I think people on all sides of the political divide are expecting big things from the incoming Trump administration. Some of us are looking forward to lower taxes, a less burdensome regulatory environment, the enforcement of the country’s immigration laws, the harnessing of all the country’s energy resources in the service of a pro-growth agenda, a pro-American foreign policy and upgraded military to back it up, and the appointment of judges and Supreme Court justices who understand that their primary task is to interpret the law in light of the Constitution, not to use the court to reshape society.
It’s difficult to say what the other side is looking forward to. The difficulty comes from the incredible nature of what they say about the prospect of a Trump presidency. By “incredible,” I mean “not believable.” Does David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, really believe (as he wrote in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory) that “the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism”?
Does he really believe that the fact that his candidate did not win in a free, open, democratic election is “a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy”? On November 9, Mr. Remnick wrote that “Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted.” Has he looked at the stock market recently? On November 1, the Dow Jones IndustrialAverage closed at 18,037. Friday, January 13, it closed at 19,885. 19,885 - 18,037 = 1,848. So, the market gained almost 2000 points in two and a half months. How do you define “tumble”?
But what about Trump “strik[ing] fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted”? (“[T]he many other variety of Other”? Alas, yes. And in The New Yorker.)
I suspect that Mr. Remnick’s overheated verbiage is just calculated hyperbole. I suspect, that is to say, that he doesn’t believe a word of it. He doesn’t like Donald Trump. He wanted the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, the Guardian of Benghazi, the Friend of the Syrians, and the Keeper of State Secrets to win. I understand that. But where does all that “striking fear” into the hearts of people come from? I believe it’s fabricated, make-pretend melodrama.
It’s a popular entertainment, though, especially on college campuses, where cheap melodrama can usually be indulged in without consequence and chalked up as a “learning experience.” (“That will be $300,000, please.”) Like many other commentators from the knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal precincts of humanity, I have had some jolly fun at the expense of our overbred campus snowflakes.
There have been many inventories of academic hysterics over the Trump victory, and I won’t go through all of them now, other than to mention the latest that has come to my attention. “Teach! Organize! Resist!” intends to stage a number of on-campus protests and consciousness-raising events between Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow and Mr. Trump’s inauguration Friday. Although fomented at UCLA, this enterprise has, at last count, attracted the involvement of nearly twenty other institutions, including Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley, i.e., some of the most prestigious institutions in the country. As Campus Reform reports, “nine of the participating schools are public, and a total of 46 teach-ins are currently scheduled to take place.” I hope the legislators who approve the budgets for the public institutions will sit up and take notice, since one of the immediate goals of “Teach! Organize! Resist!” is to encourage professors to “use your regular class time to attend a panel with your students.” Your tax dollars at work, Comrade, and for what?
The organizers of these sideshows are admirably clear about that. “We intend to organize,” their web site informs the world, “against the proposed expansion of state violence targeting people of color, undocumented people, queer communities, women, Muslims, and many others.” What “state violence” would that be? While you wonder about that, note too that the organizers “intend to resist the institutionalization of ideologies of separation and subordination, including white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and virulent nationalism.” Oh, I see.
Now some of this is just adolescent play-acting, even if many of those involved, being professors, are far beyond the chronological limits of adolescence. Academia has an infantilizing effect. I understand that. Many professors dress and act like adolescents right up to the time they are ready to hand in their tenure and live off their generous pensions. The Peter-Pan aspect of academia is not entirely the professors’ fault. After all, the points at which the real world intrudes upon academia are so few and so tenuous that academics may be forgiven for some of their hyperbole and inadvertently comic displays of self-importance. They exist, like kept women of yore, entirely at the pleasure of an affluent society they despise. So in a way it is not surprising that they endeavor to transform their entire campus into a sort of existential boudoir, which is French for “room for pouting in.”
But behind or alongside the childishness of these academic histrionics there is something more malevolent going on. If the students and professors who pretend to be frightened of Donald Trump could be sequestered into the “safe spaces” they say they desire, that would be one thing. But they can’t. They have a deleterious effect on the larger academic environment and, beyond that, on the national conversation about the future of America. Something must be done. But what?