Fancy words, I know. I just mean that leading Democrats–from Schumer and Pelosi on down–ought to get more realistic about what their likely voters are really like. Their likely voters, contrary to some Democrats’ pleasantly self-flattering availability heuristics, are not necessarily very well-informed about the details of government policy, or federal agency regulations, or the subtleties of Chevron deference. Also, Trump lies, but not as many people care about that as Democrats would like to think. Democrats, to win the midterms, must transmit cues to voters that are easily understandable and emotionally compelling–healthcare sabotage by Trump; the threat to pre-existing conditions coverage; the threat to women’s access to birth control as well as abortion; the crushing burdens of our new Gilded Age, especially the social insecurity. Trump boosters love to say “promises kept,” but Democrats need to counter that by saying over and over that wage growth is stagnant, that regular people are bearing heavier burdens while the 1% and fake corporate people are living high on the hog, and most of all, that Republican cruelty and harshness is not a natural law but a deliberate choice Trump’s party has made because Trump could not care less about working Americans. Seventy-eight foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago is not America first. Tolerating Wilbur Ross’s insider trading is not draining the swamp. The swamp creatures in Trump’s cabinet. The see-no-evil denials of sexual abuse by people like Jim Jordan. And the danger of an out-of-control president who has no clue about what has made America great and no respect or feeling for freedom. Democrats must not assume that people have leisure time to keep up with complicated story lines. Motivating those who already despise Trump and will crawl over glass to vote Democratic this November–that’s already baked in, but it’s not enough to win. Democratic politicians who really want to put a check on Trump’s power must stop flattering themselves that “their” voters are more informed and can’t be fooled by Trump. The millions of disaffected, jaded, harried, troubled, people who may or may not bother to vote need to hear short and sweet messages, over and over. They need to hear that Republicans are not doing squat to protect the forgotten men and women, and on the positive side that Democrats will defend economic opportunities for young people, healthcare security for everyone, and American freedoms against anybody who thinks that they are king.
I would love to associate myself with Donald Trump’s totally true remark today that “there are a lot of good reasons” to eliminate the debt ceiling. Convenient? Of course. Hypocritical? Hmm, let’s take a look: 2011 Trump said “the debt limit cannot be raised until Obama spending is contained.” “TIME TO CUT, CAP, AND BALANCE.” “There is no revenue problem.” 2012 Trump: “the Republicans once again hold all the cards with the debt ceiling. They can get everything they want. Focus!”
Donald Trump has zero reason to regret or retract anything, ever. Chuck and Nancy will confirm that if you ask them.
President Donald Trump is quite willing to praise us and even offer us a measure of freedom–so long as we profess loyalty to him. And his sexism, benevolent or hostile, is repulsive but predictable. Trump does not, as some of his servants claim, treat men and women equally. He is not, as Kellyanne Conway just claimed, just a “counterpuncher” who does not normally draw first blood. If that were true, it would be, to give just one example, Carly Fiorina’s fault that she had the face she had. Or perhaps it’s just that any woman who, while doing her job, finds herself in the path of what Donald wants is automatically asking for trouble in the form of shaming insults.
Scholars, playgoers, and readers have long puzzled over what Hamlet meant in Act IV, Scene II when he responded to Rosencrantz’s request (“my Lord, you must tell us where the body [of Polonius] is and go with us to the king”) by saying “the body is with the king, but the king is not with the body.” Is Hamlet once again just speaking gibberish on purpose to feign madness, as G.L. Kittredge thought? Or throwing out a riddle to distract us? From what? The very next lines, though, give a good clue: Hamlet: “the king is a thing– Guildenstern: A thing, my Lord? Hamlet: Of nothing.” As Psalm 144 puts it, “man is like a thing of naught; his time passeth away like a shadow.” Our president and would-be king, especially when he attacks women for their supposed physical frailties and bloodiness, seems to be calculating that he thereby wins approval from his most fanatical base, or that he thereby settles scores with the impenitent and seditious women, or–and perhaps most important–he puts out of mind for a little while his very own perishability. Trump may believe that, having achieved kingship, he has become imperishable. But the medieval theory of the “king’s two bodies” (one body as corruptible and transitory as that of every other person, but one body divine, unchanging, and incorruptible) applies to Trump just as well as it did to any of the Plantagenets or Tudors or Holy Roman Emperors, and with a twist most unflattering to Trump: his preferred forms of communication show him at his truest and most transient. His tweets and campaign rallies are at best written in water, more often written in truly impure blood. And if we turn to his potential policy achievements, Trump’s resemblance to the dead Polonius is almost literal: our president has been hiding his decaying self offstage, trying to avoid blame while Senator McConnell battles Schumer and the Democrats, not to mention recalcitrant Republicans. Seems like a low-energy strategy at best, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Prince McConnell (though no Hamlet, to be fair) decided to stab whoever is lurking in the curtains, pity if it turns out to be the president.
President Trump’s denial of his own decrepitude and decay is even more worrisome in that he could take those of us fortunate enough to be younger and fairer and less obviously corruptible with him if he is still president when he feels himself truly falling apart. I hope and believe our president is fast approaching his (political) sell-by date. His attacks on anyone not subservient to him seem designed to ward off his consciousness of what seems close at hand: the country’s cancellation of his show. Then and only then will Hamlet’s words make sense as: the body of the king, the external appearance of the monarch, belonged to “Donald J. Trump,” but the true and lawful kingship resided elsewhere, and has passed on to someone who will seek to restore the body politic of the United States to better health.
H/T Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies; Jerah Johnson, “The Concept of the ‘King’s Two Bodies’ in Hamlet‘”