First things first: Trump meant to type “coverage” — it’s pretty clear based on the context of the rest of the sentence. The reason Twitter lit up for more than 24 hours was not because people genuinely didn’t understand what Trump was trying to say; rather, they were ridiculing him for:
1) Making the typo;
2) Actually tweeting the typo, and;
3) Leaving the typo up for more than an hour.
It was dumb, and Trump was roundly mocked for it, but honestly, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t even rate in the top 100 dumbest things Trump has done in…hell, in the past year alone. You would think this would be obvious to any observer, regardless of their political leanings. And in a normal universe, Trump supporters would laugh it off and go on with their lives, and the internet – as it always does – would eventually move on.
But rather than display for one second a sense of humor or humility, Trump supporters on Twitter decided to lean alllllll the way into The Tweet. The gist of the first round of was “It’s actually good that the President did this – I like leaders of the free world who make stupid, unnecessary mistakes and then can’t be bothered to correct them”:
As far as rebuttals go, this one is somewhat defensible – it’s understandable to want to support the President when it seems to you like the majority of the internet is looking for any excuse to tear him down. Personally, I’d pick a better hill to die on than this one; tying yourself into knots by attempting to argue that this tweet speaks volumes about Trump’s character seems like a wasted effort.
After initial attempts to cheerlead Trump’s mistake were roundly rebuffed on Twitter, you’d think Trump supporters would quietly back away and wait for the whole thing to blow over. If the past 18 months have taught us anything, though, it’s that Trump’s die-hard supporters would rather throw themselves into traffic than admit that their Fearless Leader is, in fact, fallible.
This fanaticism begat a second vigorous defense of Trump’s error, and it was more nonsensical than the first:
Rather than admit that Trump made a mistake or, at the very least, stick to the theory that Trump’s mistake is somehow proof that he’s “one of us,” these idiots actually attempted to argue that it’s so obvious, he’s just speaking Arabic on Twitter.
I feel this bears repeating.
The new defense is that Donald J. Trump – a man who speaks one language (and frankly, not that well) despite having lived almost the entirety of his 70 years on Earth in a city whose residents collectively speak 176 languages; a man whose staffers national security briefings a) have to be bulleted and kept to one page or less because he doesn’t like to read, and b) have to include his name as frequently as possible to ensure he pays attention – suddenly up and learned Arabic for the purposes of this tweet. And it’s not just Twitter, either: other websites have run with this theory as well.
The logic, if we can call it that, behind this response is that Trump was tweeting right after a bombing in Kabul, so it was both an expression of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and a declaration of his resolve to Make America Great Again™️. I shouldn’t have to say this, but this theory is breathtakingly and profoundly moronic. For one thing, an overwhelming number of Trump’s base believed for eight years that President Obama was a secret Muslim who planned to institute Sharia Law, so it doesn’t seem like an Arabic tweet would play well with that crowd. For another, they speak Dari and Pashto in Afghanistan, not Arabic. And yet, this theory is still making the rounds on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet.
There’s also a third theory, where Trump wasn’t speaking Arabic but was actually referring to an old Biblical term. (Because Trump’s love for the Bible is surpassed in scope only by his massive vocabulary) Take a look:
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This is not about Trump’s tweet; not really, anyway. It’s about the ideological rigidity that pervades the political discourse in this country. The Tea Party rose to power by demanding ideological purity tests for congressional Republicans and removing from power those who failed them. And in the wake of the 2016 election, calls for similar tests have surfaced among congressional Democrats. Evenhandedness and rational debate aren’t just passé; they’re now signs of weakness.
Trump supporters thought their man winning the Presidency meant their voices would finally be heard and their opinions taken seriously. As a result, to disrespect Trump is to disrespect them as individuals, and Trump supporters can’t stand the thought of the man they elected receiving anything less than unwavering respect and support. (The historians among us might look at the last eight years as evidence of a double standard.)
This behavior isn’t limited to conservatives; Bernie supporters view bipartisanship and compromise with suspicion, denouncing any efforts to make incremental change as insufficient and holding them up as examples of the failure of the Democratic Party. Hillary supporters view both Trump and Bernie supporters as unrealistic; too pie-in-the-sky; willing to sacrifice our existing political structure and norms on the altar of ideology. Everybody digs in their heels, nobody yields an inch, and the path forward becomes less certain than ever. Which is how we end up with an ongoing debate – an actual, serious debate – over a goddamn typo on Twitter.
I’m not sure what it’s going to take for different groups to start finding common ground on the very real threats we as a nation face. In fact, I’m less confident than ever that we’ll be able to.