MAGA fascist loving Nazi. It’s predictable, boring, and the act of a guy who knows he can’t win on his record.

        [edited to the relevant part, cutting out the ad hominem rant about how “hilarious” I am]

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          OK, let’s try again. Perhaps I can be clearer. What I’m asking is for you to tell us voters what we can do in the current situation, AS IT EXISTS.

          Right now, what is the course that each of us should follow that would be the best, or at least the least bad, for the country. That’s what I was asking you for. If you find yourself saying, “it starts with the parties not putting up terrible candidates,” you’ve turned away from the question — at least, as you perceive the world.

          You think Joe Biden is “a terrible candidate,” when he’s just fine, and doing a good job. You’re on the right track with Trump, however.

          But here’s the thing. YOU can’t do anything about what “the parties” put up. It’s made even more impossible by the fact that parties don’t “put up” candidates any more. The candidates put themselves up. Trump is the perfect example of a case in which “the party” would have done pretty much anything to keep him from capturing the nomination in 2016.

          But when we moved away from delegates and leadership choosing the nominee at conventions, that went away for good. With primaries and caucuses making the decisions, the party gets stuck with what the party gets stuck with.

          But back to the question: What should we do in this situation? Which is sort of another way of asking, how should each of us vote, and how will it help? Because that’s what’s available to us…

        2. Barry

          I agree that we don’t have the best candidates. But our system isn’t designed to provide the “best” candidates- whatever that means.

          I don’t think “uniting the country” is impossible. I think it’s sort of a meaningless phrase too.

          It’s like a new pastor saying his goal if for everyone in the church to agree on every theological point. Not happening. Shouldn’t be a goal anyway.

          Trump’s lawyer arguing in court yesterday, with Trump present, that he was immune from prosecution from ordering the death of his political rival was revealing (but not surprising) of Trump’s lack of character/humanity/morality.

  4. Doug Ross

    Looks like the case against Trump in Georgia is going to fall apart pretty soon.. the prosecutor paid her boyfriend 600k of tax dollars (he’s in the middle of a divorce) to serve on the Trump car and he turned around and booked several vacations for the two of them. The credit card statements provided by the guy’s wife are a smoking gun that will literally bring them both down. It was a weak case anyway.. and every stupid charge like this makes Trump look like he’s being persecuted..

    “Special prosecutor Nathan Wade purchased airline tickets he and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis used for trips to San Francisco, Miami and Aruba, according to a court motion filed Friday.

    The filing, on behalf of Joycelyn Wade in her divorce case with Nathan Wade, included detailed credit card statements. They appear to bolster allegations of a romantic relationship between Nathan Wade and Willis. The trips took place in 2022 and 2023, after Willis had hired Wade as special prosecutor in the probe of election subversion by Donald Trump and his allies.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, that’s been pretty widely reported.

      I haven’t paid much attention to it, though. I haven’t paid much attention to any of the cases. No one’s explained to me what it has to do with the substance of the Trump case. I was hoping you would…

  5. Ralph Hightower

    Both parties f’ed up in 2016. The Democrats picked Hillary because it was “her turn”. The Republicans chose an unqualified, temperamental, belligerent candidate.

    I can only surmise why Trump ran for president. In Trump’s four floor Trump Tower apartment, one of Trump’s sons said “Father, when I grow up, I want to be president.”
    Trump responded “Here Barron. Hold my beer. Watch this!”

    As Senator Graham (T-SC) once said “The Republican party is bat sh*t crazy.”


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