One of the most interesting things about the late Trump era — I would call it a silver lining, were his reign not so poisonous and deadly — is the way it’s helping to discredit American conservative ideas.
I was reminded of this by Trump raving both on Twitter and in his Rose Garden press conference other day that, by enforcing the Obama-era pro-integration Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) policy Trump and his dim-witted HUD sidekick Ben Carson had left to rot, Joe Biden was going to “abolish the suburbs.”
Normal people heard this and probably thought, oh, this is just another one of Trump’s dumb comments. Because everyone, including most of his fans, knows he talks shit.
The fans think it’s adorable that he talks shit, of course, partly because in their estimation his racism makes up for everything, and partly because they despise intelligence and competence and they feel great that they put a guy in there who probably can’t tell time or wipe his own ass.
But though they hate smart people, they’re not stupid themselves — they know that he’s talking shit. When he burbles about Mexican rapists, or the very fine neo-Nazis of Charlottesville, or how you wouldn’t have so many people with COVID-19 if you didn't do so many tests, or any of his greatest hits, they know not all his synapses are firing in harmony.
They may not think, as I do, that Trump makes some of these dumb statements, not because he’s mentally impaired, but because he’s trying to be sneaky about some idea he’s been told to put over, either by the GOP leaders or by Nazi éminence grise Steve Bannon, and just can’t manage it. For example, the Charlottesville thing and his weird statement about Lincoln (“he did good but although it’s always questionable, you know in other words the end result”) are in my view what comes out when Trump tries to convey racist sentiments while maintaining plausible deniability. It’s something most Republicans can do in their sleep — just talk about “welfare fraud,” people will envision the Cadillacs and T-bone steaks all by themselves! Trump, however, is so mentally crippled that it just comes out clumsy and bizarre.
But even if they don’t find this gibberish sinister, the Trump people do know it’s gibberish. Like the MAGA aficionado in this 2019 NPR story said: “You can’t let it bother you because, I mean, he says stupid stuff every week.” (Every Trump fan says some version of this at some point.) And everyone else knows it too.
So most Americans probably think Trump’s abolish-the-suburbs thing is a similar mouth-fart: He wanted to suggest something racist but his brain is mush so he says “abolish the suburbs” which is ridiculous, right? How can you abolish the suburbs? Even smart commentators like Daniel Dale just scoffed, “This is nonsense. (To be specific, it is racially coded nonsense.) Diversifying or integrating suburbs does not abolish suburbs.”
But this is actually a standing conservative position on AFFH. In fact, for years National Review writer Stanley Kurtz has been using that very phrase — he was saying Obama wanted to “abolish” the suburbs (and “annex” them) when the policy was first being floated. Earlier Kurtz also said Obama wanted to “burn down the suburbs,” in case the racist intention of this investigation was unclear.
Now, Kurtz — who, I have been reminding people for years, is a dangerous lunatic —was only talking to conservatives; no one outside The Body was meant to read his shit, nor were they likely to. Their obvious hope was that some Republican weasel would take hold of the idea and make it more, well, politic — you know, say that it does a disservice to both the city and the suburbs, and that both would benefit from a policy that trusted the Free Market to blah blah blah... you know the drill.
I even imagine some wingnut bigwig brought the Kurtz story to Trump and tried to pump the talking points into his skull. Then Trump did a few lines, shambled out in front of the press and went, duh bluh Biden abolish the suburbs.
And everyone went Ha, that’s Trump!
No wonder Biden’s laying low and letting Trump do his work for him. Did you see what he said about Biden’s energy-efficient building plan? This is from the Biden policy page:
Marshal an historic investment in energy efficiency, clean energy, electrical systems and line infrastructure that makes it easier to electrify transportation, and new battery storage and transmission infrastructure that will address bottlenecks and unlock America’s full clean energy potential – built by American workers, using American-made materials…
Biden’s plan to upgrade 4 million commercial buildings will return almost a quarter of the savings from those retrofits to cash-strapped state and local governments. This includes mobilizing a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly – all manufactured in the United States.
This is about the least controversial thing you can imagine. Nonetheless you can probably imagine a conservative argument against it — something about government regulations ruining everything, this should be a stimulus program for our construction industry donors I mean the Free Market, etc. And also, for the especially stupid, they probably had something about how energy-efficient buildings aren’t really good for you and look ugly, ha ha like that big ugly government building with no windows!
No doubt some poor dumb GOP factotum went to Trump with that, and he glommed onto the dumbest part and this is what he made of it:
“That means no windows, no nothing, it’s very hard to do,” Trump said. “I tell people when they go into some of these buildings, how are your eyes, because they won’t be good in five years; I hope you don’t mind cold office space in the winter and warm office space in the summer because your air conditioning is not the same as the good old days.”
The poor dumb GOP factotum then downed another Scotch and wondered if Hungary or some other country run by Nazis would have an extradition treaty with the U.S. when it was time for him to flee.
The campaign season promises an endless series of idiotic statements like these. And look at the background: Conservatives have been trying to convince America for years that there’s no racism and if there is it’s against white people — then Trump gets in and voila, Black Lives Matter becomes a popular movement, hundreds of videos of cops and honky douchebags hassling black people run non-stop on social media, and now there’s word Trump will campaign with the McCloskeys, that rich St. Louis shoot-the-ooga-boogas couple, the most unsympathetic figures in six weeks of protests besides Trump himself. What’s he gonna do for an encore, campaign with the cop who killed George Floyd?
Also, Republicans joined Trump in bragging endlessly about the economy — and now millions are out of work and about to be thrown out of their homes, and Trump seems unaware of it and unwilling to help. Imagine terrified Americans looking at a stock market that’s soaring even as their own lives are being laid to waste, and wondering, why was capitalism supposed to be so great, again?
And after decades of small-government wingnuts saying the only legitimate role the federal government had was national defense and jerking off corporations, COVID-19 spread across the globe, countries lucky enough not to be infested with Grover Norquist freaks effectively fought it back, and America went up in flames. Trump at first appeared before the public, seemingly eager to be the face of this conservative-theory clusterfuck, babbling about disinfectant douches and hydrochloroquine, and as it became clear that everyone hated him finally just went blank, giving monosyllabic responses that seem designed to show America he no longer gives a shit, apparently content to sit with his hands tucked under his armpits and watch tens of thousands get mowed down like it was a war movie.
Back in 2015, when Trump first threatened for the nomination, National Review’s John Fund filed a story called “Is Trump a Double Agent for the Left?” Fund, like nearly all NR writers, went on to become an awful Trump sycophant. But maybe, however inadvertently, five years ago he was onto something. Because after this shit, if Americans have anything on the ball, they’ll be hunting conservatives down like dogs.