Rationalizing Trump

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Ann Coulter gestures while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Friday, February 10, 2012. 

In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!
By Ann Coulter
Sentinel

This article appears in the Fall 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here

Ann Coulter was alt-right before the alt-right was a thing. Always one to sense a trend in the right’s rumblings and ride it on the wings of outrage and outrageousness, Coulter, in her latest book, In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!, is eager to prove all of that, and then some. But for a moment there, her book launch was off to a rocky start.

A slender volume of repetitious invective against non-white immigrants, In Trump We Trust bases its case for the candidacy of the reality-show star and real-estate player almost solely on his promise to deport all undocumented immigrants, and to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Then, the week in which Coulter was to begin her book tour, word came that Trump was to make a “pivot” on his immigration stance, perhaps “softening” his promise to create a “deportation force” that would round up an estimated 11 million people and send them back to their countries of origin.

On August 24, Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he might be able to work something out for undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for the better part of their lives. “It’s a very, very hard thing,” Trump said, to contemplate such deportations.

Coulter, whose book had just been published the day before, took to Twitter, heaping scorn upon her candidate. “Well, if it’s ‘hard,’ then nevermind,” Coulter tweeted.

Her worries ultimately proved, of course, to be unfounded. Within a week, just hours after meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump promised his supporters at a raucous rally in Phoenix, Arizona, that the deportation-force plan was still at the top of his agenda.

Long an opponent of U.S. acceptance of immigrants, especially Muslims and Mexicans, Coulter decided she had finally found her perfect candidate in Donald J. Trump, of whom she was an early supporter. Cut from the same cloth, both Trump and Coulter are children of privilege who lunge for attention by transgressing the norms of civil behavior. Trump’s July 2015 announcement of his presidential bid included his now-famous attack on undocumented Mexicans entering the United States: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Coulter was in. Trump, she told Hannity during a January appearance on Fox News, “won me over with that Mexican rapist speech.”

Trump’s speech could have come straight out of the pages of Coulter, whose June 2015 book, Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, devotes several chapters to advancing the notion that Mexicans are preternatural rapists. (Trump tweeted that Coulter’s book was “a great read.”)

Coulter has built her career on stoking the resentments of right-leaning whites who fear the cultural changes that emerged after World War II. Name one, and she has found a way to exploit it: Movements for racial equality, women’s rights and LGBT rights, and immigration. Throw in a pinch of anti-Semitism, and you have the Coulter formula.

 

EMPLOYING A CONTRARIAN expression of these resentments, Coulter achieved pop-culture stardom. Where other right-wing darlings wore a mantle of Christian propriety, Coulter declared herself a Christian while using louche language and wearing a skimpy dress. (From the podium of the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference, she famously said, “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so [I’m] kind of [at] an impasse …”) As conservatives decried “a coarsening of the culture,” Coulter jumped on the coarsening trend, consequently laying bare the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny of the movement she represents, thereby paving the way for the normalization of the “white nationalist” entities that form the alt-right.

It’s all worked out pretty well for her: Ann Coulter is a wealthy woman, an outcome that Trump surely appreciates.

If Coulter could win the love of right-wing Christian evangelicals, as she did with an anti-LGBT harangue at the 2006 Values Voter Summit, why couldn’t a thrice-married, foul-mouthed bully like Trump? A decade later, at the 2016 Values Voter Summit, Trump’s emulation of Coulter found reward. He brought the crowd to its feet at an event that featured speaker after speaker urging evangelicals to vote for him.

It’s not as if Trump figured that he could win the presidency simply with the votes of alt-righties and right-wing evangelicals. Coulter demonstrated that the prejudices to which she speaks exist more broadly among members of the general electorate, harbored by people who might not admit to them when questioned by a pollster.

Just as Coulter and Fox News legitimized right-wing behavior and claims that would have before been relegated to fringe outlets, Trump is doing the same for the alt-right, even hiring as his campaign’s CEO Stephen K. Bannon, who, as chief executive of Breitbart News, boasted of having created “the platform for the alt-right.” Coincidentally, Coulter’s column is carried by VDARE, an anti-immigrant, alt-right website that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “also regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.” On September 9, Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute, spoke about Trump at an alt-right press conference, noting how the movement is “riding his coattails,” adding, “There’s been more interest in us because we were generally pro-Trump, because we’re inspired by him.”

 

READING IN TRUMP WE TRUST, it’s easy to forget that for all of her bluster, Coulter wasn’t always the anti-establishmentarian she is now. In fact, her first choice to head a 2016 Republican ticket was Mitt Romney. Yes, that Mitt Romney. Then she suggested a Romney-Trump ticket, finding them to be almost equally as hard on undocumented immigrants. (Who can forget Romney’s plan to make such people “self-deport”?) When Romney took himself out of the game, Coulter shifted her gaze to Trump, and went to war against the Republican establishment, of which Romney—who made a big speech in March denouncing Trump—is something of a poster boy. But it’s not just the old-school “establishment” that the fickle Coulter now has in her sights. If anybody can claim responsibility for having turned control of Congress to the GOP, it’s Charles and David Koch, the billionaire principals of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States. They’re the new establishment, and they support comprehensive immigration reform. And they’ve made a show of not supporting Trump.

Leveraging their own capital, both social and financial, the Kochs built a network of political donors to invest in a plethora of organizations and think tanks designed to implement the brothers’ neo-libertarian ideology in the lawmaking institutions of government. By and large, the Koch plan has been working. So vast and well-funded are the various entities of what progressives call the “Kochtopus” that, in significant ways, certain Koch-affiliated outfits now supplant the apparatus of the Republican Party. The current House speaker and the chairman of the Republican National Committee arguably owe their positions to the support of the Koch network.

While the Koch players were only too happy to exploit anti-black racial resentment for the sake of building their base of foot soldiers (Remember all those racist signs about Obama that showed up at anti-Obamacare rallies organized by the Kochs’ ground-organizing group, Americans for Prosperity?), immigration is a different story. The Kochs, after all, preside over a major conglomerate with a global reach. For their purposes, comprehensive immigration reform—yes, with a path to citizenship—is a win-win.

Look between the lines of In Trump We Trust, and you’ll find the battle drawn along fronts rarely named in current political reporting: the Trump insurgency as a challenge to the political empire of the Koch brothers—Coulter’s argument against what she sees as the cravenness of the GOP and its “plutocrats” is a thinly veiled attack on the super-rich siblings.

She sneers at the Koch agenda, complaining that while the Republican Congress has served up tax cuts for the “super-rich,” as well as legislation proposing Social Security privatization and the TARP bailout, “the plutocrats could never give us anything on the border.”

She goes after the politicians whose careers have been championed by Americans for Prosperity and other Koch-linked entities. House Speaker Paul Ryan is described as “constipated” for having accused Trump of racism, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who owes his entire political career to AFP—and who competed against Trump in the presidential primary—is portrayed as beholden. Walker, she writes, “was, for one brief, shining moment, terrific on immigration: against anchor babies, for American workers, and for a fence. And then his donors gave him a call, and suddenly, he was for amnesty again.”

For the Koch brothers, immigration is even more than good business. In politics, they’re playing a long game: They know that the GOP, the host body for all of their network apparatus, will slide into minority status without the votes of Americans who are either immigrants themselves, or who descend from those who arrived in the United States in the waves of non-white immigrants of recent decades.

Trump, on the other hand, is playing a short game. His gambit is to build his brand, and maybe get elected president in 2016. What he knows is that the same people who harbor racial resentment against African Americans—a base cultivated by the GOP since the passage of civil-rights legislation in 1964—likely harbor the same or similar against anyone who isn’t regarded as white, be they Mexican or Muslim. These resentniks are the same white voters that the Koch network has organized.

In Coulter’s view, according to In Trump We Trust:

Tax cuts are great, but they don’t help Americans who don’t have jobs. A lot of Americans don’t have jobs because Chinese and Mexicans have jobs.

In Trump We Trust is filled with such vituperation. No need to fully recount here her endless spewing of the false “Latino rape-culture” narrative, or nasty attacks on Muslims. In fact, the level of repetition in this slender volume suggests that Coulter may have had all of a column’s worth of material to work with but shrewdly concluded that a column wouldn’t make her any money. Trump, meanwhile, has found gold in mining Coulter’s mal mots, his utterance of which the media feel obligated to report, on account of his presidential-candidate status.

And the Koch brothers? They’ve officially refused to support Trump, but in practice, they can’t. Not if they want to preserve the congressional majorities the Republicans now enjoy. Every time they deliver a voter to the polls on behalf of a candidate beloved of their Americans for Prosperity ground operation, they’re also delivering one who is likely to vote for their nemesis, Trump.

In the pages of In Trump We Trust, Coulter asserts that “Trump did conservatives a favor by forcing Republicans to finally admit they’re for open borders and don’t particularly care what kind of country this becomes.” Believe it or not, Coulter may have actually done America a favor by exposing the war between the private capitalists vying for control of one of the nation’s two major political parties. Some smart liberal might have the good sense to set a big wedge.

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