This week Ross Douthat took up some of my arguments in his column (partly as a response to my article at The Bulwark, where I critiqued his and others’ blasé attitude about Trump). He raises some interesting questions about the effectiveness of “The Resistance,” and concludes that anti-Biden efforts that seek to imitate the left’s resistance won’t work because, as with Trump, it’s the normal bread-and-butter political stuff that really matters.
It is a thrill to be engaged like this in the NYT, and I will have to think about this some more, but at bottom I think Douthat’s argument is pretty convoluted, and I’m not persuaded. In fact, in some ways it is just a rehash and confirmation of one problem I was circling around in my original piece. It seems to me that here, as with so common in “the Discourse” right now, Douthat is evading the core substantive issue at hand, which is the question of which “resistance” movement has more (actual, real) legitimacy.
My basic thought is that his response is based on a pretty silly false equivalence/likening between the two “sides,” whereas what we really need to talk about are the meaningful differences. Which “resistance” effort makes more sense, which has more solid grounding? Were the women who marched against Trump doing so based on a misunderstanding of his misogyny? Was the Russiagate “imbroglio” based on lies and fantasy? Was Trump’s impeachment? Why won’t Douthat acknowledge that “the Resistance” has something to do with Trump and GOP racism, and that that is a genuine problem? Even Rod Dreher has cold feet about what the GOP is up to right now. So-called liberal hysteria has a basis in reality, even if the full truth is hard to know.
And then there’s the case against Joe Biden’s legitimacy. What is the substance of that case? Where is the evidence of voter fraud? How does Joe Biden actually threaten to destroy the country? In my view the stuff we are seeing on the right against Biden’s legitimacy is at this point not grounded in reality. To be clear, I have no objections, obviously, to Republicans holding investigations and looking into things. But at this point it is almost all dangerous election fraud nonsense and red-scare/flight-93-style fantasy.
I understand that these things are judgment calls, but it seems to me that the case against Biden is convoluted, conspiratorial, not strong. He much more obviously does not pose an existential threat to the United States. The case against Trump is/was very different, even if you don’t think the threat is/was serious. And I think the truth-value of all these competing claims has some bearing on their respective successes/failures.