JOHN BRUMMETT: Outrage overload

Posted: October 24, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Democrats waste energy seeking to exploit each daily outrage by Donald Trump.

They should set a quota of 200 attempted exploitations per year rather than the current 365. They could extend an occasional respite, both to themselves and the rest of us.

They risk assailing Trump on nothing by assailing him on everything.


Democrats have obsessed on Trump's relentless offensiveness from the mistaken belief that they can beat him by hammering a nail that was fully driven even before he won the election.

Exit polls showed that nearly 60 percent of voters last November found Trump temperamentally ill-suited for the presidency, but that a decisive segment of that 60 percent voted for him anyway--so sick were they of politics as usual and so distressed were they with the option the Democrats had given them.

After nine months, the drumbeat of the Trump resistance obsession has left the American public weary. And it's left Democrats self-defined solely in the context of Trump rather than in any message of their own.

Hillary Clinton tried to win the presidency in the context of Trump's unfitness. She needed a little something else.

Through it all, truer words than Newt Gingrich's have not been spoken. He said that, if the American economy performs well and we succeed in fighting terrorism and putting ISIS on the run, this orgy of personal assault on Trump's glaring personal weaknesses--megalomania, self-centered dishonesty (my assessments, not Newt's)--will amount to nothing more than noise.

The more decisive political news last week was not the number and appropriateness of presidential condolence calls to Gold Star families. It was the bullishness of the stock market and that ISIS seemed to be on the run.

It's not that it's unimportant to resist Trump vigorously and point out his outrages and affronts. It's that there must be an exercise of strategic discretion.

Democrats need ... something else, something non-obsessed on this preposterous presidency, something about a policy or an issue or a compelling connection to the American people.

If single-payer health insurance is it--if Democrats decide Medicare for all makes sense and would make a better life for Americans --then they should go for it.

Part of it could be a constitutional amendment to undo the case law of Citizens United and take dead aim at big secret money's dominance in polarizing our dysfunctional politics. If they so decide, Democrats should write the amendment and wave it at least as frequently as they seek to exploit a preposterous president's inane post on Twitter.

But don't--just don't--try to make something of Trump's speaking clumsily to a fallen soldier's widow in a telephone call.

Do not rationalize by saying that Trump started it--which he did, by his typical megalomania and dishonesty in saying former presidents hadn't made condolence calls. The he-started-it rhetoric befits children. And it lowers one to Trump's level, the lowness of which is the very thing one seeks to exploit.

Democrats did not lose the presidency in 2016 because of what Michelle Obama famously said: "When they go low, we go high." They lost because Clinton was a bad candidate and James Comey dealt her an unfair death blow 10 days out.

And--dare I repeat--she didn't really lose the voting of the people, only the disproportionate votes of the purposely unrepresentative electoral college. Her popular vote margin over Trump exceeded that of John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford.

Going high when they go low was not wrong morally or strategically. What's wrong morally and strategically is behaving as if going as low as Trump will turn around those 70,000 white working people in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who delivered Trump his unlikely presidency.

None of that excuses Trumpian behavior. It's to analyze these four outrages in the latest lamentable folderol:

• Trump's slandering former presidents to try to prop himself up.

• The inviting of a backlash of sympathy for Trump by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, Democrat in Florida, when she sought to exploit politically her overhearing the ineptness of Trump's supposed condolence call to a slain soldier's widow.

• White House chief of staff John Kelly's bogus charge against Wilson that she had claimed credit for funding for a new FBI field office facility in Miami and his wholly indiscreet personal assault on her as "empty barrel."

• Sarah Huckabee Sanders' loathsome declaration of a military state by saying from the White House press room podium that one should dare not argue with a four-star Marine general.

Three of those affronts were committed by the Trump White House. But it would be smarter for Democrats if, rather than three Trumpian outrages to one by them, the score was 3-0.

Pick your battles. Define yourself transcendentally of--not under the spell of--the man you find contemptible.

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John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 10/24/2017