The shield of denial and rejection that has insulated most of the Never-Trump coalition since election day is starting to disintegrate, as its lunacy becomes more apparent. Kathy Griffin is only the most recent example. Not since the last days of Richard Nixon have we seen such a tasteless and vicious abuse of a president as her display of a blood-soaked effigy of Donald Trump. What this showed, which until now had been unclear, is that there is a limit to the depravity of the abuse Never-Trumpers could approvingly inflict on the president.
Ms. Griffin has apologized and her apology should be accepted. There is no reason why she should be banned from her prior engagements. Her lapse of taste was only marginally more outrageous than that of the many other Never-Trumpers in the unremitting political vacuity of the American entertainment industry.
The most interesting part of this episode is the unscripted performance of Ms. Griffin at her press conference, where she oscillated between profuse apology, belligerent statements that Trump “is picking on the wrong redhead,” complaints that “all my life older white guys had been trying to put me down,” and sobbing that “he (Trump and his family) broke me.”
It was easy to forget for a moment that she was shedding tears of pity for herself because Melania Trump had questioned her mental health and the president and his family had stated, with greater moderation than most of the left, that incitements to his assassination and revelry in the thought of the president’s death by decapitation were unacceptable reflections by a normally respectable, if very edgy, comedian.
She tried to float the theory that she was under threat of arrest and prosecution, introducing an element of paranoia into this piercing glimpse of her unstable personality. This was from the Trump-as-Fascist book which is furtively cited by the objective leftist media whenever it is thought to be remotely plausible. Immediately after the firing of James Comey, a few CNN and MSNBC tribunes of verity used the phrase, “they came for Comey this time…,” as if the FBI director had been the subject of a totalitarian knock on the door in the dead of night and dragged away for interrogation like Rubashov in Koestler’s Darkness at Noon; and as if this fascistic process was apt to recur with increasing frequency, at the whim of the president, until he had disposed of all his critics or insubordinates.
Sociologically minded historians of the future will be puzzled by several aspects of the psychological maladjustment of much of the militant opposition to Trump. Of course, the shock or fear of dispossession in the American power structure explains a good part of it, coupled to routine partisanship torqued up by the perceived opportunity to put any defamations, no matter how extreme, across in the national media, almost all of it shivering in the rage and terror of their own political impotence. But it is more than inconvenience, distaste, or even simple defeat that causes Michael Bloomberg to follow his bilious remarks at the Democratic convention with his advocacy of state and municipal adherence to the Paris Accord, a specious form of ecological sanctuary city. This is a leaf from the same book of jurisprudence that has purported to remove immigration from the jurisdiction of the president and reallocate it to district and circuit judges. All of it, including the sanctuary antics of the mayors of New York and Chicago, are more offensive than the doctrines of interposition and nullification that caused President Jackson to threaten to hang the legislators of South Carolina.
From the limousine liberals and demented entertainers to the national media, a madness has descended that shows little sign of lifting. The general avoidance of this malaise by Charles Krauthammer, a frequent but rational Trump critic, is distinguishing. More representative and important than the Griffin incident was the gradually unrolling unconfessional confession by Hillary Clinton of the reasons for her defeat. She “takes responsibility,” apart from the fact that the Democratic Party was insolvent and incompetent, the rabidly pro-Clinton media would not let her get her program out, the Republicans didn’t fight fairly and took advantage of the notorious self-confinement to the highest levels of honest conduct of the Clinton Democrats, the country is fundamentally hostile to the idea of a woman president, and there are too many ignorant reactionaries who vote.
Obviously, Kathy Griffin and Hillary Clinton are unique individuals and not too much can be projected from them onto the Never-Trumpers as a group, but there are common elements of exaggerated horror at the thought and fact of Trump as president, an impulse that practically any act of protest and rejection is permissible, and that the reason for Trump’s success could not have any legitimate element to it. Somebody is responsible for this unspeakable outrage and while the Griffinites muse about (but assumedly do not directly incite) assassination, Mrs. Clinton and her followers lament the shortcomings of a population and Democratic Party that would allow the election of this mountebank to occur.
There have been a lot of fatuous comparisons between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. There is no evidence of a crime in the Trump administration, despite fervent efforts to find one. And Nixon accepted his defeat in 1960 stoically, though he may well have been cheated of election, resisting President Eisenhower’s urging to contest the election. He would not put the country to that, as he would not put it through an impeachment trial, although there was no conclusive evidence against him personally. The Clintons are wired differently, and this is a post-electoral hangover unlike any other in U.S. history.