In case you missed it, President Donald Trump held a press conference Thursday in which he made it very clear that he has a new enemy in his sights.
Donald Trump began his prominence in the insane world of 21st century American politics with attacks on President Barack Obama’s legitimacy, announced his presidential campaign by attacking Mexican immigrants, ran his primary campaign attacking his Republican opponents (“Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb”) and fulfilled his path to presidential victory with an onslaught of attacks on “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, signaling his commitment to attacking anyone that stands in his way to achieving Big League Greatness.
For the first month of his presidency, the Trump White House was in chaos, largely as a result of the man at its helm searching for a new target. Immigrants, Democratic lawmakers, protesters – who would be the new subject of his attacks?
The press conference Thursday made the answer very clear. “I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly, than the political media,” Trump said in his momentously incoherent hour and fifteen minute Q&A (Question and Attack) session. In a clear shifting of motives, Trump signaled his new focus not on the well-being of the country and its people, but to the attack and criticism of the journalistic organizations that make up this nation’s free press.
Now, we could go on for days about the fact that a leader’s criticism of the press is a signature authoritarian move seeking to undermine the foundations of democracy in the pursuit of personal power, but we’ll focus on something broader today.
Trump may like to think of himself as a figurehead of the new conservative movement, but in reality, he is merely a reflection of beliefs that have been building for years.
Now, it’s important to clarify here what I mean by “new conservative movement.” This is not Reagan Republicans seeking lower taxes and regulations within the bounds of traditional government; this is not social conservatives seeking an end to abortion and gay marriage; this is a new breed of firebrand speakers and personalities bringing archaic ideals back into the forefront with aggressive, intentionally offensive rhetoric – the Tomi Lahren’s, Sean Hannity’s, Milo Yiannopoulos’s of the world, disguising their hateful ideas with the pretense of ending political correctness or “saying what’s on everyone’s mind.”
Many liberals tend to believe that these ideas come from pure bigotry and an ideology of hatred, but I would argue, rather, that they come from a commitment to opposition, a dedication to being against something.
This is not to say that many of these people aren’t bigots, but the core ideology of this group has shown itself recently more than ever before.
Republicans currently control the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, 33 state governorships and 32 state legislatures. Many of these victories, the White House being the most prominent example, were spurred on by a wave of populist support from these modern conservatives.
Given this dominance of U.S. government and the historic victories in the 2016 elections that allowed for it, you would think the modern conservatives at the heart of these victories would be celebrating, more motivated than ever to get their agenda passed, ready to Make America Great Again!
In looking at any conservative-leaning news site or scrolling through any of these modern conservatives’ Twitter feeds, however, you get a different picture.
Tomi Lahren’s Twitter, for example, is currently alight with promotions for the “Snowflake Awards,” an Oscar night substitute meant to call out certain prominent liberal celebrities and public figures for what she perceives as emotional and moral fragility.
The Blaze, the conservative news site for which Lahren works, regularly features inflammatory headlines such as, “Melania Trump opens Florida rally with the Lord’s Prayer – then liberals and atheists bash her for it.”
(Author’s note: We could go all the way to neo-fascism with the President’s favorite news site, Breitbart, but we’ll stay out of that territory for now in the interests of being at least somewhat rational.)
Notice, from these examples, the attacks of liberals, the press, “snowflakes,” are far more prominent than any coverage of or commentary on legislative wins advancing a conservative agenda, of conservative leaders inciting positive change in the world, of future plans within the conservative movement in general.
Even when stories on victory and change are told, they are often told with a tone of spite, a feeling of “Told you so!,” undermining any positivity that could be brought about by the topic at hand.
Now, it’s important to recognize that liberals aren’t all happiness and sunshine either. Anyone who has looked out of a window in a major American city this past month has seen the thousands of people marching down the streets, demanding change.
Liberal opposition, however, stems from the aim of achieving a set of goals based in a relatively consistent ideology. During the Obama administration, we saw positive reflections on achievements of the presidency highlighted by liberals to a far higher degree than the equivalent reflections by conservatives today would ever be. The protests going on around the country feature a diverse array of voices from all different walks of life, outlining their plans to resist and to improve this country.
On the other hand, modern conservatives seem to be focused on resisting for the sake of resisting. Lahren’s brand is built on using her angry, fiery speaking style to rant about people conservatives don’t like. Yiannopoulos has taken his inflammatory rhetoric to the point of being a pedophile.
The quasi-ideology to which these hatemongers subscribe, however, is currently consistent with that of of the President of the United States, and many of our lawmakers. So, to the liberals out there resisting, opposing and protesting based on a set of deeply held beliefs, I say: Keep giving these fearful speakers content. Your message is coming through loud and clear, and the hope and positivity you are spreading have a far greater impact than any inflammatory headline or tweet ever could.