I thought 2016 was a particularly exhausting political year. It was emotionally charged, hyperbolically excessive, and relationally divisive. People stopped having coffee together because of politics. Christmas parties were cancelled. Parents and children stopped communicating. And 2017 shows no respite at all.
Frankly, I’m exhausted with being exhausted. Even worse, I think this is completely intentional. It’s President Donald J. Trump using the left’s super weapons against them. As candidate Trump, he proved exceptional at this. He was a maestro at using the media to gain $2 billion of free coverage to swamp every Republican contender. Then he turned the tables on the same media to beat Hillary Clinton. (Granted, she was not the suavest or most unifying Democrat, and she failed to listen to her husband’s advice.)
The left’s biggest super weapon is mass outrage. Huge virtue-signalling protests; mega-star-studded celebrity events to shame America; the media’s spin machine at full rated shaft horsepower; these are the left’s Schwerer Gustav. In 2016, I kept waiting for the gun to fire, when I realized that it had, to no effect. Trump is simply immune to shame, and inoculated much of the country with his immunity.
Hence, the exhaustion. (I wrote this piece before I saw the tweets below. But they share my sentiment.)
I'm exhausted by the thought of this week. https://t.co/zIRs7O9Cqa
— David French (@DavidAFrench) January 30, 2017
I can’t be sure of this, because I don’t have the White House bugged, and I don’t have a mole sitting in on private meetings between Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and the president. But I do believe that Trump may be pursuing this breakneck pace of miscues, muddled yet tripwire-taught executive orders, and loaded sidetrack arguments (like the crowd size) on purpose.
I think he’s doing it to exhaust the left’s outrage machine. He’s doing it to force liberals to fire the Schwerer Gustav again and again, until they’ve launched all the Volkswagen-sized ordnance they have. The outrage machine can only run at 110% of rated power for so long before things break. And outrage alone won’t harm Trump. He can’t be impeached for being exhausting.
During the campaign, we all saw that Trump has what appears to be an unlimited appetite for absorbing outrage, and piling more on everyone’s plate than can be consumed.
The challenge here is to pick our battles. There may be some things Trump does with which I and other conservatives disagree. But we have to hold our fire on some of those because they may be feints, or they may be calculated bombs to draw liberal reactions.
Let conservatives keep our eyes on the prizes. Dismantling and replacing Obamacare (not tweaking it or making it into Trumpcare); a conservative SCOTUS pick; rolling back anti-Christian and anti-religious liberty policies; fixing our devastatingly bad immigration and border control; and starting the long process of notching down the administrative state’s chokehold over our lives.
If we can pick our battles and keep our heads in the midst of Trump’s fog of battle, we should be able to get through this relatively unscathed. Hopefully.
But one thing is certain: it’s going to be another exhausting year.