Frank Bruni has an interesting opinion piece in today’s New York Times: it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately but wasn’t able to formulate as clearly as he did. Now that he’s written it, I can refer to it and sound smart.
The gist of it is this: if we respond to every “bad thing” Trump hints at, says, or does as if it’s the end of the world, when the real end of the world comes, we won’t even recognize it. Worse, we can’t blame the Republican for defending their boy if we’re going to go nuts over every slight: they’re going to come to his defense.
The tax bill is one such example. It’s bad, and it’s going to get worse with time. And I’ve screamed like everyone else at the lowering of the corporate taxes. But it’s also true that the Democrats have pushed virtually the same cuts in corporate taxes for years. Slashes to Medicaid loom, and there will be attacks on so-called entitlements, but if we’re fighting this tax non-battle now, what do have left when the bad stuff comes?
Yes we all stood aghast as Trump touted coal as some panacea for American manufacturing. Of course he’s an idiot for even thinking it, but what is the real result going to be? Hundreds of coal miners recently lost their jobs because the demand isn’t there. It’s not coming back—we can let that go.
Trump’s environmental philosophy is an abomination, true, but individual states (even some of the red ones) continue programs they began years go to reduce emissions and fund renewable energy. Trump may plan to rape the earth, but many states and most foreign countries look on things differently.
My worries have more to do with the lack of an America in the world, and that’s where we’re headed. Our isolationism and unilateralism are already playing badly, and I can’t imagine any improvement, especially with a depleted State Department and a Secretary of State who lacks experience and thinks his boss is a moron. And there’s the Russia investigation, and there’s his misogyny and xenophobia, and there’s the fact that his base comprises white supremacists, Klansmen, and garden-variety racists. These are the subjects to scream about, because they have nothing to do with policy and can only embarrass his party.
I do understand why McCain and Collins and Corker and others fell in line on the tax deal, but they won’t support Trump’s personal frailties, his crudeness and ignorance, if we can learn to separate them from policy.
The saying has always been “pick your battles.” It’s hard when the war seems so broad and the new skirmishes keep springing up around us, but there are winnable battles ahead—if we don’t dissipate our energy trying to win them all.