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Columnists Jacob Heilbrunn US Politics

Will doubling down on a culture war boost Trump’s political prospects?

The Presidents inability to care what his critics think is paying off.

June 25, 2018

2:35 PM

25 June 2018

2:35 PM

Donald Trump is becoming a restaurant critic. This morning he weighed in on the Red Hen restaurant, which is located in Virginia and denied service over the weekend to his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. According to Trump:

It’s understandable if the Trump administration is feeling somewhat henpecked. A newly aroused left is engaging in an increasingly aggressive campaign of public shaming against Trump administration officials, much of which appears to centre on denying them meals at fine dining establishments. Both Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller have been singled out for public opprobrium.

Moreover, in Florida, the state attorney general and Trump ally Pam Bondi was accosted this past Friday by liberal activists when viewing the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? about liberal television icon and child educator Fred Rogers. When one of the demonstrators was asked whether Rogers would have approved of her behaviour, she responded, “I’m not Mister Rogers.” Rogers, who confessed to doubts about his emollient mission towards the end of his life, would hardly have been heartened by this response.

Now congresswoman Maxine Waters has entered the fray. The leftwing firebrand called upon her followers to “harass” Trump officials. At a rally in Los Angeles on Saturday, she announced, “They’re not going to be able to go to a restaurant, they’re not going to be able to stop at a gas station, they’re not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them.”

Politico says that the confrontations suggest America is going the way of Latin America; they originated in Argentina in the 1990s where protesters engaged in what were known as “escraches”—public demonstrations against officials of the former military regime who perpetrated human rights abuses. Small wonder that many officials seem to treat the Trump Hotel in the nation’s capital as their personal canteen. It’s become a kind of safe space for them, though last week demonstrators had positioned a PA system outside the hotel to play recordings of babies and small children pleading for their parents. Meanwhile, Trump himself says he wants to dispense with due process and simply boot asylum seekers out of the country. This morning he tweeted with his inimitable spelling:

Will Trump’s doubling down on a culture war boost his political prospects? Whatever personal titillation he derives from taunting his adversaries, it may not actually matter that much. A new CNBC poll indicates that Trump’s approval rating on the economy has soared to 54 per cent. Already Trump has converted at least one member of the Hollywood elite. Filmmaker David Lynch stated on Saturday that Trump “could go down as one of the greatest presidents in history because he has disrupted the thing so much. No one is able to counter this guy in an intelligent way.”

If Trump’s personal popularity seems solid, the fortunes of the Republican party are another story. The GOP, to borrow Trump’s wording, is very disfunctional and likely headed for a big defeat in November. But Trump, who has largely given up on congressional Republicans, may have adopted Melania’s credo: I Really Don’t Care. Do U?


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