“They Like Me Very Much”

I don’t know much about the movement [QAnon], other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate, but I don’t know much about the movement. — President Donald Trump, August 19, 2020

Our transactional president: If a group or individual likes him, that is all that matters. It is of no concern to Trump what its beliefs might be, how kooky it is, or whether it presents a danger to the nation. The only lens that matters for him is, “They like me very much.” Narcissism, after all, is the one constant in the Trump firmament. 

“I don’t know much about the movement,” Trump says. Think about that! Not only is he willing to accept the support of a fringe group about which he claims to know little, but he then goes on praise it: “I’ve heard these are people that love our country.” One would think the president of the United States would do a little homework and learn that QAnon is a viral conspiracy theory that attracts people who believe the president is battling a Satanic, criminal band of sex traffickers and pedophiles, which includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros. But, of course, doing homework, even a little, is anathema to this president. When told by a reporter about QAnon’s central premise, the president replied: “If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there.” Good to know, Mr. President, good to know!

Trump consumes hours of television news daily, where QAnon has been discussed, so it is hard to credit his ignorance. Not that anyone should doubt Trump’s ignorance, but, in this case, he probably knows more than he is telling us. As Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League told The New York Times: “Condemning this group should not be difficult. It’s downright dangerous when a leader not only refuses to do so, but also wonders whether what they are doing is ‘a good thing.’”

Believers in QAnon have been charged with violent crimes, including one follower accused of murdering a mafia boss in New York and another arrested this past April for threatening to kill Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The FBI warns that QAnon poses a potential domestic terrorist threat. No, Mr. President, ignorance is no defense.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Trump has praised Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon supporter who won the Republican primary in a Georgia congressional district. She is poised to become the first QAnon believer to gain a seat in Congress since her district is overwhelmingly Republican. Trump praised Greene as a “future Republican star… [who] is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!” 

Greene is not the only ultra-rightwing loony to earn Trump’s accolades. “Great going Laura,” Trump tweeted after Laura Loomer won a Republican congressional primary in Trump’s Florida district. Trump added that Loomer has “a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” Fortunately, in this case, Trump truly is ignorant as Loomer is contesting a heavily Democratic district in which her Islamophobia will not play well. Loomer has called Muslims “savages,” declared Islam “a cancer on society,” and demanded ”a non-Islamic form of Uber and Lyft because I never want to support another immigrant driver.”  Loomer has been banned by Lyft and Uber, as well as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. 

Mark and Patricia McCloskey

As I have said, no one should ever doubt Trump’s ignorance, but, at the same time, no one should doubt his affinity for conspiracy theories (see “birtherism”) and wackadoodle racist candidates. Still, it is mystifying why Trump or anyone in his orbit believes appealing to the fringiest of the fringes in American politics is an effective campaign strategy. But, apparently, Republicans, judging by the lineup at next week’s convention, are doubling down on winning a narrow slice of the American body politic. Among the speakers: the St. Louis couple who gained notoriety by brandishing guns at Black Lives Matter protestors and the high school student maligned for his confrontation with a Native American man.

These are not speakers likely to broaden the president’s appeal beyond his 35 percent or so of loyal followers. The Republican National Convention, no doubt, will offer a stark contrast to this week’s Democratic National Convention, whose themes were the big tent and, most importantly, diversity, welcoming speakers of all backgrounds, creeds, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. (QAnon devotees need not apply.) Biden reached out to all wings of the Democratic Party to insure that progressives like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke at the convention and support the ticket this November. The Democrats also featured Republicans such as former Ohio Governor John Kasich, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, businesswoman Meg Whitman, and former New York Representative Susan Molinari, all of whom testified to the existential threat to our nation posed by President Trump. 

The Republican virtual shindig will be the opposite: No one who ever criticized the president will be speaking and Republican exclusivity will contrast with this week’s Democratic inclusivity. Trump and his number of dwindling supporters will continue to reach out to only those who, “Like me very much.” Fortunately, for the nation, the rest of us do not like him very much, at all. 

Posted August 21, 2020

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