Remember when political differences were settled the old-fashioned way, with pistols at dawn? Yeah, me neither. While we’re far past Hamilton and Burr, today’s political climate is nastier and more personal, with challenges likely to be delivered not with a glove slap across the face but via social media.
As a prominent Never Trump Republican and the author of a book on the President that is, shall we say, unsparing of his delicate ego, I’m often a target. It started in 2015 when I wrote one of the earliest objections to his candidacy for Politico. My friends in the consulting world—who now, for some mysterious reason, constantly sing the praises of Donald Trump—showered it with accolades. Then the trolling started and I met the new world that increasingly shapes Washington’s political culture.
When I filter out a few particularly scary types—the e-mails and DMs with my home address, details about my wife and kids —what’s left are six categories. As an accidental expert on the Trump-right and their social-media lunacy, I present a field guide:
The Grammatically Challenged. The largest group are Trump-squad harassers who feel so empowered by social media that they love to confront Enemies of the Trump State with barely literate, MOSTLY ALL-CAPS SCREEDS AND #MANY #IMPORTANT #HASHTAGS #TO #SHOW #THEIR #ANGER. Their love for the Donald is in inverse Proportion to their skills with English. “You’re” and “your” are impenetrable mysteries, Tense and case agreement nonexistent, Punctuation stochastic at best.
You Were Wrong About 2016, Therefore You Are Wrong About Everything. Several million social-media critters whose entire involvement with politics consists of watching Sean Hannity’s ham-shaped head nightly take enormous pleasure in reminding me that “all you smart guys said Trump couldn’t win and he won and now you’re just jealous.”
The But Muhs. As close as Trumpers on social media get to an actual policy argument are the “but muhs”: But muh tax bill. But muh Gorsuch. But muh executive orders. For the most part, they’re quick to offer their counterfactuals, almost all based on the most Hannitean, exaggerated view of Trump’s accomplishments.
Tweet As I Say, Not As I Do. The folks who have “follower of Jesus” or “faithful Christian” in their profiles are some of the nastiest and harshest correspondents. “I hope you die of cancer, you bald lying pedophile traitor” once came from a woman who referenced no fewer than four Bible verses in her profile and claimed to love being a grammy. To apply the ur-Southern phrase my own grandmother would use, I usually just respond, “Bless your heart.”
Internet Tough Guys. Fight me, cuck. Watch your back. I’m coming for you. Sure, pal. The internet is full of people posturing as the toughest, baddest mofos on the block, despite their soft-bellied lives. That won’t stop them from challenging me to various fights, including—I kid you not—MMA matches and a battle with katanas.
The Alt-Reich. Social media has become a fever swamp for the alt-reich—pardon me, alt-right—and all the variations of Trump’s white-power cheering section. They’re obsessed with racial purity, eugenics, and of course, the Jooooooos. I know them from their stern Twitter avis of mustached Germanic philosophers, Roman generals, and cartoon Pepes.
If you’re under the gun of Trump trolls, you have three options. First, you can ignore or block them. This is surprisingly effective. They lose interest quickly when dismissed, distracted by reality TV, government cheese, and generic malt-liquor novelty beverages. Second, they sometimes need a good, hard slap, and I’m not unwilling to provide it. Finally, part of the troll belief set is that anyone other than a pure-of-heart Trumpista is morally weak and fearful of their rage. I never give them the satisfaction.
This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Washingtonian.