The President of Magical Thinking

From Michael Chabon's open letter to "our fellow Jews, in the United States, in Israel, and around the world."

The President has no filter, no self-control, you have told yourself. If he were an anti-Semite — a Nazi sympathizer, a friend of the Jew-hating Klan — we would know about it, by now. By now, he would surely have told us.

Yesterday, in a long and ragged off-the-cuff address to the press corps, President Trump told us.

Chabon lists a number of alibis Jews have created for Donald Trump–in effect, speaking for Trump, or rather around him, in order to create their own president. Every Trump supported I've ever talked to has done something very similar to what Chabon describes.  It has seemed to me that support for Donald Trump necessitates some form of magical thinking that some sort of different Trump will emerge when he's placed in the context of government. "He's not really X; he is really (or will become) Y."  Charlottesville revealed the possibility that only one group will ever see their magical thinking become real: the alt-right, the rag-tag, inchoate band of outsiders who seem to reflect Trump inner core of Id-fueled resentments.

Chabon urges his fellow Jews to realize the magical thinking about Trump wasn't limited to the public/real self dichotomy people have assigned to Trump. An even more dangerous part of the magical thinking is the dynamic Martin Niemöller first pointed out in regard to Hitler. The malevolence can't be contained. Chabon writes, 

First he went after immigrants, the poor, Muslims, trans people and people of color, and you did nothing. You contributed to his campaign, you voted for him. You accepted positions on his staff and his councils. You entered into negotiations, cut deals, made contracts with him and his government.

Now he’s coming after you.

At this moment Chabon is speaking specifically to Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Sheldon Adelson and others who have offered material support to Trump.  One could add, of course, a long list of Republicans of all stripes to this list. Despite the "open" letter, Chabon is using insider language to appeal to insiders. Toward the end of his letter Chabon switches from address a public who speaks to a demand to a small group of people who can act. Mnuchin and Cohn should resign. Adelson should stop donating money. The rest of us trapped in language, excluded from the sphere of political action, must be content with the same magical thinking that got Trump elected in the first place. Responsible men and women will enforce democratic norms to forge a reasonable Trump and contain the malevolence. 

The scariest thing is this may be our best chance.

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