On Monday, National Review editor Rich Lowry penned a piece explaining why re-electing Donald Trump is “the only middle finger available” to the right. His piece argues that a second Trump victory would be a “gigantic rude gesture to the cultural Left.” Predictably, the column received plenty of criticism.
The thing is, Lowry’s analysis is correct. That middle finger is all Trump has to offer.
The president has based his entire political existence on outrage. As far back as the late ‘80s, you could find Trump on Oprah complaining about America’s poor leadership and the inadequacies of both parties. He built his modern political visage by promoting the birther conspiracy and tweeting into the void about how bad Obama was.
Trump’s vision of—or rather, complaints about—American politics clicked with people in 2016, particularly those who had been fed by the right wing media outrage machine (*cough* Fox News *cough*) for years. He became the answer to all conservative hate prayers—every single thing he did triggered the libs. Trump realized that, harnessed it, and rode those disaffected voters to the White House.
Four years later, the wheels have fallen off. Trump is eyeball-deep in the swamp he promised to drain. Despite the unhinged tweeting and boorish behavior, he’s toed the party line and become enveloped by the same machine he railed against, all while fumbling a global pandemic response that’s killed hundreds of thousands and tanked the economy. His political instincts are shot, and even before getting COVID-19 his messaging seemed stale. Pretty much the only thing Trump is still consistently good at is making Democrats mad with his every waking breath, and for many conservatives that’s more than enough.
There’s an innate desire to ascribe deeper meaning to political beliefs and voting behavior. The New York Times and other major news organizations spent more than a year trying to explain the Trump phenomenon by covering his voters’ “economic anxiety;” several studies found that racial anxiety was actually at the root of Trump support. That’s not as easy to simply wave away. The same is true of lib-triggering. Most political pundits probably don’t want to think that political behavior can be boiled down to wanting to see the other side throw a fit. As Adam Serwer famously wrote back in 2018, the cruelty is the point.
It’s not hard to clown Lowry, given the seemingly unserious nature of his argument. Still, that doesn’t make him any less spot on. The National Review habitually publishes Trump defenses couched in civil, serious political language of years past. It’s actually somewhat refreshing to see them tear the mask off and get right to the face of it.