Why? By David Montgomery


Are the Left’s persistent and vituperative attacks on Donald Trump and his supporters based on misunderstanding, emotion, or strategy? I have been convinced at various times that one or another of the three motivations was behind some particular attack, and my responses have been intended to deal with the specific motivation I inferred.

Now that the Left’s violent and unrestrained rhetoric has achieved its predictable outcome of homicidal attacks on Republican Members of Congress, it is even more important to find an effective way to neutralize that rhetoric. And the first step, for me, is to reflect longer on what motivates the Left in this campaign.

Leading up to the shooting of Representative Scalise and his colleagues, the incitement of violence from the Left became more and more explicit. As soon as Inauguration Day, we had Madonna saying “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”

Then we have the constant dehumanizing of President Trump and his family by the talk-show hosts and comedians showcased by the media opposed to him. It is impossible to watch the most popular late night talk show without seeing and hearing caricatures of the President and tasteless jokes about every aspect of his appearance, family and character.

This shades over into the substitution of speculation about Trump’s motives and prejudices for substantive debates about the merits of his actions and policy proposals. Thus his eminently sensible efforts to screen out potential terrorists from entry into the USA are evaluated by the media and activist judges based on campaign statements and attributions of religious bias rather than on their merits. His efforts to reform ObamaCare are described as willingness to let people die without healthcare rather than debated as approaches to saving an obviously failed system. His well-reasoned efforts to extricate us from an overly-burdensome agreement on climate change illegally ratified by his predecessor are attacked by claiming that the President does not believe in climate change, as if it were the secular version of the Immaculate Conception, rather than debating the legality of bypassing Senatorial ratification of treaties. He is accused of obstruction of justice by the same Democrats who demanded the FBI Director be fired for the very reasons given by President Trump.

Democrats in Congress, failed candidates whose message on public policy has narrowed down to a single word “Resist,” and an activist Attorney General contribute to the demeaning of the President and his advisors with accusations of personal malfeasance based on sheer speculation and frivolous lawsuits.

The personal attacks escalated recently with Kathy Griffin’s foul display of the severed and bloody head of the President, and even worse with the performance of Julius Caesar portraying the Roman Emperor as Donald Trump and celebrating his assassination. Though some sponsors acted properly to drop the offenders, they were endorsed by fellow-celebrities for their courageous efforts to influence public perceptions. I didn’t realize it took courage to attack Donald Trump in Manhattan and Hollywood.

The rhetoric spilled over into overt physical violence against anyone who would defend the President or express conservative views in public. Demonstrators from “Resist” and other Leftist organizations rioted to prevent their appearance at Berkeley and other universities that once defended free speech, and assaulted students who indicated their support for the speakers or the President.

And then this verbal and sometimes physical violence culminated in the attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress by a gunman radicalized by the Left.

How can this be dealt with? If the hostility toward all things Republican were based simply on misunderstanding of the actual content and consequences of our policy proposals, the response would be easy. Many of us are decent writers and have the requisite expertise in climate and environmental science, environmental economics, regulatory economics, tax policy, financial regulation, labor issues, healthcare, international relations, national security and other disciplines to explain the problems that our policies address and their likely consequences. To the extent that we think the slogans and arguments of the Left are based on misrepresentations and falsehoods, the challenge of correcting those errors should be our first priority. Then, we could hope, with better understanding the fear and anger could abate.

But the way in which blatant and easily refuted misrepresentations are continually resurrected and repeated, and the unwillingness of those shouting them to listen to contrary points of view, suggest that correctable ignorance is not the primary reason for attacks on the President and his policies. The nation seems to be too committed to choosing sides on policies based on the perceived character, appearance, mental state or biases of political players ever to pay attention to the real good or bad consequences of policy proposals.

That suggests that emotion or strategy or both, not simple misunderstanding of his policies, are the drivers of current agitation against the President.

It is easy to make the case that emotion is the driver. Generations younger than mine have been taught from childhood that their feelings are all that matters. When your parents, teachers and college professors encourage you to believe that how you feel is more important than what is true or right, that everyone is entitled to his or her own facts, and that there is no such thing as objective truth or moral absolutes, then nothing does matter except the emotions that a politician or policy evokes. When you are as stupid, self-centered, and publicity-seeking as most entertainers and celebrities, the notion that some people actually think about things probably never entered your atrophied brain. And President Trump can present himself in a manner that is repulsive even to those who, like me, are convinced that by and large his policies are the right ones for our country.

If some or all of these reasons for unrestrained emotional responses were the primary drivers of the current malaise, we would be right to reiterate the need for civility in politics as our primary response. We could hope that the shooting of Representative Scalise and his slow and painful recovery would be a corrective shock bringing a majority back to their right minds.

So that leaves us with the likelihood that there is a strategy behind the incitement of hatred and violence that we have seen. According to Rusty Reno, editor of the journal First Things, there is such a strategy, designed and directed by the wealthy, largely white elite that runs the Democratic Party. Disconnected from the middle and working class voters necessary for the party to win, those elites can only hold onto voters by inventing new forms of discrimination for them to fear. Until the election of Donald Trump, they generated that fear by pushing an agenda so radical that it was guaranteed to generate resistance, and then labeling anyone who objected to that agenda as a bigot, a homophobe, a misogynist or a white supremacist.

How else, Reno asks, can we explain a President facing ISIS, Russian aggression, North Korean nuclear weapons, an expansionist China and the slowest recovery from recession on record making transgender bathrooms his highest priority? Most of us probably thought that election of the first black President would be the end of race-baiting, yet during his term we experienced repeated assassinations of police officers in the name of “Black Lives Matter” and banners proclaiming that “Republican Hate Kills.”

According to Reno, the Democratic Party came back from its defeats as the party of segregation during the civil rights era by promising to “promote and protect those who feel ‘excluded’ or ‘marginalized.’” But those promises to African-Americans, women and other minorities have been fulfilled. We have made immense progress over the past 50 years in eliminating discrimination based on race, sex, religion and other differences.

Once real discrimination ended, Democrat leaders and their sycophants in movies and the news media had to invent claims of discrimination to keep their coalition together. They found a new group they could label as marginalized in lesbian and gay activists. Then after winning on issues like gay marriage, they needed to invent discrimination against even more obscure sexual orientations. In the process, Democrats wrapped an activist agenda centered on LGBTQ privileges that have no direct appeal to most voters in a narrative of discrimination that they expect African-American and Hispanic voters – not to mention wealthy whites — to accept automatically.

To make that narrative work politically, there has to be a villain. To create a villain, the demands have to be so extreme that they will provoke opposition. Since political correctness has by now intimidated most of those outraged by this social agenda into silence, it becomes easy to claim that all those willing to take a public stand are bigots. Transgender bathrooms were a perfect ploy. The demand is so contrary to any sensible view of human nature that it generates widespread outrage, and all those who express that view can be labeled “haters.” Then the mostly rich, white liberals who run the party can sustain their power by promising even more protections from these symbols of oppression.

Now there is someone else to hate – Donald Trump. Someone the same elites can label racist and sexist based on his own statements. The vehemence of the blogosphere and the unanimity of sicko comedians makes it clear that many of them can’t imagine any reason to stop, not even boredom at repeating themselves and certainly not escalating violence. That their strategy and that of the liberal elites is to create a new symbol of oppression in order to maintain their hold on power is a very compelling explanation.

It is also a strategy to continue the intimidation of voters who voted for Trump in order to express how fed up they are with the radical program and condescending attitudes of the liberal elites. What better way to demonize the deplorable racists, sexists and homophobes who voted for Trump than by harping continuously on his gaffes and impetuous actions? We Trump voters might eventually get fed up with being accused of being white supremacists or worse and vote out those who condemn us unjustly, but we can be put down over and over again by making our choice for President out to be a boob or a monster.

I don’t disagree that Donald Trump has shown a talent for turning victory into defeat nearly as great as his talent for turning defeat into victory in the election. Just as he shows his chops as a negotiator by getting health care reform through the House of Representatives, he surrounds himself with a firestorm of criticism for firing the FBI Director. It would be a great help to take away his tablet and restrain his willingness to validate every criticism by responding to it. But if it were not for Trump, the strategy behind the rising storm of hatred would be diverted to creating some other symbols of oppression against which the elites running the Democratic Party can pretend to stand.

In response, those of us who are appalled by these developments must continue trying to explain clearly and objectively the basis for the policies we favor. We must also practice and encourage civility rather than emotional rants about policies and politicians (though I think celebrities, entertainers and opponents of free speech are still fair game).

That will not be enough. Continued engagement in electoral politics to keep the coalition of hard-working, faithful, family-oriented, financially stressed and totally ignored voters who elected President Trump together is the only antidote to the strategy of demonization pursued by the elites who think they own the Democratic Party.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

Letters to Editor

  1. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    After 8 years of anti-Obama: Ted Nugent”Obama suck on my shotgun”, “”you lie” yelled at him during State of the Union Address”, his family parodied as monkeys, or worse, the present “President” fanning the ridiculous idea that Obama was not a legitimate President, (the “birther” insult), and Mitch “chinless” McConnell saying that Republicans will deny Obama everything legislatively…I have a question: Is the author of this idiotic opinion piece perhaps missing cognitive function or has he just awaken like Rumpleskilton from years of sleep.

    This piece is insulting to say the least. And very sad indeed that anyone would defend this sick man in the White House. Perhaps some people would sell their soul for lower taxes.

  2. Lynne Martin says:

    To the editor: Poor Mr Montgomery has made a false connection between liberal vitriol and the armed assault on Republican baseball players. Allowing anyone who wants a machine gun including terrorists, to pick one up at his corner store is the catastrophic disaster of our times. Mass shootings are now commonplace. Think twice before going to your local movie theater, church or school. The absurdity of our besieged lifestyle is held up for the entire world to see and they do marvel at our millions of gun toters. Hunting is a time honored sport but hunting humans is now the norm. The entire Republican Party is financed by the NRA. There is plenty of vitriol on both sides. We will never be safe from this constant gun violence all across this tragic United States until Republicans are no longer in control.

    • rachel goss says:


      The Bad guys will always have access to guns.
      The Good guys should have the right to defend themselves.

      I don’t know if this murderer purchased his firearms before or after the incident with his daughter. I don’t know why the charges were dismissed either. I have not read anything about him having a history of mental health issues. He appears that took aim at men he perceived as Evil because they do not believe the things he believed. He was a man obsessed by his political views, it seems. This Blind Rage against our President has become “normal”.

      • Deirdre LaMotte says:

        There is direct correlation between men who commit domestic violence and further acts of societal violence. Bad guys, good guys bla bla bla. Guns should be regulated,

        The ‘Blind Rage” against a man who cannot go a day (minute perhaps) without lying? I would certainly hope so. He is dangerous. He is a petulant, ignorant,
        non-reader con man. How is that for rage?!

        • rachel goss says:

          The Shooter of the Republican Congressman, the staff members, and the Capital Police Officers purchased his guns legally. What do you propose?
          I think it is easy for current gun owners to suggest More regulations – just like folks with the ability to hire armed guards.

          In your opinion he “cannot go a day (minute perhaps) without lying? I would certainly hope so. He is dangerous. He is a petulant, ignorant,
          non-reader con man.” The American Citizens not in agreement with your opinion are not evil or bad.

  3. David Montgomery says:

    Thank you to Ms Goss, you have it right. As Bret Stephens wrote in a much more conciliatory opinion than mine, there is no way short of repealing the Second Amendment to stop someone with this assassins profile from purchasing a firearm. Now my addition. It is amazing how many of those who fear the NRA (of which I’m a life member) know so little about firearms or the law. It has not been possible to purchase a “machine gun” at your corner store since the thirties, nor did the assassin have one. He had to pull the trigger once for every round he fired. Had some of the others at the practice taken advantage of Virginia’s sensible concealed carry law and gotten firearms training, the assassin could have been put down even faster.

    As to Ms La Motte, your comment proves my point. Some people are so blinded by their hatred of Trump that they cannot control the impulse to rage at anyone who has supported him in any way, including almost half of the voters nationally and a clear majority of her neighbors in Kent and Caroline counties.

    But let me reiterate the point of my article, which was not to blame Ms La Motte and her like for the assassination attempt. I do not agree that a few random words and principled opposition to Obama’s disastrous policies compares in any way to the escalating vitriol and suggestions of assasination aimed at Trump and those of us who voted for him. The support for, pervasiveness, and vitriol of the Left’s campaign is far greater. My point that there is more to this campaign than just individual lack of impulse control and ability to see those who disagree with them as persons. If that is all that prompts hate speech and violence, then I believe I wrote that the shock of seeing what harm giving in to those impulses can do might bring about increased civility in politics.

    But I do not expect that to happen. The theory that Ms La Motte did not appear to read far enough to discover is that she is being manipulated by an unrepresentative elite to see anyone with different moral views as an oppressor and evildoer. Whether the current escalation changes or continues will test my theory that there are more sinister forces at work than just the fashionable belief that everyone should express whatever feeling hits them.

    It is only on the left that we see mainstream figures engaging in incitement to violence and demonization of their opponents. Unfortunately, just today Scott Pelley called the attack on Rep Scalise “self-inflicted” and Joy-Ann Reid’s immediate response was to attack his political positions. I see little repentance in those quarters. There is a qualitative difference between establishment figures and party leaders talking as they do and Ted Nugents rants.

    Finally, I have been reading Jim Webb’s book on the Scots-Irish, and I recommend it to anyone interested in a Democratic senators views on the origins of our current political sickness. He points out that as far back as Andrew Jackson, founder of his party, the social, political and economic elites engaged in exactly the same demonization of a populist who won the Presidency over their candidate. The elites now funding and calling the shots in the Democratic Party have been willing to go to any lengths to discredit a populist who threatens their efforts to expand the role of government by means of false and paternalistic promises to voters who they keep divided against themselves. That is the theory that I tried to describe and that I think fits the facts.

    • Deirdre Lamotte says:

      Your defense of this man is indefensible.

      Alas, “the “man” doth protest too much, methinks.”

    • rachel goss says:

      I did write a response directly to Mrs. Lamote’s original post.
      I agree it proved the point.
      You were insulted, the President was insulted, and folks wanting to keep their hard earned money were alleged to be willing to sell our souls to the Devil.
      Love and Tolerance is in short supply.
      This perception of good vs evil within our borders is dangerous. I read comments frequently that mirror those of the man willing to take aim at our Congressmen. Unstable is used to describe the most fanatic alt-left folks. I don’t think that is fair to people with real mental health issues. Unglued? Is that a better word? ,

  4. James Moseman says:

    Thoughtful analysis, Mr. Montgomery. Thank you.

  5. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    Wow, we are really down Alice’s rabbit hole. Up is down and big is small…

    How rich to read about all this moral outrage you have. Sorry, but you supported and still support an unhinged man who whips up crowds with vile comments, and can’t control his tweeting thumbs. I won’t even touch the inane “policies” he supports, coal, stripping reproductive rights, Alec Jones type filth, lack of any outrage at Russian hacking….

    There is too much at stake for our nation.I would argue supporting this contemptible man and his sycophants is a personal moral failure.

    Enough of this pissing match for me. Back to getting out the vote…..

  6. James Nick says:

    Just before last fall’s election, Fox news reported there would “likely” be an FBI indictment against the Clinton Foundation for alleged pay-to-play schemes. Following up on the story, Kellyanne Conway was asked on MSNBC if the report was true. Ms Conway responded that it didn’t matter if it was true. “The damage is done to Hillary Clinton. No matter how it’s being termed, the voters are hearing it for what it is — a culture of corruption,” she said.

    Conway then went on to cite comments made by congressional GOP members that Hillary Clinton could be confronted with “all types of investigations” if she wins office on Nov 8. The country, Conway said, would “be living this nightmare” from the moment Clinton occupied the White House (1).

    At the same time, it was widely reported (2) that a conservative group called Heritage Action was pushing Republican senators to keep the Supreme Court at eight justices if Hillary Clinton was elected president. A VP of the group said Republicans should embrace the idea of leaving the Supreme Court without its ninth justice, perhaps for as long as five years. “You’ve seen John McCain and others talk about the need to not confirm any liberal nominated to the Supreme Court,” the VP said. “That’s exactly the right position to have.”

    “A Living Nightmare”. The Republicans were not shy about painting a stark picture of what would happen if the country elected Hillary Clinton. They promised that the unyielding partisan gridlock they had engineered during President Obama’s two terms and the endless Benghazi- and e-mail server-like witch hunts we were all sick of were going to seem like a walk in the park. The Republicans explicitly threatened to double-down by grinding government to a halt and pinning down a newly elected Clinton with endless investigations.

    Turns out, the nightmare prediction was incredibly prescient… except for one minor detail. The nightmare is trump. It is in this context that the blunderbuss-load of pent-up grievances and charges Mr. Montgomery expresses with his “WHY?” Op Ed are simply unbelievable. What hypocrisy! Save the crocodile tears, please. It was your team, Mr Montgomery, that formulated the strategy and now you are complaining that the Dems are trying their best to execute it?

    For every unhinged James Hodgkinson the right points their sanctimonious finger at, the left can point to a Jared Lee Loughner or an Edgar Maddison Welch. For every police officer death attributed to Black Lives Matter by the right, there are many, many more Tamir Rices and Philando Castiles. For every Madonna and Kathy Griffin there is a Ted Nugent and an Alex Jones. For every one elite, rich, white liberal said to run the Democratic Party, there are orders of magnitude more puppet masters like the Koch brothers on the right running the Republican Party. And as for Mr Montgomery’s high dudgeon over trump being allegorically portrayed as Julius Caesar, there is no mention of President Obama likewise being portrayed in a 2012 production in Minneapolis that was greeted at the time with a collective yawn by liberals.

    Failing to heed warnings from the very few rational thinkers and professionals on the right, the Republican base went ahead and nominated, then elected, a vain, narcissistic, self-centered, thin-skinned, politically naive, man-child that entered office with a freight train full of moral, ethical, and legal baggage that continues to accumulate at a breathtaking rate. Now in office, trump has failed to enunciate any coherent foreign policy except to systematically alienate our allies while cozying up to the worst dictators and strongmen on the planet. His only discernable domestic policy seems to be a vendetta to roll back anything “Obama”. He fires anyone that does not pledge their personal loyalty to him and preens himself at a cringe-worthy photo-ops where obsequious toadies in his cabinet do everything but ceremoniously flagellate themselves to ensure Dear Leader that they got the message. He thinks nothing of lying and contradicting himself, his handlers, and his surrogates. A case in point: At the same time Mr Montgomery is praising trump for his negotiating skills getting a health care reform bill through the House of Representatives, the famously transactional trump is distancing himself from it by labelling the bill as “mean” as it finally starts to dawn on him what the political price will be if he ever has to sign anything that resembles it.

    How can anyone wonder about the vituperative ad hominem attacks aimed at trump when he is a walking, talking, tweeting punchline? Welcome to the Big Leagues. This is what trump signed up for. This is what life is like in the shark tank and under the microscope these days. And as Ms Conway said, it really doesn’t matter anymore whether any of the collusion, obstruction of justice, self-dealing, or corruption allegations against trump are true or not. It only matters that damage is done. These the rules of engagement your team is playing by, Mr Montgomery.

    “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”… yes?

    (1) http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/304364-trump-aide-on-fox-indictment-story-the-damage-is-done
    (2) http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/304231-heritage-calling-for-supreme-court-blockade-if-clinton-wins

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