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Trumpier than Trump
However blue the wave, Salena Zito will keep the faith
You remember Salena Zito — the White Working Class Whisperer whose True Tales of Poor Simple (White) Folks and their Trump-Love have often used Republican Party operatives as stand-ins for PS(W)Fs and also seem a little too good to be true. You might be wondering how she’s been reacting to the recent Trump-unfriendly election. With aplomb and even inventiveness, I have to say — she’s even managed to throw Trump under the bus in defense of Trumpism.
Her first takeaway, published right on Nov. 6, was about “Joe Manchin, the Democrat who won in the Trumpiest state.” Manchin, you may know, is famously the Trumpiest Democrat not only in his state but in America; this summer he said “I’m with [Trump] sometimes more than other Republican senators are with him” and his first thought after Election Day, even as his party had swept the House and the young Democrats were smelling blood, was to appeal to the loutish President's alleged desire to “fix” the health care system that he'd been childishly wrecking: “I’ve asked the President, why don't you become the Mr. Fix-it President? Repair,” said Manchin. “We’ll call it Trump repair care.” If Trump didn't laugh louder at that than I did, I’ve lost all respect for him.
You couldn’t blame Zito for making that her first post-blue-wave column because she was evidently really at Manchin's victory party — and, perhaps still smarting from the accusations against her reportage, larded in details like, “before Manchin took to the stage, the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus gave a rousing rendition of the National Anthem,” and the “selection[s] picked by DJ ‘Sincerity’… ranged from Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’ to Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘Celebration.’” Fact-check that, liberal assholes!
But then Zito’s next column is about Manchin, too — “Why Joe Manchin is still here” and how Manchin's “balancing act” was one “other red-state Democrats might learn from.” The polls suggest the many Democrats who won in red states last week did so by promising decent health care and other basic social services that Republicans eschewed, which seems to me to be (like all successful insurgent politics) an unbalancing act, in that it threatens to upend the Republican apple cart — as even their goons are noticing.
So what were “red-state Democrats” supposed to learn from trimmers like Manchin? Zito’s article was heavy on political biography and short on answers, alas, though not for lack of trying: “Was it [your] vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh?” she prompted Manchin; “Maybe,” was the best she could get from him; mainly, Manchin said, it was about The People and Not Forgetting Where You Come From.
It took Zito's third post-election column to lay it out. First, this peculiar take:
Everybody is going to write about suburban women. But truthfully the GOP can lose plenty of suburban women as long as they don't lose the suburban men. But this year, they lost the men.
That's interesting — because the Wall Street Journal found that suburban men broke 50-47 for Republicans, suburban women broke 58-22 for Democrats, and the overall suburban break was 53-44 Democrats. This suggests that the men aren’t the ones they should be trying to win over — that is, if they’re actually interested in winning elections.
But what do I know? Zito seems to think suburban men — unlike suburban women — will respond to slightly softened Republican language: “Insisting on border security is good,” she declares. “The scorched-earth rhetoric isn’t.” Border security! How far this is from the Trump-approved “build the wall” yak Zito portrayed as down-home American common sense earlier this year! As if guiltily aware readers might think so, Zito explains:
Because voters don’t hold the racial resentments and fears Trump seems to think they do. From the way he talks, Trump seems to think his base is racist. Forget the fact that the media thinks they are, Trump campaigns as if they are.
Oh, this is beautiful: As the media unfairly treats Trump as racist, so Trump unfairly treats his own voters as racist! Trumpism cannot fail, it can only be failed — by Trump! Maybe the next time he invites Zito to the White House, she can tell him so to his face. Bet that’d go over big.
Zito also talks more Machinism — “veterans who sometimes talked conservative were a big winner,” she says, without citation (the Dem veteran candidates didn't seem particularly conservative); she also claims such soldier-candidates “make the party’s base a bit uncomfortable” because Dems Hate Our Troops; look at Tammy Duckworth, they’re always spitting on her! Zito also claims the election proved “socialism is a loser” because of “losses in winnable races in Georgia and Florida... that’s why Andrew Gillum lost, that’s why Stacey Abrams lost. They both ran against weak, Trumpy Republicans and they both lost.” If only Gillum and Abrams hadn't constantly talked about nationalizing the steel industry. Also:
The reason this wasn’t a 63 seat night for the Democrats is because many of their candidates were too far left. Same reason Gillum and Abrams lost. Will they learn in time for the 2020 presidential nomination process?
To sum up, Democrats should run candidates who are more like Trump — the Trump who isn’t racist, that is, unlike the racist that Trump, despite his best non-racist interests, thinks they think he is, and feels obliged to pretend to be out of misguided generosity toward his supporters. It’s all very Pirandellian — which sounds a little too close to socialism, which may be why Zito's next column is about how great Republicans did in Ohio this election — “even a Republican not named Donald Trump is making inroads in places like Mahoning County,” she nods sagely. Next year, expect Zito to overhear a gas-station conversation like, “I was thinking about going socialist, but that Governor DeWine sure got me pulling myself up by my own bootstraps — I’m paying for my own dang chemo!” from a guy in a truck with an Ocasio-Cortez sticker. New circumstances sometimes demand adjustments, but there's no beating the classics!