Trump as Strongman? Evidence from March for Life.

Thanks to a friend for sharing this photo from the recent March for Life in Washington, DC.


In the photo, pro-life protestors (likely at least 6 in the image from the same school or organization, considering that they are wearing identical stocking caps) march holding a flag pole with two flags. On bottom is a “Trump 2020 Keep America Great!” flag, and on top is a flag with an image of Donald Trump’s head on a muscle-y male body, wearing a ripped tank top and holding a giant gun. In this image, drawn from Rambo (The flag is known as the “Trump Rambo flag.”), a helicopter rises off the ground in the background, reminding us of the shame of our failure in Viet Nam, failure as much about the imagined abuses that veterans suffered as it is about military operations. The words “Make America Great Again” appear on the flag as well.

As a symbol, it’s both jokey–no one thinks Trump has pecs like that–and engaging in its appeals to redemptive violence, masculine fragility, and white supremacy.  It says: “Trump can redeem what we lost in Viet Nam”–our moral highground, our status as an effective military, our right to impose capitalism on the world, our notions of masculinity. As Michael Kruse at Politico has written, “For Donald Trump, Vietnam never ended.”

The young people hoisting this flag may be saying that with a wink, but the white resentment that brings white people still angry about Vietnam to vote for Trump is quite serious.

So, why is it at a March for Life rally?

You’re a fool–a word I don’t use lightly–if you think Donald Trump gives a fig for fetal life. And honest prolife marchers know this. What they see in Trump isn’t a true champion but a strongman, someone who can ram through judges and legislation that makes abortion illegal in more cases. And that’s good enough for them.

It’s not a smart move, because it means putting faith in a leader who doesn’t warrant it. But even if Trump had a prolife heart and a long history of actually supporting prolife causes or treating pregnant women with dignity (rather than the reproductive coercion he attempted with Marla Maples), pushing for a strongman president isn’t smart for the pro-life cause.

Somehow, eventually, Trump won’t be president. And if prolife forces have redefined the presidency to allow Trumpian behavior, they may not like how the next president wields it. Better to remain a democracy, which, at its best, gives people the opportunity to influence politics, than to hand over the power of the people to the executive office and lose it.



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