Are We Too Negative — Even on Trump?
Terry H. Schwadron
March 6, 2018
A recent, running e-mail conversation with a somewhat more conservative friend dwelt on the idea that our political discourse has soured and seems unduly negative — regardless of political orientation.
In the discussion, we acknowledged that President Trump is a highly skilled at negative speech — he sees it as fighting back when attacked — but critics of the president, mostly from the left, have become almost as good in the negative arts. Among most Facebook posts I see, for example, the kindest statement is that the president should be impeached immediately if not before. Others basically call for him to be boiled in oil, exiled to other planets or returned to the times he praises as being so delightful.
My argument is that while Trump faces substantial “negativism,” he remains the president, and by office, at least, is supposed to be able to withstand some substantial criticism, personally and professionally. As president, just as with the predecessors, the office is the man is the target of all that dissatisfies us — whichever side is upset.
Perhaps every speaker of negative thoughts deserves a slap on the verbal wrist, but the president of the moment is the one who puts himself — repeatedly — into the criticism limelight.
It doesn’t help the situation that Donald Trump‘s tweeting, insulting and belittling attitudes make him such a jerk personally. It doesn’t help that Trump goes out of his way to deride women, minorities, Muslims, Jews, and Democrats. Who could possibly want to feel sympathetic to people like Jeff Sessions, Adam Schiff and Marco Rubio, but Trump’s attacks simply draw out that reaction, again without regard to political orientation.
The president says he is just fighting back against those who unduly criticize him or air “fake news” claims against him.
But it’s not “criticism” if he’s bragging about potentially rushing unarmed into a shooting site, it’s plain old BS. And standing on the sidelines and tossing in insults takes absolutely no thought, strategy, cleverness; it is beyond boorish. The Supreme Court he insulted had a DACA legal issue before it, not an endorsement of presidential claims; Trump’s criticisms of the court and its role don’t help the public or even his own arguments.
Even on guns, where he first took positions that were clearer and better than on other subjects, his comments, which since have wavered, have been less than helpful not about the overall issue, but about obtaining whatever result that he wants, never mind me.
In other words, I’m arguing that rather than focus on “negativism,” we can make the president’s effectiveness more the issue than the already tired critiques about his flip-flopping leanings.
To me, it is not only fair game, but a real duty for all of us as citizens to look at what results from what the president does. If the tax cut has been sold as helping middle-class income and new job creation instead of a gift to corporations, how is that working; the early reads are that the criticisms are coming “true” — that the bulk of saved tax cut money is going to buy down corporate debt and paying out dividends, not on middle-class worker pay.
That’s been true with health, too. Over time, how will elimination of environmental rules or consumer protections or even food stamp cuts work out? Ignoring Science — and that includes actual collection and evaluation of data — means governing by slogan and by the seat of Trump’s pants. It’s random or worse.
Trump is loose with his talk, whether personal or policy. Of course, so are Democrats, Russians, Chinese and anyone operating on the public stages who have to worry about their image. too. By comparison, effective policy-making includes being able to clearly articulate a goal, the means for getting there and the means for measurement. That’s project management 101, whether in a family, a family business, a corporation, a government or any other entity. With Trump, you never know what you’re actually talking about, and that process is highly destabilizing and frustrating, even for those who might want to agree with him.
Trump has insisted at being in the center of all discussion; the flip side is to be blamed by all sides for not providing what they want.
Much like Barak Obama, who was far more polished, Trump doesn’t persuade. He merely insists. That does not win adherents or make the next deal any easier to build on.
Instead, he is a bristle of insult, and, if he ends up going down after all this Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller poking around, no one will mourn his personal loss even if they miss Making America Great.