Trump is certainly the host of the pity party. He whines his approval ratings should be as high as those for respected doctors (whom he trashes). He moans that polls are rigged and concern about the pandemic is a “hoax,” meant to depress the economy and deprive him of a second term. (You would think an authoritarian wannabe would fear being seen as a crybaby by real autocrats such as Vladimir Putin.)
Trump’s allies in Congress are even worse. During what was otherwise one of the better congressional oversight hearings, Democrats grilled four tech executives — Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon (who owns The Post), Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Google — on alleged predatory practices. Deploying evidence gathered over months of investigation, they probed and punched. Did Apple copy other companies’ apps and give preference to its own? Did Amazon gobble up data on third-party sellers to put them out of business? Had Google gone from a “turnstile” on the Internet to the destroyer of other search companies? And does Facebook buy other companies to control the market? Granted, Democrats frequently did not give the executives time to respond. But they asked germane questions that got to fundamental questions about monopolistic power and its adverse effect on competitors and consumers.
The Republicans? With few exceptions, they whined. Why wasn’t Trump’s son allowed to hawk hydroxychloroquine on Facebook? (It was on Twitter, and it was because the platform didn’t want unproven claims to endanger public health. The real question is why they let Trump do the same.) Why is it more difficult to find a story by a right-wing conspiracy mongering site on Google? (Maybe because relatively few people are interested in such blather?) They mostly groused that Facebook is “biased” against conservatives — even though some of the most trafficked items are from right-wing sites. The evidence was anecdotal, and it was all about them. They and their followers are victims, you see (despite talk radio, an entire cable TV “news” empire, Breitbart, Daily Caller and a horde of other mouthpieces for Trump). Such complaints have nothing to do with the lives of everyday Americans or the concerns for American entrepreneurs. They are about their exaggerated sense of victimhood.
Most of the “culture war” that consumes Trump and his base is about white Christians objecting to others calling out racist totems. It is their “history” (including the fairy tale of the “Lost Cause”) that is being erased when Americans decide to remove statues of traitorous white nationalists from our streets and to take off the names of those who took up arms against the U.S. Army from our military bases. And it is their fragile white suburbs that Trump promises he will protect by keeping “low-income housing” out of their neighborhoods.
Increasingly, the Republican Party has adopted an agenda of hurt feelings and seething resentment. The focus is inward-looking and not on the lives of ordinary Americans. As Robert P. Jones puts it in his new book, “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity”: “By activating the white supremacy sequence within white Christian DNA, which was primed for receptivity by the perceived external threat of racial and cultural change in the country, Trump was able to convert white evangelicals in the course of a single political campaign from so-called values voters to ‘nostalgia voters.’ ” … [H]e evoked powerful fears about the loss of white Christian dominance amid a rapidly changing environment.”
When so intently focused on recapturing a mythical past to alleviate Republicans’ sense of loss, the party becomes a vehicle for self-therapy and for assuaging a sense of resentment. To justify this self-absorption, they must engage in a perpetual search for evidence that justifies racism and xenophobia. This is not a governing philosophy. This is not a problem-solving movement. The reason Republicans are forever screaming and whining and accusing others is simple: Victimhood and self-pity is becoming the core of what the GOP is about. This surely is not the manly party it pretends to be.
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