Bringing the energy and hope to stare down Trump and his movement.
Nations, like people, may change somewhat, but not in their essential characteristics. The United States is defined by space and hope. It is an optimistic country of can-do strivers. They took the risk of coming to a new land. They are suspicious of government, inclined to self-reliance. Europeans ask where you came from. Americans ask what you can do.
The Declaration of Independence posited a universal idea, that human beings are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Americans, then, embraced an idea, however flawed in execution, when they became a nation. Their government, whatever else it does, exists to safeguard and further that idea, in the United States and beyond.
President Trump, in the name of making American great again, has trampled on America’s essence. He is angry, a stranger to happiness, angrier still for not knowing the source of his rage. He is less interested in liberty than the cash of his autocratic cronies. As for life, he views it as a selective right, to which the white Christian male has priority access, with women, people of color and the rest of humanity trailing along behind for scraps.
Adherents to an agenda of “national conservatism” held a conference last month in Washington dedicated, as my colleague Jennifer Schuessler put it, “to wresting a coherent ideology out of the chaos of the Trumpist moment.”
Good luck with that. One of the meeting’s leading lights was Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. Lowry’s forthcoming book is called “The Case for Nationalism.” Enough said. The endpoint of that “case” is on display at military cemeteries across Europe.
Nationalism, self-pitying and aggressive, seeks to change the present in the name of an illusory past in order to create a future vague in all respects except its glory. Trump is a self-styled nationalist. The “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” chants at his rallies have chilling echoes.
Lowry holds that “America is not an idea” and to call it so is a “lazy cliché.” This argument denies the essence of the country — an essence palpable at every naturalization ceremony across the United States. Becoming American is a process that involves the inner absorption of the nation’s founding idea.
The gravest thing Trump has done is to empty this idea of meaning. His has been an assault on honesty, decency, dignity, tolerance and civility. On this president’s wish list, every right is alienable. He leads a movement more than he does a nation, and so depends on fear to mobilize people. Any victorious Democratic Party candidate in 2020 has to counter that negative energy with a positive energy that lifts Americans from Trump’s web.
I watched the Democratic Party debates among presidential contenders through a single prism: Who can beat Trump? In the end, nothing else matters because another five and a half years of this will drag Americans into an abyss of moral collapse.
Yes, how far left, how moderate that candidate may be is of some significance, but can he or she bring the heat and the hope to stare Trump down and topple him is all I care about. That’s the bouncing ball all eyes should be on, with no illusions as to how vicious and devious Trump will be between now and November 2020.
With reluctance, because he is a good and honorable man of great personal courage, I do not believe that Joe Biden has the needed energy, mental agility and nimbleness. Nor do I believe that the nation of can-do strivers I described above is ready for Bernie Sanders’s “democratic socialism.” Forms of socialism work in Europe, and the word is widely misunderstood in America, but socialism and America’s essence are incompatible.
Elizabeth Warren’s couching of a campaign for radical change as “economic patriotism” is a much smarter way to go, and her energetic advocacy of ideas to redress the growing injustices in American life has been powerful. Still, I am not convinced that enough Americans are ready to move as far left as she proposes or that she passes the critical commander in chief test.
Kamala Harris does that for me. The California senator is a work in progress, with
- uneven debate performances, and policies, notably health care, that she has zigzagged toward defining. But she’s
- tough, broadly of the center,
- has a great American story, is passionate on issues including immigrants, African-Americans and women, and has
- proved she is not averse to risk. She
- has a former prosecutor’s toughness and the ability to slice through Trump’s self-important bluster.
Last month Harris said Trump was a “predator.” She continued: “The thing about predators you should know, is that they prey on the vulnerable. They prey on those who they do not believe are strong. And the thing you must importantly know, predators are cowards.”
Those were important words. It’s early days, but Trump’s biggest electoral vulnerability is to women. They have seen through his misogyny at last, and they know just where the testosterone of nationalism leads.
If you find this difficult, talking to yourself in the third person can help. LeBron James famously did this when, in an ESPN interview, he announced his decision to join the Miami Heat, saying: “I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”
Watching this interesting interview was psychologist Ethan Kross, who decided to explore James’ use of “self-distancing” by conducting seven studies, which found that forgoing the use of first-person language can actually enhance your ability to regulate your thoughts and feelings. And when it’s done in light of a future anxiety-inducing event, it can help you view it as less threatening.
While it may feel unnatural to speak to yourself in the third person, using self-distancing might help you to be kinder.
Now, Get to Work! (And Be Kind to Yourself)
Even if you never find yourself under pressure to score the winning goal of a game, you can take a page out of the pro athlete’s playbook and leverage your self-talk to score big wins in your career.
What you think informs what you do; science has shown that time and time again. With that being said, it’s important that you gain an understanding of and control over what you tell yourself. To recap, here are four ways to do that:
- Recognize anxiety as a normal response to a stressful situation.
- Challenge your negative thoughts. If you need some free tools to do this, check out this automatic thoughts worksheet.
- Speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend.
- Get in the habit of positive self-talk.
If you still find yourself resorting to unhelpful negative self-talk throughout your workday—take heart. The goal isn’t to completely eradicate negative thoughts from your mind, but to have your positive thoughts outweigh them.
So what explains their appeal?
“I like them because they express such positive values,” said Jia Su, a 24-year-old advertising worker in Beijing. She has followed the group since she was a university student and now manages the Weibo account of a fan club for TFBoys. “They are nice, kind, hardworking. That’s what the Japanese and Korean boy bands don’t have.”
Unlike many teenage pop stars in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, the members of TFBoys display no signs of youthful rebellion. They decidedly do not walk on the wild side. They sing of studying hard and serving the nation. The group’s music is cheerful with upbeat lyrics, and the boys’ appearance tends toward neat outfits and sweet smiles.
.. That wholesome schoolboy image has won TFBoys love not only from Chinese fans, but also from the government. They have twice been featured on the Chinese Lunar New Year television gala staged by CCTV, the state broadcaster.
.. “One way the Chinese government controls the entertainment industry,” said Zhu Dake, a cultural critic at Tongji University in Shanghai, “is by honoring and financially rewarding those who, from the government’s perspective, are conveying positive values.”
In this case, “positive values” means not just traditional values such as filial piety, social harmony and hard work, but also deference to the party line.
.. Since South Korea agreed last year to allow the United States to install a missile defense system — called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad — South Korean shows have been blocked from the Chinese internet, and South Korean singers and actors have been barred from Chinese television.
.. “No company can risk sponsoring a ‘bad boy’ band that might end up on the government’s blacklist,”
.. “Before the early 2000s, the mainland Chinese entertainment industry was dominated by Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Celebrities from those places were regarded as true stars,” Mr. Zou said. “But it’s different now. We have the money, and the market. What’s more, entertainment companies have learned the key to producing successful idols.”
.. “There’s a Chinese saying: At the age of 3 you can already see what a man will be like when he is old.”
For one shining moment, Trump actually took the high road, and praised Clinton for never quitting, and for being a fighter. She seemed surprised and a little flattered — and she should, since those are undoubtedly among the qualities that Trump admires the most in himself.
.. The Horrible, Horrible Evan Bayh
In June 2010, Bayh was among a small group of Democrats who helped kill a tax increase on private equity gains known as carried interest that was opposed by Apollo Global Management. That fall he stayed overnight three times at one Apollo executive’s Central Park South residence in Manhattan, and met twice with the company’s chief executive, Leon Black.
Weeks after Bayh left the Senate, Apollo announced he had been hired as a senior adviser.
In May 2010, Bayh lunched with a Marathon Oil board member. Then in June, he and a minority of Democrats joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that would have eliminated billions in tax deductions and exemptions for oil and gas companies.
Marathon Petroleum Corp., a new Marathon spinoff, announced Bayh had been elected to its board in July 2011.
.. Separately, in post-Senate life, Bayh “earned $440,033.72 as a Fox News analyst.”