Sunday read: From the mouths of babes, Trumped for a loss

Donald Trump, center, at the New York Military Academy in the early ’60s. Photo from The Daily Beast.
High school.

On the one hand, it’s a raging cauldron of hormones, backbiting and social difficulties. On the other, it’s where you’re supposed to be in the final laps of adult training: attempting to treat others with respect; learn to appreciate elements of literature, math, science, history and the arts; and prepare for college and what Tom Lehrer termed “sliding down the razor blade of life.”

We have some understanding of how Donald Trump was in high school (much more polished than as an adult, apparently). So what does high school think of Donald Trump?

The always-interesting Michael Lewis has an essay in the latest Vanity Fair about some high school students he’s encountered reacting to the promise of a Donald Trump presidency. It’s my Sunday read.

Now, Lewis lives in Berkeley, California, not exactly a hotbed of Trump support, and the high school students he dealt with go to Berkeley High and a nearby high school in Oakland — also not much of a Trump Train station.

But what’s striking is how shrewdly the students — particularly the Oakland kids — have judged Trump. While much of the news media, and a good bit of Blue America, try to hold him to familiar standards of honesty, restraint and grace, the children know better.

Oakland is a liberal enclave, but the students weren’t all liberals, or even Democrats—and yet they were all seriously disturbed that Donald Trump was to become president of the United States. As we discussed their feelings about the election we stumbled upon another game, very nearly the opposite of the first game. To win this game you had to dream up a plausible story for how Donald Trump might be removed from office. …

The teenagers wanted only to imagine the Trump presidency ending, but peacefully. They thought for a bit.

“What if he lied under oath?” suggested one. “He could be impeached.”

The others laughed.

“Theft?” said another. “On a really big scale.” But almost as soon as he said it everyone realized that even if Trump were caught red-handed stealing crates of scrip from the U.S. Mint the theft would somehow be rationalized. The room went silent again.

“What if he murdered someone?” one of the students finally said.

“He already said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and it wouldn’t matter,” said another.

On and on they throw out ideas. Groping. Rape. Divorce in office. One girl suggests plagiarism. Perhaps being caught snorting cocaine with one of his children.

The election had taught these kids that a large part of their country no longer holds political candidates to the standards of behavior enforced by their own high school. “It seemed like there was nothing he could do to not get elected,” as one of the young women put it.


Me, I wonder if an investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia will turn up anything. (No, not that.) But even if it does, will it matter? As long as the U.S. economy is still creating jobs, as long as terrorists stay away from our shores, as long as Kim Kardashian posts another almost-topless selfie — will anyone care?

Hell, I grew up in Louisiana, where Edwin Edwards served four terms as governor though everyone knew he was a corrupt if joyful rogue. But he did some good things, the state (especially in the ’70s) benefited from an oil boom, and he retained far more popularity than the dour good-government Republican Dave Treen, who lost a race to Edwards in 1983 after his one term. People will forgive a lot if their lives are doing OK, even if they personally disapprove of the man in charge. Even if the man in charge is dishonest.

What will the children think?

You can read Lewis’ piece here.


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