If you are not yet reading Heather Cox Richardson’s daily Letters from an American—why not?
I am an ordinary US citizen with the education of a theologian, biblical scholar, and pastor, and I work as a religious book publisher. My interests in current American politics are theological, ecclesial, pastoral. Heather Cox Richardson is a history professor at a Catholic university (the same one that conferred my own PhD, as it happens). She writes as a historian, and more particularly as an Americanist, not as a theologian. I cannot do what she does. She is excellent at what she does.
Last night’s post was HCR at her second-best, which is excellent. HCR at her very best is interpreting current events in light of US history (esp. 19th century). HCR at her second best—which is still better than any other daily voice that is available to us—is clearly and concisely, without exaggeration, error, or partisanship, summarizing and interconnecting diverse elements of the sometimes chaotic-seeming current scene.
So I recommend that you read her post: January 9, 2022.
One of the greatest urgencies of the Trumpist delusion machine is to create false but simple word associations in the minds of its dupes. One of the most important examples: Trump hopes that when you hear “Trump-Russia” you will immediately think “hoax.” This is the same thing he does with the disrespectful monikers he attaches to political opponents: he makes them catchy, even entertaining. If he can connect them in your head, so that every time you hear “Joe Biden” or “Nancy Pelosi” you involuntarily (or better yet, voluntarily) supply his depreciatory epithet, he’s got you. In the listener, it takes the intelligence of a toddler to be susceptible to Trump’s two- and three-word slogans and epithets, while it typically takes the intelligence of a person with an MA in the humanities to be reachable by the counterarguments of the more intelligent explainers in the legitimate media, who do not work with short slogans: they need you to stay with them through multiple pages of tightly reasoned evidence and argument. The point is not that every Trump voter is stupid, but rather that everyone is smart enough to be reachable by Trump’s rhetoric; far fewer have both the patience and the verbal intelligence to be reachable by the best opposing voices. And Trump is a self-serving liar from start to finish. Hence our great peril.
And hence the value of HCR—who does not drop to the level of Trump’s tweets and grunts but does keep her daily posts relatively brief and comprehensible, and in her other outreach (her livestream sessions for her followers) does some even more accessible explaining.
But what we need—both within the currently collapsed/capitulated Republican Party and in the Democratic Party, which is the last remaining obstacle to the triumph of Trumpism, is a leader with the powerful intelligence needed in an American president AND the ability to connect with and move not only the minds but the hearts of multiple millions of Americans who don’t have the time or the verbal competence to be persuaded by the more verbose truthtellers. We need a truthteller who can craft simple, powerful slogans that everyone can understand and feel. Biden sometimes approaches that level, but he is not the real deal. Who is? This is a big problem.
Trump-Russia is not a hoax. It is a disturbing family of connections, common interests, shared traits, and unexplained coincidences connecting Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, in which Trump appears as Putin’s admirer, would-be imitator, and sometime plaything. Trump’s Putinish proclivities had made a mess of US foreign policy during his presidency. He must not be given a chance to push his imitation of Putin domestically in a second presidency. The fact that the Steele Dossier was a mixed bag, including elements that were never verified and may be false, does not in any way diminish the reality and the seriousness of the connections of which HCR reminds us in last night’s post.