Michael Gerson on Trumpian moral obscenity

Michael Gerson was George W. Bush’s chief speech writer and now writes for the Washington Post. A conservative Republican, he has unrelentingly called out Trump’s awfulness. Trump is a black hole of moral obscenity that sucks in and perverts everything and everyone around him. The Republican party has fallen into that black hole. A recent Gerson column (see below) shows this.

Trump says the press is against him. Yes, there’s a liberal media bias. But more fundamentally it’s biased in favor of truth, decency, and sanity. Trump assaults all three. So is the press against him? Not strongly enough, in my view. Mainstream media still employs a basically temperate tone, almost as though he’s just another president, as though “President Trump repeated his lie . . . ” is a more or less normal news story. It is not. It is the crash-and-burn of American civic culture.

Trump telephoned Philippine President Duterte to congratulate him for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” What is unbelievable about it is literally thousands of murders, outside the law; and that Trump would praise such moral obscenity.

We’re not supposed to blame his supporters. But I’ve had enough about how their feelings must be understood. They are ignorant fools conned by a con man. That was obvious long before November to anyone with open eyes. But Trumpites blind theirs with partisan paranoia. Voting for that vile creep was stupid irresponsibility that greatly damaged America. It is not being made “great again” but sunk in a sewer.

Here is Gerson’s column (my shortened version):

To many on the left, the embrace of Seth Rich conspiracy theories by conservative media figures was merely a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul.

Seth Rich and Hannity

But for those of us who remember that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were once relatively mainstream Reaganites, their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing.

The cruel exploitation of the memory of Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead last summer, was horrifying and clarifying. The Hannity right, without evidence, accused Rich rather than the Russians of leaking damaging DNC emails. In doing so, it has proved its willingness to credit anything — no matter how obviously deceptive or toxic — to defend President Trump and harm his opponents — becoming a megaphone for Russian influence.

How could conservative media figures not have felt — in their hearts and bones — the God-awful ickiness of it? How did simple humanity get turned off? Is this insensibility the risk of prolonged exposure to our radioactive political culture?

But this failure of decency is also politically symbolic. Who legitimized conspiracy thinking at the highest level? Who raised the possibility that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Who hinted that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the death of Vince Foster, or that unnamed liberals might have killed Justice Antonin Scalia? Who not only questioned President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but raised the prospect of the murder of a Hawaiian state official in a coverup? [Gerson failed to mention the wiretapping lie.]

We have a president charged with maintaining public health who asserts that vaccination is a dangerous scam of greedy doctors. We have a president who falsely accused thousands of Muslims of celebrating in the streets following the 9/11 attacks.

In this mental environment, alleging a Rich-related conspiracy was predictable. This is the mainstreaming of destructive craziness.

Those conservatives who believe that the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch is sufficient justification for the Trump presidency are ignoring Trump’s psychic and moral destruction of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Trump is doing harm beyond anything Clinton could have done, changing the party’s most basic moral and political orientations. He is shaping conservatism in his image and ensuring an eventual defeat more complete, and an eventual exile more prolonged, than Democrats could have dreamed.

The conservative mind has become diseased. The movement has been seized by a kind of discrediting madness, in which conspiracy delusions figure prominently. With the blessings of a president, they have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion. They have allowed political polarization to reach their hearts, and harden them. They have allowed polarization to dominate their minds, and empty them.

Conspiracy theories often involve a kind of dehumanization. The narrative of conspiracy takes precedence over the meaning of a life and the suffering of a family. A human being is made into an ideological prop on someone else’s stage — fully consistent with other forms of dehumanization — of migrants, refugees and “the other” more generally. This also involves callousness, cruelty and conspiracy thinking.

In Trump’s political world, this project of dehumanization is far along. The future of conservatism now depends on its capacity for revulsion. And it is not at all clear whether this capacity still exists.

One Response to “Michael Gerson on Trumpian moral obscenity”

  1. Lee Says:

    Of Trump’s lies, some that matter the most are his so-called policies, including (1) we’re going to help the poor by cutting the top income tax rate to 25% and corporate income tax rates even more; (2) we’re going to help the afflicted by substantially cutting subsidies for poor people to buy health insurance; (3) we’re going to get past this climate change thing by removing incentives for clean energy; (4) we’re going to expand individual freedoms by outlawing abortion; and (5) we are going to improve national infrastructure and create US jobs by cutting federal infrastructure spending and passing the burden to the states.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s