President of the Republican Base of America

“This is not normal.”

Those four words are the simplest descriptor of the Trump Administration, and the best antidote to the collective psychological trauma it is inflicting on the majority of Americans. It is important to remember and catalog all the ways in which the Trump regime has obliterated the norms that hold the country together, and eschewed even the appearance of basic decency.

One of the most significant abnormalities of the Trump era is how he refuses to even pretend to be the president of all Americans. All presidents cater to their base somewhat, and previous presidents have acted divisively at times to pursue policy goals. But even the most aggressively partisan presidents have at least sought to appear bipartisan and to be acting on behalf of everyone’s best interest.

Trump does not. He explicitly advertises that he operates only on behalf of his core base of his most ardent supporters. He doesn’t even pretend to advocate on behalf of all his voters: as his approval ratings plummet, he makes no effort to correct course or win back the people he is losing due to his malignant behavior. As his core supporters dwindle to the nastiest, most vindictive elements of the Republican base, so too does the president’s behavior become ever nastier and more vindictive to motivate them. Trump has given up entirely on persuading Democrats and independents, or holding onto moderate Republicans.

Which leads to today. It is Christmas Eve, and the so-called President of the United States is tweeting out ugly taunts to his opponents and desperate reassurances to his fans.

Contrast that ugliness, for instance, with this:

Donald Trump is talking only to his base. He knows that “massive Alaska drilling” is wildly unpopular even in Republican districts. It’s a taunt designed to appeal to the sort of cultural conservatives who roll coal just to trigger the liberals. When he says “we are doing well – nobody is going to beat us” he doesn’t mean the country. He means only the mostly older white conservative men who make up his base. When he exclaims that “our insider Polls are strong!” he’s attempting to reassure not the nation, but his nervous and deflated supporters. On Christmas Eve, this is where the President’s mind is: not with the country, but with only the minority he considers real Americans. The tax cuts he celebrates were an explicit declaration of economic war on blue states. He has open contempt for everyone who doesn’t watch Fox News, read Breitbart and adhere to his cult of personality.

This is not normal, and we must never treat it as such.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.