It's OK to Hate Trump's Sadism

Stephen Miller thinks outrage over baby snatching is what he wants. The White House advisor is asking for a world of hurt.

It bears frequent repeating that there is nothing left of conservative ideology save one thing: sadism, or the pleasure of seeing pain and suffering in others.

Conservatism-as-sadism is either new or old, depending on whom you ask. In any case, it is abundantly evident now given President Donald Trump’s policy of confiscating infants from mothers who arrived on American soil to plead for political asylum. The point is to deter people by driving them to despair.

But sadism is also evident in the president’s midterm strategy, which was summed up this way by White House advisor Stephen Miller: Trigger the libs. The outrage over confiscating kids is, according to The Atlantic, exactly what Miller wants.

Miller told McKay Coppins during an interview “that he has often found value in generating what he calls ‘constructive controversy—with the purpose of enlightenment.’ This belief traces back to the snowflake-melting and lib-triggering of his youth. … His bet appears to be that voters will witness this showdown between Trump and his angry antagonists, and ultimately side with the president.”

Put another way: Harming innocents inflames the libs, and by getting inflamed over the raw contempt for human dignity by the republican government of the United States, the libs expose their own hypocrisy—or something like that.

A few thoughts on this so-called strategy.

One is that it depends on it not being recognized for what it is: sadism. As long as housing babies in camps under a 106-degree Texas sun is not seen as cruelty for its own sake, the president might win. (It is for its own sake; suffering is the goal.)

In this, the president has allies not only among Republican incumbents terrified of opposing him during an election year. He has allies among those who would otherwise profess opposition to all things Trumpist. Here, I’m talking about that small loud faction of dishonest “Never Trump conservative” who can’t stand the president’s lack of decorum but will not tolerate the raging liberal reaction to his sadism.

Chief among them is Erick Erickson, an evangelical commentator who is still mysteriously taken seriously by cable news networks. On Twitter, he said baby snatching is immoral but it isn’t fascism. Rage against baby snatching, however, is totally fascism. When activists hounded Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen out of a Mexican restaurant last night, that was much too much for Erick Erickson.

Erick Erickson@EWErickson

I think separating parents from their children at the border is immoral. I don't think it is Nazism. I do think people getting comfortable targeting unelected individuals for harassment over policy disagreement is definitionally a fascist tactic.

June 20, 2018
To repeat: sadist policy is bad, but it’s not fascism. Protest of sadist policy is definitely fascism, though. In Erickson, Trump gets a twofer: an influential “Never Trump” voice who rationalizes sadism by accusing the president’s opponents of being so very much worse. I’m pretty sure Stephen Miller is right now laughing his ass off.

Joining Erickson is Megyn Kelly. The ex-Fox News anchor now at NBC represents the soft bigotry that used to be the heart of contemporary conservatism before it stopped playing by the old rule saying you can’t be a white supremacist in public. She took umbrage with a former Trump advisor. Corey Lewandowski belittled a liberal critic for mentioning babies in federal custody. He said “womp womp.” Kelly said:

There is no low to which this coward Corey Lewandowski won’t sink. This man should not be afforded a national platform to spew his hate.

Heavens, no.

No one should spew hate. Not Lewandowski nor any American, even if they are completely consumed with fury over the president’s sadistic policy of ripping babies from mothers pleading for help, with no plan, none, for reuniting them, thus scarring kids for life. There is no difference between jailing babies and those who “womp womp” people who hate the fact that the government is jailing babies. Far better for everyone to cool it. As First Lady Melania Trump said this weekend, it’s time for both sides to stop fighting and do something about her husband’s sadism.

The president appears to be ready to cave on this issue (according to the AP this morning), but that won’t stop the idea that triggering the libs is a winning midterm strategy. Trump is reportedly bored with normal politics (like bragging about the GOP tax overhaul). He’s seeking “culture war tropes” with which to divide and conquer.

But Trump’s trigger-the-libs strategy is flawed for two reasons. One is Barack Obama is no longer present. Hillary Clinton is gone too. Yes, the Republicans will try mightily to revive the old boogeymen, but the plain fact is even troglodyte voters in Trump’s corner understand there is no more urgency. A Republican is the president.

The other flaw? It’s worse.

These sadists believe in a cartoon version of the liberal opposition, not the liberal opposition as it truly is. Because liberals are always chiding sadists for their hatred of minorities and the powerless, the sadists believe that liberals will not allow themselves to feel the kind of hatred needed to overtake Congress. If they do show hatred, they betray themselves. When that happens, the president will totally own them.

They really don’t get it.

They don’t get that it’s OK to hate sadism, that it’s OK to hate fascism, that it’s OK to hate the barbarism of a federal government abandoning its founding ideals as well as dehumanizing the world’s most vulnerable people. That kind of hatred is good.

And that kind of hatred is going to turn into resolve, resolve that is going to bring a tsunami of pain to someone who dearly deserves every single ounce of it.


Bonus feature!

New Haven native Alex Wise is host of Sea Change Radio, a syndicated program about environmental politics on the west coast. We talked last week about the upcoming midterm elections, President Trump and the differing natures of the parties.