Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

The Racial Tribulations of Trump Agonistes

Why is America so unfair to Our Great President?
July 8, 2020
The Racial Tribulations of Trump Agonistes
US President Donald Trump leaves after signing an executive order regarding Medicare at Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center October 3, 2019, in The Villages, Florida. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Even a visitor from Mars, admitted to the White House, would swiftly perceive that America’s biggest problem is not this overblown pandemic, but unreasonably ungrateful African-Americans who disrespect our storied history and the capacious spirit of our dear leader.

Not all African-Americans, of course—there’s always Herman Cain. Who is, sadly, another victim of overzealous testing for COVID-19 after attending the president’s exhilarating rally in Tulsa. But in general too few appreciate that, as President Trump has so eloquently explained: “I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president, and let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln because he did good, although it’s always questionable, you know, in other words, the end result.”

What did the president mean about the questionable “end result”? Only a cynic would think that he was talking about terminating slavery. More likely this was a compassionate reference to Lincoln’s unfortunate encounter at Ford’s Theater with a well-meaning southern patriot – another misunderstanding which, as our commander-in-chief no doubt instantly grasped once told of it, had “good people on both sides.”

If only everyone had our leader’s generosity of spirit and appreciation for nuance.

The truth is that black lives matter so much to America’s president that some seem to be immortal. Back in 2017, he informed a group of African-Americans that “Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed.”

This was a truly revealing moment, if only his audience had understood Douglass as well as Trump does. Douglass may have died in 1895, but his legacy is ever alive in Donald Trump’s heart and mind.

Still, as a leader of all the people, President Trump is deeply attuned to our shared heritage. How appropriate, then, is the report that “aides say Trump has been focused most intently in meetings on the issues surrounding statues and monuments.”

Here, his unyielding patriotism is informed by a deep appreciation of American history that is alien to those of so-called liberal sensibilities. Trump’s bracing repudiation of their contempt for human liberty, as expressed at Mount Rushmore, can only be regarded as Churchillian:

The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, beautiful monuments, tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute control. This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans.

Which beautiful monuments is the president talking about? The statues of heroic Confederate luminaries, of course -the men who fought so bravely for a cause now lost to history. Hasn’t everyone seen Gone With The Wind?

The desecration proceeded apace. Mississippi precipitously ripped the Confederate battle insignia from its state flag and the city of Richmond rudely toppled an enormous statue of Stonewall Jackson himself. The mayor of Richmond, a benighted stranger to our president’s farsighted perspective, offered this woefully subjective response: “If he would put himself in my shoes, as a black man in the South, he’d recognize that these monuments . . . serve a purpose to demonstrate to those black and brown residents that ‘we’re still in charge.’ Essentially, white supremacy.”

So? Isn’t white supremacy a big part of our history? A lot of people died for it, after all, like Stonewall Jackson and Emmett Till.

Nonetheless, cowering from political correctness, the lemmings in Congress redoubled this national vandalism—which, properly understood, is the spiritual cousin of the contagious looting and rioting which is spiking in every corner of our land. This cowardice compelled President Trump to take another brave and lonely stand: threatening to veto a $741 billion Pentagon authorization bill that gratuitously proposed renaming military bases which currently commemorate our most gifted Confederate generals.

Deploying his unique gifts of language, President Trump enriched his trademark historical references by mentioning a noteworthy Native American:

Now there’s a thought which should give any true patriot pause: Could we have beaten the Nazis if Fort Lee had been named, say, Fort Crispus Attucks?.

But, as ever, there are those agents of intolerance who relentlessly concoct bogus charges of racism in a crusade to crucify our president:

When Trump announced that the unemployment rate for June had fallen to a modest 13.3 percent, he humanized the moment with a touching remembrance of George Floyd: “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. There’s a great day for him.” Unbelievably, his usual carping critics called this insensitive. But what better way of showing that black deaths truly matter?

When Trump tweeted out a video of old folks confronting each other over racial issues at a senior center, intending it as an uplifting instructional video in the use of golf carts by the elderly, his enemies seized on the fact that one of the seniors shouted “white power.” Is there no end to their resolve to capitalize on coincidence and grasp at straws?

When Trump tweeted another video of a white man and woman pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters as they passed their compound, he was merely affirming that time-honored American maxim: “A white man’s McMansion is his castle.” Why else would he contemplate repealing an Obama-era fair housing mandate except, as he put it, to honor “the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs.”

And when Trump accused Representative Ilhan Omar, a native of Somalia, of “telling us how to run our country,” didn’t his critics in the Fake News Media appreciate his sensitivity about unskilled immigrants who take jobs held by good native-born Americans—men like Louie Gohmert and, until recently, Steve King?

But, as Donald Trump well knows, upholding American values is a long twilight struggle against the insidious forces of authoritarianism. As he warned us while standing beneath his peer group on Mount Rushmore:

In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate board rooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished.

Or, worse yet, defeated for reelection.

Faced with such a mob, our national will erodes. Take that spineless NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a craven coward beholden to that monolithic pack of Radical Marxist Democrats who own professional football franchises. Appearing in a virtual hostage video, Goodell squeaked out a pitiful apologia for the quislings who kneel during our National Anthem, saying that “Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”

Players? Those rich and pampered prima donnas forever sniveling about traumatic brain injury? Or that manipulative attention-seeker, Colin Kaepernick, who pales next to the hundred-plus extraordinarily gifted quarterbacks who currently grace professional rosters?

Once again, it took a man of Donald Trump’s unquestioned moral and physical courage to denounce these thugs:

One must feel sympathy for a man so selfless that, faced with a country devolving into carnage, he gave America the gift of himself.

But perhaps, if enough Americans listen to him closely, he can yet inspire us to lighten his terrible burdens.

Richard North Patterson

Richard North Patterson is a lawyer, political commentator and best-selling novelist. He is a former chairman of Common Cause and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.