Vladimir Lenin supposedly coined the terms “useful idiots” and “useful fools.” In fact, those dupes had been knocking about Eastern Europe long before the Russian Revolution. Almost two centuries later, they have settled in the U.S.
The New York Times used “useful idiot” to describe Donald Trump when Trump was the Republican candidate for president. Former CIA director Michael Hayden echoed the editorial board, labeling Trump the kind of “useful fool” who is “manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
Ironically, however, the useful idiots and fools are turning out to be those detractors who wind up aiding Trump with outlandish critiques. These make the president seem almost levelheaded by comparison.
For well over a year, for example, Democrats have assailed Trump as a vulgarian with neither taste nor discretion. Yet here is Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez excoriating the president because he and Republican leaders “don’t give a shit about the people they represent.” (The Democratic Party’s online store is a bit more restrained: it offers a $30 tee shirt with the inscription “Democrats give a sh*t about people.”)
New York State senator Kirstin Gillibrand out-Perezed Perez as she attempted to get in touch with her inner Millennial. Reviling Donald Trump, she inquired, “Has he kept any of his promises?” She answered herself: “No. Fuck, no.” Her delighted audiences holler and applaud each repetition of the forbidden word, 50 years after it gained middle-school lunchroom currency.
Add to these onslaughts the mock bloody beheading by Kathy Griffin, which concluded with her unstable amalgam of self-pity and rage. And Shakespeare in the Park’s current production of Julius Caesar, wherein Caesar is impersonated by an actor coiffed and made up to resemble Trump. Caesar/Trump is, of course, stabbed to death during the Ides of March, in an unusually bloody and enthusiastic staging.
Add to this the hysterical critiques on CNN, where Griffin had co-hosted the network’s New Year’s shenanigans before her decapitation fantasies got her a pink slip, and where Reza Aslan, sociologist of religion and supposed scholar of the historical Jesus, tweeted that Trump was “a piece of shit”; and in the New Republic, where columnist Jeet Heer exhorts the “resistance” to use more scatology in order to signify just how mad they really are: “The only proper response is a full-scale attack on the political system, which requires rallying the public by letting them know just how foul things are—a task best accomplished with foul language.”
Stir in the street violence accompanying any attempt to express public support for Trump (the Charlotte Pride Parade has just barred a float proposed by pro-Trump gays.) And the unruly campuses, which find no room for the First Amendment or for conservative thinkers (cf. Professor Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, City Journal’s Heather Mac Donald, and others.)
This dog’s breakfast of dissent seems appetizing to liberal residents of the Upper West Side of New York City and to their allies on both coasts. But in between, in the red states that elected Donald Trump and a slate of Republican governors and representatives, more and more voters feel nauseated by the crudity of Trump’s opposition. Increasingly defensive and angry, they are likely to vote Republican next time, too. And when the results are tabulated, will the useful idiots and fools recognize themselves in the mirror? Not while there are tee-shirts to sell.
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