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Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
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“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” President Donald Trump said at an Iowa campaign rally in January of 2016. That remark gets quoted a lot, mostly by liberals bemoaning the unquestioning loyalty of the president’s stupid supporters.

But there’s another, more interesting, facet of that meme: Trump, it’s clear, can get away with just about anything — impeachment included. He will be impeached without turning a single voter against him.

Nothing has ever been less deniable than the president’s imperviousness to, well, everything. Trump’s haters hate it; his fans love it; everyone accepts it. A month ago, Trump’s lawyers for real argued in open court that if their client actually were to go on a shooting spree in midtown Manhattan, he couldn’t be charged with a crime until he was no longer president.

Without enumerating Trump’s rhetorical offenses and deviations from cultural and political norms, I wonder: How does he get away with so much? Why doesn’t he lose his base of electoral support or any of his senatorial allies?

It’s because of framing and branding. Trump isn’t held accountable because he has never been held accountable. He has never been held accountable because he has never allowed himself to be held accountable.

Hitler believed that, in a confrontation, the combatant with the strongest inner will had an innate advantage over his opponent. Audacity, tenacity and the ability to keep your nerve under pressure were essential character traits, especially for an individual up against stronger adversaries. Trump never read “Mein Kampf,” but he follows the Fuhrer’s prescription for success. He never apologizes. He never admits fault or defeat. He lies his failures into fake successes, reframing history into the narrative that he prefers. It’s all attitude: Because I am me, I can do no wrong.

I’m not a billionaire real estate grifter turned billionaire presidential con man.

But I get this.

When I began my career as an editorial cartoonist, I staked out ideological territory far to the left of my older, established colleagues, most of whom were ordinary Democrats. In the alternative weeklies, other cartoonists were as far left as me. But they weren’t syndicated. I went after mainstream daily newspapers. My first two syndication clients were the Philadelphia Daily News and the Los Angeles Times.

My status as an ideological outlier reduced the number of newspapers willing to publish my work. But the editors who did take a chance on me knew what they were getting, so they were able to defend me against ideological attacks. Once they saw that braver papers were publishing my cartoons, moderate publications picked them up, too.


Despite being an unabashed, unrepentant leftist, I became the most reprinted cartoonist in The New York Times. Secretly, many of the “Democratic” cartoonists were as left as me. They were jealous: How had I gotten away with wearing my politics on my sleeve in such bland outlets as The Des Moines Register and The Atlanta Constitution?

First, I was willing to take some heat. I accepted that I would get fewer clients and thus less income. I insisted on drawing the work I wanted to do, without watering down my politics. If everyone rejected me, that was fine. Better not to appear in print than to do wimpy work. And in the long run, I was better off. There have been rough patches. But progressives have taken over the Democratic Party. I’m one of the few pundits the left can trust for a simple reason: unlike Bill Maher and Arianna Huffington, I have always been one of them, regardless of prevailing winds.

Second, I developed an unusual drawing style. When I started out, most editorial cartoonists mimicked two icons of the 1960s and 1970s, Pat Oliphant and Jeff MacNelly. The “OliNelly” style of American political cartooning was busy, reliant on caricature and crosshatching. Daily newspaper staffers drew single-panel cartoons structured around metaphors, labels and hoary symbols like Uncle Sam, the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant.

I did everything the opposite. I drew multiple panels and wrote straightforward scripts inspired by comic strips. My drawing style was stripped down to a brutally simple, abstract look, in which most characters looked almost identical. No metaphors — you didn’t need to learn how to read a Ted Rall cartoon. They weren’t as pretty as MacNelly’s. The chairman of the Pulitzer committee, whose death I shall toast, denied me the prize because I didn’t “draw like a normal editorial cartoonist.” But you knew my stuff wasn’t by anyone else. Branding.

I created space for myself ideologically and stylistically. So I got away with — still get away with — more than many of my peers.

Finally, I learned to never apologize.

Most of the time when a cartoonist apologizes for causing offense, they don’t mean it. Their editors — the ones feeling the heat from an avalanche of letters-to-the-editor and social media opprobrium — force them to say they’re sorry. This I will not do. It’s too undignified.

Sometimes cartoonists really do screw up. In one particular cartoon, I took aim at the president and instead wound up wounding a group of disadvantaged people. So I acted like a human being: I apologized.

What a mistake! Papers that had stuck with me through previous controversies abandoned me, canceling my work. The group I’d apologized to proclaimed itself satisfied and appealed to the quislings to reconsider, in vain. I learned my lesson. Never apologize, especially when you’re wrong. Americans forgive evil, never weakness.

With his far longer reach, influence and experience than yours truly, Trump has figured out how to carve out room for himself to run off at the mouth, offend protected groups and defy cherished traditions. No one can make him stop — no one but him. And no one can make him say he’s sorry.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump 
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  1. MarkinLA says:

    He will be impeached without turning a single voter against him.

    When the basis of your impeachment is lies and whining deep state actors who didn’t get their way, I would expect that.

  2. Vendetta says:

    Good advice at the end.

  3. g8way says:

    Congrats to Ted for making it to the 6th short paragraph before comparing Trump to Hitler.

    • LOL: Digital Samizdat
    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @Ozymandias
  4. Jmaie says:

    How does he get away with so much? Why doesn’t he lose his base of electoral support or any of his senatorial allies?

    It’s because of framing and branding.

    No. Trump is a symptom, not a cause, he’s president because every other candidate was seen as worse. The deplorables love him less because he’s Trump than because he’s Not Swamp**. They’re tired of the same old dreck and just don’t care any more, and so Trump is viewed as their last, best hope. Of course he’s not – but until a large enough percentage of the populace sees the error of their ways, Trump’s senate allies are not going anywhere. Simple political calculus, that.

    ** Trump’s “anti-swamp” rhetoric is of convenience rather than conviction, but the deplorables aren’t going to care.

    • Agree: Hegar
  5. @Jmaie

    Well fake anti-swamp still beats real swamp, so there you go. Until something better comes along–like real anti-swamp–it’s Trump for me.

  6. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    Trump never read “Mein Kampf,”

    How do you know? Did he say so?
    Are you in the “Trump doesn’t read” club?
    You’ve got your own little case of **TDS, don’t you, Teddy?

    **Trump Derangement Syndrome

    • Replies: @Hegar
  7. @Jmaie

    In 2016 the electorate was (still is) disgusted with the “Two” Puppet Parties and their mouthpieces, with Washington-Wall Street per se and its “swamp.” An “alternative” candidate would be positioned to win. Bernie was the obvious winning candidate but was unacceptable to the Wall Street oligarch owners of the Democratic National Committee, which rigged primaries and convention to prevent his nomination. Trump, self-portrayed and positioned as an “alternative” candidate faced insider Clinton. She won the popular vote, he won the electoral vote and was “elected.”

    Probably the DNC will do the same thing in 2020, with the same result. Since the real rulers are the oligarchs headquartered on Wall Street, who own both parties as well as the permanent government, they win either way. Everyone else loses, which is the name of their game start to finish: “Screw you, buddy.”

    • Replies: @Authenticjazzman
    , @Hegar
  8. anonymous[128] • Disclaimer says:

    Paragraphs 1-8 and 20 are beside the point.

  9. Trump’s people, a lot of them, are people filled with the resentments and humiliations of a lifetime.

    They take pleasure in a leader who not only gets away with things but speaks rudely to the powerful.

    It hardly represents a set of impulses on which to build a political movement, especially for the world’s leading nation.

    But then, that’s just America. And it never was well suited to a leadership role in the world.

    It happened by the sheer accident of being the last big man standing after WWII.

  10. @J. Alfred Powell

    ” She won the popular vote”.

    If you believe this nonsense than you are in the right camp, or you are a German “Besserwisser”.

    The bonkers BO adoring Germans suffering more under DTS than any ethnic grouping on planet mirth.


  11. @g8way

    “Congrats to Ted for making it to the 6th short paragraph before comparing Trump to Hitler.”

    To me it seemed like a perfunctory requirement he needed to finish so that he could get to talking about himself.

  12. Anon[418] • Disclaimer says:

    “Americans forgive evil, never weakness.”

    Very true. I respect marxists, but not progressives. At least the former aren’t bothering to pretend that they aren’t left wing authoritarians.

    • Replies: @Hegar
  13. Hegar says:

    Trump gets away with acting like a child on Twitter and elsewhere because people want an end to mass immigration. He promised to end that, and he was the only candidate who promised it and also had enough money to self-fund his campaign. (Then he ran to Adelson for money anyway.) But he has abused that trust.

    People stay with the clown now because there is nowhere else to go. It wouldn’t be possible to exchange him for a candidate who would actually end DACA, anchor babies, and build the Wall. His tiny measures and big talk are all we got. And he abuses that situation for all its worth.

  14. Hegar says:

    I see you’re taking this moment to make a fool of yourself. Flaming a writer for saying “Trump never read Mein Kampf.” What an insult to Trump! To claim you know what he has read! Aarggh!

    The assumption that Trump, like 99.5 percent of Americans, and like 100% of Jhew-worshipping New Yorkers, hasn’t read Mein Kampf, is Trump Derangement Syndrome!

  15. Hegar says:

    “I respect Marxists, not progressives.” Aww, how cool you sound! Truly bold and independent thought! The writings of someone who has never been active in politics and tried to do something against mass immigration. Then you’d see what your “respected Marxists” are like, kid. They act even more childish than you, before they smash your windows and smear you online with lies. Then they’ll stand there and laugh at you, act like sick animals. But go ahead and respect them, it sounds so cool. Truly above it all, you!

  16. Hegar says:
    @J. Alfred Powell

    “Bernie was the obvious winning candidate but was unacceptable to the Wall Street oligarch owners of the Democratic National Committee”

    False, ignorant socialist. The communist Jew Bernard Sanders failed because the vast majority of leftist voters opposed him, and especially Blacks, without which he couldn’t win. He would have sunk completely if he had to meet Trump in debates, with Sanders’ communist delusions exposed. Journalists who have had to interview him talk about how he stinks from his food and spits out words as if he can’t contain the hatred inside for even a minute.

    “Wall street oligarch owners” of the DNC? How ignorant you are. The DNC was broke because of Obama stealing all the money. He took the email lists and used them to channel small donors to his own political foundation. It was Hillary Clinton who then funded the DNC with the Clinton Foundation. Not “Wall Street”.

    You didn’t know that? It was a big deal in the election. You were ignorant of that? You just believe what you want to believe?

    As for Sanders, he never got to be the Soviet Commissar for part of occupied America as he dreamed of in the Cold War, but he can at least grab some money through laughable presidential candidacies. A socialist always knows how to make the useful idiots pay for him.

    “Trump, self-portrayed and positioned as an “alternative” candidate faced insider Clinton.”

    Um, he was, socialist. He ran on opposing the mass immigration your side depends on to win elections. He was therefore attacked by all the media and both parties. Don’t pretend you know what you’re talking about.

    “She won the popular vote, he won the electoral vote and was “elected.””

    Yes, he was elected, little socialist. Is the word hard to understand, so you have to put it in mock quotes? Don’t you understand the electoral process? Your fellow socialist thought she had already won, but worried Trump would win the electoral vote. So she and her dumb yes-men team went on a get-out-the-vote spree in deep blue states in the last weeks to increase the number of useless votes in those states, were the vote would otherwise be low.

    Meanwhile Trump, actually thinking unlike Hilly, went to the swing states to get the final tens of thousands of votes that won those states, and the election.

    To summarize it for you: Trump focused on the electoral vote, Hilly focused on the popular vote in the last week, and both won what they focused on.

    But Hilly only won the popular vote because of mass immigration. Because of California being flooded with your fellow socialist voters. If California had voted for Hilly only like the average of blue states, she would have lost.

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