Sarah Palin used to say that she spoke for "real Americans." Paul Krugman writes:
She meant rural and small-town residents — white residents, it went without saying — who supposedly embodied the nation’s true essence.
She was harshly condemned for those remarks, and rightly so — and not just because the real, real America is a multiracial, multicultural land of great metropolitan areas as well as small towns. More fundamentally, what makes America America is that it is built around an idea: the idea that all men are created equal, and are entitled to basic human rights. Take away that idea and we’re just a giant version of a two-bit autocracy.
Donald Trump's supporters showed up in Charlottesville over the weekend -- David Duke confirmed that fact. And Trump refused to condemn them. So what do these events tell us about the president? First, put them in context:
The man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth — a blood-and-soil argument if ever there was one — clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are as a nation.
But the present occupant of the White House has made no secret of preferring the company, not of democratic leaders, but of authoritarian rulers — not just Vladimir Putin, but people like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoganor Rodrigo Duterte, the homicidal leader of the Philippines. When Trump visited Saudi Arabia, his commerce secretary exulted in the absence of hostile demonstrations, an absence ensured by the repressiveness of the regime.
Trump's reaction to the events of the past weekend confirm that, despite his claim that he speaks for "real Americans," Trump isn't one:
Real Americans expect public officials to be humbled by the responsibility that comes with the job. They’re not supposed to be boastful blowhards, constantly claiming credit for things they haven’t done — like Trump bragging about job creation that has continued at more or less the same pace as under his predecessor — or which never even happened, like his mythical victory in the popular vote.Donald Trump is what he has always been -- a fraud. He is a fake American.
Real Americans understand that being a powerful public figure means facing criticism. That comes with the job, and you’re supposed to tolerate that criticism even if you feel it’s unfair. Foreign autocrats may rage against unflattering news reports, threaten to inflict financial harm on publications they dislike, talk about imprisoning journalists; American leaders aren’t supposed to sound like that.
Update: Apparently, the quotation I used in this morning's graphic is false. Sarah Palin did talk about real Americans. But she did not make that outrageous statement about her nation's first peoples. I apologize for the error. I have replaced the graphic.