For the first time in memory, I agreed with a tweet from Donald Trump. After a purportedly authentic photo of the president’s forehead, colored a grotesque orange, went viral, Trump responded: “More Fake News. This was photoshopped, obviously, but the wind was strong and the hair looks good? Anything to demean!”
Yes, there’s something to demean: the liberal response to the photo. Progressives on social media relish whatever makes Trump appear foolish or incompetent. A misspelled word or misidentified country becomes the talk of Twitter for days on end.
When I ask friends and family why they find these things noteworthy, the most common responses are: “It shows what an idiot he is” or “You have to laugh to keep from being depressed.”
They are dangerously wrong on both counts. Trump may not be the genius he claims to be, but he’s far from stupid. The desperate desire of liberals to believe otherwise gives Trump and his allies a massive strategic advantage. Not to put too fine a point on it, but while Democrats were entertaining themselves sniggering at Trump’s foibles, he and his associates were expanding the use of land mines, proposing significant cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, removing environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater and collecting massive amounts of money and data for the fall presidential campaign.
They were also using the latest social media uproar to bolster Trump’s claim that he’s treated unfairly.
By denigrating Trump for small foibles, the left intensifies the political and cultural divides in our nation, making it even harder to go after swing voters. Mocking a candidate a voter is seriously considering is likely to make that voter feel mocked as well.
Remember during the Obama years how easy it was to write off people who made fun of the president’s use of a teleprompter, or of something he or one of his daughters wore?
To stave off despair and help their cause, liberals would better spend their time reading and retweeting facts and analyses about things that Americans across the political spectrum care about. Follow nonpartisan organizations like Child Care Aware of America, the National Institutes of Health and American Forests. Read the Democratic presidential candidates’ plans and Republicans’ rebuttals.
If you want to take a jab at Trump’s failings, go after something substantive that might resonate with broader audiences. Rather than helping the forehead photo go viral, circulate the photo of the fourth-grader in Philadelphia who Trump used in his State of the Union address to promote charter schools. She was, Trump told us, the poster child for countless students “trapped in failing government schools.” The president billed her as the daughter of a single parent who, he said, “would do anything to give her daughter a better future.”
In reality, neither the girl nor her mother are unhappy with her current school. The mother told reporters she does not view the current school “as a school you want to get out of at all. I view it as a great opportunity.”
This comes at a time when Trump is pushing a $5-billion tax credit program to pump money into charter and religious schools, which supporters of public schools point out diverts taxpayer money out of school districts that are already poorly funded.
Or how about this for the next time you get the urge to make a meme? Instead of an unflattering photo of the president, use a clip of his son Eric proclaiming in an interview last fall that “the government saves a fortune” when his father stays at one of his own properties. “We charge them, like 50 bucks,” he said. Juxtapose that with a headline from the Washington Post last week: ”Secret Service has paid rates as high as $650 a night for rooms at Trump’s properties.”
We lose the right to upbraid the president on serious matters if we’re constantly mocking him for trivialities.
If you need a laugh online, follow your favorite comedian.
And the next time you’re tempted to pass along something about Trump’s appearance or his latest blooper, bear in mind that some of us who have no intention of voting for Trump will unfollow you.
We might even unfriend you, and not only on social media.
Barry Glassner is the author of “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things.”