People say we should try to understand one another. Then there’s this. Republican campaign consultant Frank Luntz recently assembled a group of Trump voters. He showed them a video from the recent NATO conference.
On camera, the President of the United States is shown shoving the head of state from Montenegro out of his way so that he could stand in front of the group of national leaders. Remember? CBS News described the incident this way:
“In video of the incident, a group of leaders is seen walking together and talking, and as the group comes to a stop, Mr. Trump grasps Markovic's right arm and pushes past him to get to the front of the group. Markovic appears surprised but smiles and pats the president on the back. The president does not acknowledge him.”
During a replay of that video, the assembled Trump voters used an electronic device to register their approval or disapproval. As Trump shoved the Montenegro Prime Minister, they dialed in their approval of his behavior. Here is a link to the focus group and their conversation with Luntz. If you haven’t seen this video, please watch it before reading more of my reaction.
How did that make you feel? I don’t know about you but I have a hard time understanding how these people and I share the same planet, let alone the same nationality. Tell me this. How can we be expected to have a rational dialogue with people who saw what they saw and reacted the way they reacted? Has reality become that ambiguous?
Here is the Republican Frank Luntz’s reaction: “What surprised me the most about that segment is when we showed Trump pushing aside the European leaders at that meeting, and they (the members of the focus group) applauded him. They loved it! Because to them it was the White House, it was the president asserting his rightful role as leader of the free world. And I'm thinking, "Oh, my God! (snickers) This is one of the most embarrassing moments." They don't see it that way. They love it and they want him to keep doing it.”
Frank Luntz doesn’t allow his membership in the Republican Party to mask his reaction to these Trump partisans. “And I'm thinking,” the GOP consultant says, "Oh, my God! (snickers) This is one of the most embarrassing moments."
Presidents like Ronald Reagan and others were capable of making the point that America was strong without being rude. The conduct of the President that day embarrassed me. It was rude, obnoxious, and out of bounds. It didn’t make America any stronger. It made our President look like a junior high school bully. In fact, if a junior high bully acted like that, he or she would be subject to serious discipline. No one would see that behavior as acceptable.
That’s not what his supporters saw. They are looking at the world through decidedly different lenses than others. This is the sort of man they have been waiting for. Shoving another nation’s leader to the sideline is what they want in a President. It made them feel as though America was strong again. It made them proud.
Where is the common ground with people who see things that way? I can identify nothing that I have in common with these kinds of people that would form the basis for even a conversation about the weather, much less healthcare, federal budget priorities, immigration, climate change, or foreign policy.
People believing Trump is justified in treating foreign leaders with contempt, don’t have enough respect for others to make a conversation about their feelings meaningful. These people don’t simply disagree with opinions of others. In their America, it’s acceptable to humiliate others.
When Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high,” she had not anticipated people like this. She was being gracious. As the Lord told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you,” and the only hope to restore a semblance of civility.