They let Donald Trump out of his bubble Sunday. It did not go well.
Granted, every president lives in a bubble, due to security concerns. But Trump lives in a bubble within a bubble, one that has less to do with protecting him from assassins than with protecting him from reality. That’s why his public appearances are largely confined to friendly rallies with true believers where nary a word of dissent is heard. And his handlers go to remarkable lengths to keep that bubble intact.
Take last week’s speech at historically black Benedict College in South Carolina; Trump is about as popular as polka music with African Americans, so it might have seemed a brave outreach on the surface. But students were reportedly asked to stay in their dorms during the speech. Thus, Trump’s appearance at a “black college” was actually an appearance before an audience of political allies with maybe seven actual students.
All this, to protect him from the fact that he is widely despised. Well, Sunday night during Game 5 of the World Series, the bubble popped. When Trump was introduced, the crowd at Nationals Park in Washington erupted in thunderous boos, followed by a chant: “Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!” His grin shrank to a grimace as the magnitude of this public rejection sank in.
It was an immensely cathartic moment. For some of us, at least.
Dana Perino of Fox “News” was simply shocked. “I never thought he would get booed,” she said, adding that she had thought “Americans would cheer.” Apparently, Trump is not the only one living in a bubble.
Joe Scarborough of MSNBC took exception to the chant. “We are Americans and we do not do that,” he lectured, a claim that neatly refutes itself. We do not do that? Sorry, but those weren’t Ukrainians in that stadium.
Meantime, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons was also troubled. “I frankly think the office of the president deserves respect,” he said. Which it does. Maybe someday, we’ll have a president who understands that.
Those who are wringing their hands over this fail to appreciate — or respect — the intensity of the anger, fear and disaffection Americans feel at what is happening to this country. They know that this is less a presidency than a crime wave. And in demanding quiet forbearance in the face of that, critics seek what free people cannot, ought not — and better not — give.
Trump is not the first president booed at a sporting event. It happened to the Bushes, Obama, Truman, Hoover. Nor is he the first to face a rude chant. In the depths of the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson was routinely serenaded with, “Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?”
No, what happened Sunday only felt revolutionary because it broke the bubble, allowed reality into the reality show that is the Trump presidency. It forced him to face, if only for a few fleeting moments, the fact that most Americans — Gallup says Trump has a 39% approval rating — regard him with scorn. That’s a truth he’s been able to dodge in that bubble, where “many people are saying” counts as a factual basis, delusion and fraud are political strategy and storm tracks can be changed with a Sharpie.
Now some of us think he should be spared the consequences of an accidental brush with reality? No. When you have endured the frustration of seeing that reality daily mutilated, you have the right — indeed, the obligation — to vindicate it at the top of your lungs.
Sunday night, Donald Trump got what he deserved.
And some of us got what we needed.