What Trump Is and What He Is Not

As Donald Trump completes his second year in office, we have learned a bit more about who he is. We have learned that his sense of shame is as lacking as his Brain-To-Tweet filter and his staffing skills. We have discovered his rare gift for making his enemies shoot themselves in the foot after he reduces them to a catchphrase like "Lyin’ Ted" or "Little Rocket Man." And we have been entertained by a Presidency that appears to lie somewhere between a WWE production and a reality TV series. But when we look beyond the endless entertainment cycle that is the Trump White House and the coverage thereof, we have also discovered a few things that Donald Trump is not.

Donald Trump is not a dictator. The #Resistance says otherwise but they’ve been telling us that for a while. So far Robert Reich has not been gunned down. Rachel Maddow has not been arrested for sedition. Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and Jimmy Kimmel have not been no-platformed. Trump may say mean things about his critics on Twitter, but he has to date refrained from throwing them out of helicopters. Indeed, Trump’s supporters have faced more threats of violence than his critics.

Donald Trump is not an anti-Semite. While many accuse him of stoking anti-Semitism and hatred others with a more personal interest think differently. If you didn’t notice Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, daughter and grandchildren, consider his widespread popularity in Israel. While American Jewish voters went 69% for Obama in 2012 and 71% for Clinton in 2016, in Israel Trump is considerably more popular than Obama, particularly among centrist and right-wing Israelis.

Donald Trump is not an illegitimate President. There have been ongoing complaints that the 2016 election was stolen, but two years of intensive investigation have failed to reveal any smoking gun linking Trump to election fraud. While Hillary Clinton’s loss was unexpected, it can be explained easily enough by bad campaigning without recourse to shadowy Russian conspiracies. Nobody is obligated to like the 2016 results. In any race one party will be disappointed. But our representative democracy rests on accepting even elections we lose.

Donald Trump is not a White supremacist. His path to making America great again involves civic, not ethnic nationalism. Trump has certainly been willing to make racially charged observations about immigrant crime (and earlier about Obama’s birth certificate and the Central Park "wilding" suspects). But he has also distanced himself repeatedly from White nationalism and has remained notably silent while the Charlottesville Eight have been railroaded into prison for self-defense. Claims that Trump is a secret White Nationalist owe more to Left-wing hysteria than to anything Trump has done on behalf of White people.

Donald Trump is not an idiot. Idiots do not win Presidential races against better financed and heavily favored opponents. Trump governs like a chief executive officer, asking "who will stop me?" rather than "whose support do I need?" He concerns himself with his base like they were his shareholders and considers his opponents relevant only insofar as they get in his way. This has caused confusion and consternation among the political classes. It has also led to foreign policy triumphs in North Korea and trade concessions from China. There is method behind his seeming madness even if less imaginative pundits cannot see it.

Donald Trump is not the enemy of the free press. While distrust of mainstream media is widespread, things on that front have improved. A 2018 Gallup poll found 45% of Americans have a great deal or some amount of trust in the media, up from an all-time low of 32% in 2016 and the highest number seen since 2008. Trump certainly has a contentious relationship with many reporters and has not hesitated to criticize "fake news." But many journalists have abandoned any pretense of objectivity in their criticism of Trump and any ensuing crisis of legitimacy can be laid at their feet. (It is noteworthy that few of Trump’s loudest media critics objected strenuously to the Antifa attack on conservative journalist Tucker Carlson’s home)

Most importantly, Donald Trump is not going anywhere. Complaints to the Electoral College went unheard. A December 2017 House vote for impeachment failed overwhelmingly, garnering support from only 58 Democratic congressmen.Promising to "impeach the mother****er" is one thing. Getting Trump out of office will be a considerably more difficult task. In this age of clickbait, we will likely see many more articles promising Russiagate will take down Trump the way the Watergate investigation took down Richard Nixon. As of now it looks more likely that the Russia investigation will be to Trump what the Whitewater controversy and Lewinsky affair were to Bill Clinton. Like him or hate him, Trump will almost certainly be staying in the Oval Office until 2020 – and if the current Democratic challengers are any indication, until 2024.