Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Matt Johnson: Trump Doesn't Own the National Anthem

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Matt Johnson: Trump Doesn't Own the National Anthem

Article excerpt

If only more critics of President Donald Trump would start taking tactical advice from a former Bush administration speechwriter.

David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic who has worked on The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and as a contributor to National Review, The Weekly Standard and The Daily Beast. But this is an extremely brief summary of an expansive career -- from his popular blog to his eight books (the ninth of which will be released in January) to his decades of journalism, Frum has long been a powerful intellectual force in modern conservatism.

And yes, he also served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush.

I've long thought conservatives would do well to start listening to Frum, but it turns out that liberals should do the same. Over the past few months, he's been trying to explain "what effective protest could look like" -- the title of a piece he wrote for The Atlantic in February, which outlined a few practical ways to organize against Trump without feeding the divisive and hateful narrative he relies upon.

Frum often points out that certain forms of protest -- violence, the desecration of patriotic symbols, disrespect toward law enforcement, etc. -- aren't just ineffective. They provide Trump with his most useful political resource: outrage. When anarchists in ski masks throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police officers, Trump is giddy -- he points to the images of chaos and destruction to prove that his opponents are all black-clad thugs. He can also dismiss legitimate criticism with indignant denunciations of protesters who mindlessly call him a fascist or describe all of his supporters as racist deviants -- just ask Hillary Clinton if her "deplorables" comment was an asset for her campaign or Trump's.

Many Americans were rightly disgusted by Trump's comments after Charlottesville, Va., but it's a mistake to assume that they were a product of some long-festering sympathy for fascism or barely-suppressed commitment to white supremacy.

When he talked about the culpability of "both sides" for the violence in Charlottesville, it wasn't a declaration of ideological affinity with the tiki torch-wielding goons in the streets -- it was an attempt to inflame conservative grievances. If there was any question that this was his intent, he dispelled it a few days later when he asked, "What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right'?" Don't let the prefix "alt-" fool you -- although Trump had a perfect opportunity to unify Americans against neo-Nazis and members of the KKK (a pretty easy test for a president to pass); he chose to polarize us with simplistic political labels instead. He wanted to convince us that it wasn't a question of decency versus barbarism -- it was left versus right. …

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