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Along with “that’s why Trump won,” which pithy insistence serves now as a catch-all reaction to Democratic silliness, many of the Right’s pundits seem to have settled on a reflexive rejoinder to any criticism of the White House: ”I don’t,” they will say, “think that anyone in Cuyahoga County cares about that.”
In some cases, this is fair. Because they have been overused, charges of racism, sexism, and other such bigotries have lost most of their currency over the last decade. Moreover, it should now be as clear as it has ever been that there is a significant divide between what motivates the press corps and what motivates those who aren’t terminally obsessed with politics. Most Americans, it turns out, do not consider either the enforcement of the border to be an embarrassment; they do not walk on eggshells looking everywhere for offense; and they do not regard counter-terrorism as the heart and soul of tyranny. If the Democratic party spends the next four years shouting “bigot” at Trump — and, indeed, if it attempts to bring him down with ideas about citizenship that hail from the bleeding edge of the most recent seminars at Berkeley — it will lose.
But there is a difference between saying “I don’t think anyone in Cuyahoga County cares about that” and “I don’t think anyone in Cuyahoga County cares about anything,” and that difference is often blurred. If, in four years, Trump’s administration has been marked by frequent departures, by simmering scandals, and by never-answered questions about pecuniary conflicts of interest, the Democrats will have a clear — and potently apolitical — campaign message with which to run: To wit, “this guy is corrupt and chaotic and he can’t fix anything.”
Over the next few days, the details of Flynn’s “resignation” will presumably start to trickle out. It is unlikely that voters will follow every turn. What they will see, however, is the headlines; the summaries; the discussions on in the background. And rather than the topic being “racism” or “sexism” or how terrible this English professor thinks Ted Cruz is, the mot du choix will be “scandal” — and about national security, no less. Too much of that and the advantages Trump enjoys will dissipate in favor of a counter-message that has proven extremely popuar over the years: “Regardless of your politics, it’s time to clean house.” If the last century is anything to go by, concern about corruption and incompetence is both bipartisan and motivating. If he wants to succeed in the coming months and years, Trump would do well to understand that. The mob can walk in both directions.