Bad ways to criticize Trump

A useful question to ask when criticizing Trump is as follows: would I care about Thing X if someone on my own side did it? For example, isn’t it true that if someone on my side had bought concrete from someone with criminal ties, I would be taking pains to explain why buying concrete from someone unpleasant doesn’t make you yourself unpleasant. Likewise, I do not care when Democrats have unfortunate haircuts. What matters to me is what someone believes, not whether their flesh is or is not the color of a ripe Satsuma.

This is why John Oliver’s mockery of Trump on Last Week Tonight was particularly toothless and pathetic. Having found out that Trump’s German ancestors were called “Drumpf” rather than “Trump,” Oliver led a campaign to “Make Donald Drumpf Again,” wringing great amusement out of the apparent silliness of Trump’s ancestral name. But what was the point of this joke? What did it say about Trump? Lots of people have foreign ancestors with unusual names. Do we care? Isn’t progressivism supposed to have, as one of its principles, that foreign names aren’t funny just because they’re foreign? Isn’t this the cheapest and most xenophobic of all possible jokes? Oliver’s Drumpf campaign became extremely popular, but it was deeply childish. It fell into a common trap of Trump critiques: it descended to Trump’s level, using name-calling and playground taunts rather than trying to actually critique the truly harmful and reprehensible things about Trump. (It is possible to do satirical comedy that is actually brutal. The best joke about George W. Bush was nothing to do with My Pet Goat or his choking on a pretzel, but was the Onion’s devastating headline: “George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him Everywhere.”)…

The question anyone writing about Trump should think about before making a criticism is as follows: does anybody really give a crap? For example, which do people care more about: Trump being friendly with Putin or about the potential disappearance of their Medicaid benefits? Do they care more about Trump tweeting some slur about a news anchor, or about the threat of nuclear war? Focus should be kept on those things that affect people’s lives the most.