‘Trump’s a racist, but who cares’
OVER the school holidays I paid a long overdue visit to an old friend of mine who lives in Mexico City. We laughed, we drank and we talked. And eventually the conversation turned, as all conversations seemingly do, to Donald Trump.
"It was crazy," he said. "After he won I was scared to leave the house for three days."
This was apparently on good advice. He told me that after Trump's election one major Mexican newspaper carried the simple front page headline: "Be afraid"
This warning was obviously directed towards Mexicans, but my Australian friend had a different kind of fear: that he would be mistaken for an American.
So, I asked him, almost three years later, are Mexicans still scared of Donald Trump?
"Nah," he laughed. "Now they just think he's crazy."
In this way, the Mexicans are light years ahead of their northern neighbours, especially those in the kamikaze - sorry, "progressive" - wing of the Democratic party.
For while the Mexicans, who are literally on the front line in the war of words and walls waged by El Loco Presidente, have learnt to laugh off his various verbal grenades, the very people who are charged with defeating him are instead consumed by a playground squabble over how offended they should be by what he says.
It is perhaps telling that whenever I perused the front pages of Mexico's main paper Reforma during my stay I found little, if anything, about Trump. The stories were about the economy, jobs, a report warning of recession, stuff that actually mattered to people on the ground. Granted, my Spanish isn't exactly perfecto but I don't think I even saw Trump's name on page one. Frankly, they have their own crazy president to deal with.
And in a megacity the population of Australia where millions don't even have running water, they also have problems slightly more pressing than who might have been offended by a tweet or two.
But this hasn't stopped the supposed champions of the poor complaining about their own hurt feelings on Capitol Hill, as I found out when I picked up a copy of the New York Times on the way home.
The latest round of hyperventilation and hand-wringing has been caused by Trump tweeting mean things about unnamed "Democrat Congresswomen", prompting a quartet of them known as "the Squad" to self-declare that it was they whom he was intending to offend and that they were indeed offended.
For what it's worth, here is what Trump originally tweeted:
"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly … and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how …"
Notwithstanding the random punctuation and capitalisation which are Trump tweet trademarks, there is another rather critical error in the two posts. Assuming that Trump is indeed talking about "the Squad", three out of the four of them were actually born in the USA. So not only is the country they would have to go back to the one they are currently living in, but the "complete and total catastrophe" of government he refers to would have to be his own.
For anyone with half a brain (or half a sense of humour) this would quickly be laughed off for the half-baked political grenade that it is - a dud that should never have gone off. But instead the humourless brigade it was aimlessly flung at picked it up, pulled out the pin and let it blow up in their face.
Instead of carving out their own campaign to win back the disaffected working-class voters who switched from Obama to Trump in 2016, the so-called progressive Dems are making it all about their own hurt feelings and - more tellingly - all about Trump. Once more the Donald is effortlessly setting the agenda and his loudest critics are mindlessly dancing to his tune.
The Democrats lost so BIG today. Their Party is in shambles right now...pic.twitter.com/WDnGSOFzZU— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 24 July 2019
Indeed, the most bizarre thing about this constant "call-and-response" style of bourgeois blues that has infected American politics is that no one is really sure whether this is a deliberate Trump strategy or not.
If Trump is really setting out to trigger the Democrats' hard left so as to make them derail their own message and make their fringe minority the unelectable public face of the party then he is certainly doing a sterling job.
But personally I doubt that much thought has gone into it. I suspect he is simply sharting out any late-night thought that comes into his head and that the so-called progressives, who so pride themselves on their intellectual powers, snap at the bait so ferociously and mindlessly that they end up hooking themselves on a reel that Trump never even knew he cast.
Indeed, on the more progressively genteel side of the US border I was rather bemused to see a Canadian news website produce an entire analysis piece under the headline:
"Breaking down Trump's tweets about 'The Squad': Here's why experts say they're problematic".
Well let's all get comfortable then. Once society needed only to find out how many experts it took to change a light bulb. Now we need to know how many it takes to deconstruct a Twitter thread. God help us all.
For a more efficient form of analysis, let me turn to another old friend who once told me about the time she found her one-year-old son fiddling around in his own faeces trying to fish out a grape.
No one disputes the fact that there was a grape to be had. No one is disputing the baby's happiness at finding it. And no one is really that surprised that the baby wants to eat it. But if you're an adult, all you really want to do is stop the baby from playing with sh*t.
This is what is making moderate Democrats tear out what little hair they have left. Sure, Trump's tweet was stupid, and maybe it was racist too. The real point is: Who cares?
This is both a rhetorical question and a real one.
Firstly, in the catalogue of offensive things that Trump has said this is hardly at the top of the list - indeed it would struggle to make the top ten. Not one of the others has brought him undone so why on earth would a sane person think that this one would?
And as for the idea of trying to impeach the President of the United States for a tweet - as has been attempted by the Democratic hard left - what is the point? Even if it were to get through the House of Reps - which it didn't - it would never have the numbers in the Senate - which it doesn't. This is the apex of pointlessness.
So whether Trump is a racist or not - and there is little doubt either side will ever change their minds on that - simply doesn't matter. The only question is whether or how he can be beaten and it is pretty obvious to anyone with a double-digit IQ that calling him names hasn't exactly worked out great so far.
This brings us to the real part of question: Who does really care if Donald Trump is a racist? Pretty clearly it isn't the people who switched their votes from Obama to him in Middle America swing-states, and they are the ones the Democrats need to win over if they are going to remove him from office. This fight isn't about racism, it's about maths.
And again, this is why moderate Democrats who are trying to put together a plan for jobs and the economy and a better deal for working people in this critical pre-election year are so frustrated that the national debate has once again been lit by Trump and fuelled by the extreme wing of their own party. Instead of American workers asking themselves if they'd be better off under the Republicans or the Democrats they're being forced to ask themselves whether they think he should be impeached over a tweet that offended some members of Congress, and you can bet the White House to a brick that they do not give a flying f**k.
Besides, even if Trump is such a cruel and racist monster then surely the people who are supposedly the most scarred by this would want to beat him more than bitch about him, right?
Sometimes I'm not so sure. We seem to live in an age where so-called progressives actually prefer protest over progress. Indeed, we now appear to have reached a point where outrage addicts are actively seeking out discrimination - but maybe I'm just waxing lyrical.
Meanwhile, back in Mexico, the only outrage I saw was from dirt-poor artisans in street tents with signs protesting about being arrested by police for selling their wares, or those police protesting about getting paid less than a dollar a day, or the millions of residents who can't access enough drinking water to even voice their protest.
You know, stuff that is actually outrageous.
Joe Hildebrand co-hosts Studio 10, 8.30am weekdays, on Network Ten. Continue the conversation @Joe_Hildebrand