Republican strategist eviscerates US president in new book, Everything Trump Touches Dies
Donald Trump has divided opinion like no other president. This book, by Rick Wilson, pulls no punches in its condemnation of his party, his president, his opponents and himself
Rick Wilson is a long-time Republican strategist and the architect of all manner of knives-out campaign ads, including one particularly vicious spot from the 2008 presidential campaign that hammered Barack Obama’s connection to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright with the tag: “Barack Obama: Too Radical, Too Risky.”
He helped start the Never Trump movement. It cost him friends and all manner of potential political work. It subjected him to the threats and fury of Trump’s troll army. He was labelled a Rino (Republican in name only) and a party traitor.
And he didn’t care. Right is right, and Trump was clearly, transparently, unquestionably wrong.
At a time when honesty and integrity were as dead as a dodo in politics, Wilson demonstrated both.
He and his band of Never Trumpers fought mightily to remind Americans what it actually means to be a conservative. (With Trump in office and creating exactly the kind of chaos Wilson predicted, he has done a favour for those of us who haven’t been lost to the cult of Trump.)
He has written a book, a searingly honest, bitingly funny, comprehensive answer to the question we find ourselves asking most mornings: “What the hell is going on?”
The book is called Everything Trump Touches Dies. It pushes the modern-day Republican Party into the public square and roundly shames it for allowing Trump to become its standard-bearer.
Wilson absolutely clobbers the voters who make up Trump’s base and devour his conspiratorial ramblings, while admitting that he and other Republicans “didn’t see that there is a deep strain in American political life that isn’t seeking party rigour or ideological purity or even an independent iconoclast but the safe reinforcement of the pack of people just as pissed off as they are”.
“We underestimated the deep human psychological need to be part of a movement based not on hope but on channelling the comments section of the nuttiest blogs. That’s what Trump gave them. He was an avatar for their anger, their impotence, and their blame for everything wrong in their world,” Wilson writes.
It’s harsh. And it will undoubtedly cause Trump’s core supporters to dig in even more, but at this point, what difference does that make? Those loyal to Trump – accepting all his obvious faults and unforced errors, incapable of acknowledging the slightest flaw – are not coming back to any form of traditional conservative thinking. At least not now, in the throes of Trump passion.
When asked why he wrote the book, Wilson said: “I want people to be able to go back in a year and a half or so and say, ‘Oh, that’s how this happened. I wanted to lay down a marker and say, ‘It’s OK that you’ve been scammed. It’s OK that you’ve been conned. Here’s the evidence about how it happened and why you shouldn’t do it again.
“I also wanted to remind Republicans that you can be a party of decency and humanity and still be a conservative. I want people to have some reminder that you don’t have to live this way. Nothing’s forcing you to do this other than inertia and partisan policy reflex.”
The book doesn’t spare the liberal crowd, nor does it spare the author himself. Wilson readily acknowledges the part he played in feeding and nurturing the more rabid elements of the Republican base that metastasised into Trump’s slavish supporters.
He said in an interview: “I had to do a kind of tough assessment on this thing, and I did … Starting back with Sarah Palin, we built a system to turn on these people, to feed this endless stream that the liberals are trying to kill you, they’re coming for you … We built a set of persuasion tools that persuaded these people, and the arrogance of our position was, ‘Well, we’re all responsible adults; we’ll motivate these people during the election and then calm things down after’.
“What we never anticipated was that somebody else would grab that tool box. But the Russians and Trump sure did, and they ran wild with it.”
Everything Trump Touches Dies is a fascinating, fierce and fearless exposition of the political mess America finds itself in today. It’s a reminder that, for those who aren’t too far gone, ideological disagreement should never be grounds for hatred.