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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 2/17/21

Good morning! SUPPORT OF TRUMP I’ve written before about trying to understand how so many people could have voted for a serial liar and threat to American democracy and decency. I suppose there is some argument for unemployed Midwesterners lacking voice and seeking that voice through someone who claimed to be “on their side.” And I suppose there were those who thought Trump would be a person who would advance important policy objectives or who felt he would adhere to “traditional” conservative values. That might explain the 2016 election. But this support should have ended with the reelection campaign. Some policy objective may have driven a first vote (and, indeed, some of these objectives were furthered by Mr. Trump), but how does this justify signing up for four more years, after we had witnessed his behaviors? I have had a hard time forgiving my friends who supported this man for a second term. I feel bad about myself for having this feeling about some people I really respect. I try to understand them better. Enough with this talk of “unity,” when unity includes joining hands with the ultra-right or when unity advises just forgetting all the destruction on Trump’s watch. Unity does not forgive the intransigence of the Republican caucus in the Senate, whose primary objective seems to be obstruction. And “putting the nation through” the impeachment hardly holds a candle to having put the nation through the mendacity of Mr. Trump, his call to arms to the far right, his lying, his casting fair and free elections and fraudulent, and his dismemberment of many of our national institutions. Other than the extremists, why did people continue to support Mr. Trump’s reelection? Most of the people I know who voted for him are no fans of Trump. Yet they apparently continued to believe that it was a fair trade to stick with him for another four years—even following the destruction he delivered—in return for his furthering a particular policy objective. The question, of course, is how far over the line one would allow someone like Trump to go before proclaiming, “Enough!” Some of the primary grounds articulated for continued support of Mr. Trump in 2020:

  • We need to keep taxes lower. Sorry, this isn’t a reasoned moral position. I’m tired of people trying to vote their pocketbook. Imagine that we are at war (we are…). There needs to be collective commitment to winning this war. It will cost money. Those of us with wealth will need to ante up to preserve our economy and improve the plight of our fellow citizens.

  • He is right to life. This is the most principled of reasons and, while I am empathetic to your point of view, how far would you be willing to trash our system of government to maintain ideological purity and continue to pack the courts? It would seem there is little likelihood the Supreme Court will act to expand abortion rights (and a real likelihood additional impediments will be imposed). Isn’t that enough?

  • More guns. Even though we regulate just about everything else in life, the Second Amendment (and your peculiar reading of it) must be preserved at all cost.

  • He’s tough on China. But at the expense of a trade war? And how would one rate how we’re doing so far?

  • He’s tough on Iran. But aren’t they closer to nuclear weapons and delivery systems than they were under Obama?

  • We have way too much political correctness. But is that justification for the continued leadership of a person who is the “poster child” for political incorrectness?

My question is, “Is there ever a point at which someone’s demeaning of our political discourse, harm to our democratic systems and norms, imposition of risk to our nation, or personal behavior ever justify your compromising one of your well-considered personal principles, if only temporarily?”


Virginia Heffernan wrote a great op-ed piece for the LA Times a week or so ago. It sums up the need to reconcile. It ends thus (the reference is to a Trumpist neighbor plowing her driveway):

“I also can’t give my neighbors absolution; it’s not mine to give. Free driveway work, as nice as it is, is just not the same currency as justice and truth. To pretend it is would be to lie, and they probably aren’t looking for absolution anyway.

But I can offer a standing invitation to make amends. Not with a snowplow but by recognizing the truth about the Trump administration and, more important, by working for justice for all those whom the administration harmed. Only when we work shoulder to shoulder to repair the damage of the last four years will we even begin to dig out of this storm.”


I’ve decided to read through some shorter books in the next few weeks. I don’t know about you but my attention span, particularly in the evening, has started to resemble that of a gnat as the pandemic drones on. Here are some shorter books, each of which can be digested in a mere couple of days:

  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The classic short novel of an act of violence that is known at the beginning and seems inevitable. The death is foretold by premonitions, dreams, ominous foreboding. The death was foretold…

  • The Stranger, by Albert Camus. The Brad Sonnenberg Library pick for 2018, the classic Camus. That said, both Brad and I felt his best was The Plague, which I’ll discuss next week.

  • Weather, by Jenny Offill. Not much plot here, other than the sense of foreboding with the coming climate crisis, yet terribly enjoyable. The protagonist is a librarian at a university. Her observations on life, her family and the state of humanity, on issues great and small, make this a wonderful short excursion of social commentary.

  • Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. This purports to be smart science fiction. After about ten pages, I was thinking I had read this book before. Then I realized I’d seen the movie of the same name. I was as unimpressed by the book nearly as much as I disliked the movie starring Natalie Portman…

  • Turbulence, by Stephen Szalay. Characters flying from one place to the next, loosely connected in their wanderings and their disconnectedness. The New York Times said, “Each chapter picks up from the last, but presents a new protagonist, as if a moral baton were being passed.” Really an enjoyable quick read.

  • Florida, by Lauren Groff. This is a series of short stories, several of which are loosely connected, many based upon Florida as this mysterious, steamy place. This was a National Book Award finalist. I found several individually interesting but didn’t really “get” how they fit together.

Have a good day, Glenn

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