Last week, I wrote that cynicism is the defining feature of our politics, especially since “we are quick to jump to the worst possible conclusion about something that person said or did.” We see that on display over at The Bulwark, where the writers never miss an opportunity to bash Donald Trump. This time, they’re attacking Trump for cozying up to QAnon wackos by congratulating a Republican for winning a primary.
This is what I mean. Rather than seek a charitable explanation, they assume the worst. But it is boringly normal for Republicans to support Republican nominees for office, as it is for Democrats to do the same for Democrats. Political parties exist to get their candidates elected, and almost always support their nominees. As the leader of the Republican Party, Trump is following that pattern.
So why the effusive praise for Marjorie Taylor Greene? Trump’s personality is very simple: He loves people who praise him, and despises people who criticize him. If someone is openly pro-Trump and at a high enough level where Trump notices that person, Trump will praise him or her. This is not complicated. Is this a good trait? No. Life is more complicated than whether someone has praised you personally.
This next criticism requires The Bulwark to stretch quite a bit:
More than 165,000 Americans have died because our leaders thought coronavirus concerns were a “hoax” and a plot designed to hurt the president.
That ignores an awful lot of death in New York, a state dominated by Democrats who forced nursing homes to take COVID patients. The virus then rampaged through those nursing homes and decimated the residents. Look, I understand that Trump has been flawed in his rhetoric about the novel coronavirus, but come on. Blaming this exclusively on Trump and allied Republicans is absurd.
And, again, this goes back to taking the most uncharitable assumption of someone’s views. People can disagree on what policies are most effective to slow the spread and limit economic harm of anti-COVID policies without thinking the virus does not exist. COVID deniers exist, of course, but it is nonsense to make a blanket claim that Republican leaders all think it is all scheme to harm Donald Trump.
So the obvious question is this: Do you want people to assume the worst about you when they disagree with you? Would you like it if people acted that way in daily life? Or would you rather people make more charitable assumptions? We all need to be better, because this orientation is toxic to our politics and our culture – and I recognize that I have been guilty of this and I need to be better. Be charitable. Assume good motives, until the facts prove otherwise. You will be happier.