Watch What Happens Next

July 6, 2017

Since the election I’ve urged people not (NOT) to pay attention to what Donald Trump says.  It’s a circus, it’s a distraction.  Some people think his tweets (etc.) are meant to be a distraction, but I have my doubts he’s strategic or thoughtful about his insults, his re-tweets or his doublings-down.

Months later I have to admit I am finding it hard to avert my gaze as I urged.  The distractions are simply too attention-grabbing.  So here’s follow-up advice.

When you can’t stop yourself from noticing what appalling thing he says, be sure to watch what happens next.  Of course there will be (and there should be) some kind of response (an ouch, a riposte, a defense) by or on behalf of the person he has attacked.  You’ll likely notice that or at least some of what’s said by or on of behalf of the person attacked.  But that’s not what I’m mean. I mean watch what happens after that.

Two things reliably happen, and they are worth noticing — and worth remembering.

First, some internet trolls among Trump’s supporters will post or tweet truly ugly things, often even uglier or meaner things than the tweeter-in-chief has led with.

Second, the Republican leadership will stay silent. That silence, that standing by acting innocently: I acknowledge that this is hard to see or hear–precisely because it’s nothing.  It doesn’t flash, it doesn’t echo or resound, but it’s the most important thing to notice.

If you were on the street and saw someone attacked by a bully, you’d go to the person’s aid, wouldn’t you?  You’d offer assistance or comfort or protection.  But some people do nothing.  That doesn’t speak well of them.  Look around and notice who’s acting like it’s none of their business when they could do something positive.

Watch the hands-in-pocket, gaze heavenward posture of the Republican leadership (the members of Congress) next time Trump says something appalling.  Watch the nothing that happens next.  Remember these are his friends and his enablers.  These are his posse.

Watch what happens next, and make a mental note.



About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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