New York Times columnist published an entire series about being wrong about Trump, his voters, and the Russian collusion narrative. Unless you have a paid subscription to NYT you might have missed it so I collected the highlight from NYT writer Bret Stephens and his ‘ah ha’ moment.
The series begins with “I was wrong about” and began by admitting that he was wrong to label Trump supporters “appalling”. Stephens said, “The worst line I ever wrote as a pundit” was the first he ever wrote about Trump: “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”
“This opening salvo, from August 2015, was the first in what would become dozens of columns denouncing Trump as a unique threat to American life, democratic ideals and the world itself,” he continued.
Stephens said he “regret[s] almost nothing of what I said about the man and his close minions” but that “the broad swipe at his voters caricatured them and blinkered me.”
“It also probably did more to help than hinder Trump’s candidacy. Telling voters they are moral ignoramuses is a bad way of getting them to change their minds,” he continued. “What were they seeing that I wasn’t?” he pondered.
“What Trump’s supporters saw was a candidate whose entire being was a proudly raised middle finger at a self-satisfied elite that had produced a failing status quo,” he asserted.
“I was blind to this,” Stephens admitted. “I belonged to a social class that my friend Peggy Noonan called ‘the protected’,” he said and acknowledged his own financial luxuries.
“Trump’s appeal, according to Noonan, was largely to people she called ‘the unprotected.’ Their neighborhoods weren’t so safe and pleasant. Their schools weren’t so excellent. Their livelihoods weren’t so secure,” he wrote. “Their experience of America was often one of cultural and economic decline, sometimes felt in the most personal of ways.”
“It was an experience compounded by the insult of being treated as losers and racists —clinging, in Obama’s notorious 2008 phrase, to ‘guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them,'” Stephens wrote.
“No wonder they were angry.”
Stephens admitted the MAGA crowd’s outrage was not “unfounded or illegitimate” nor “aimed at the wrong target.”
“Trump voters had a powerful case to make that they had been thrice betrayed by the nation’s elites,” Stephens conceded. “First, after 9/11, when they had borne much of the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to see Washington fumble and then abandon the efforts,” he wrote.
“Second, after the financial crisis of 2008, when so many were being laid off, even as the financial class was being bailed out,” he continued. “Third, in the post-crisis recovery, in which years of ultralow interest rates were a bonanza for those with investable assets and brutal for those without.”
Stephens also cited “the great American cultural revolution” that occurred in the 2010s in which “traditional practices and beliefs” shifted.
“It’s one thing for social mores to evolve over time, aided by respect for differences of opinion. It’s another for them to be abruptly imposed by one side on another, with little democratic input but a great deal of moral bullying,” Stephens remarked.
What about Russian collusion? Well, Stephens admits it was all a scam— “the Steele dossier and all the bogus allegations, credulously parroted in the mainstream media, that flowed from it” – that marred Trump’s presidency was an “elaborate hoax” and that “there’s just no other word for it”.
Despite this revelation, Stephens argued that he would not be “morally” wrong to “lambaste Trump’s current supporters, the ones who want him back in the White House despite his refusal to accept his electoral defeat and the historic outrage of Jan. 6.” To which I would argue that he was still falling for at least some of the rouse.
It always amazes me how, given a little time, the truth always comes out. I had written during the early days of the Russia-gate plot, as well as the end of Trump’s presidency that history will remember this very differently and I still stand by that statement.