A Journey Into the Paranoid, Fantastical, Fantastically Boring Mind of Donald Trump Jr.

A Journey Into the Paranoid, Fantastical, Fantastically Boring Mind of Donald Trump Jr.
Image:Saul Loeb (Getty Images)

“Most people don’t know I published this book on my own, independent of traditional publishers, because I didn’t want anyone to change what I’m telling you,” Donald Trump Jr writes in his new book, Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible. “I turned down a very substantial offer from a major publisher in order to keep it raw and unfiltered. I wanted to speak directly to you.” If raw and unfiltered are synonyms for paranoid and unhinged, President Donald Trump’s eldest son’s book can be deemed a success.

Liberal Privilege is Don Jr’s lengthy screed against “swamp monster” Joe Biden, his “crackhead” son Hunter Biden, and the “Marxist” Democratic Party. It’s filled to the brim with familiar rhetoric about inner-city crime and “deep state” corruption, the kind the right hopes will help President Trump win re-election. With his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle providing the audio version of the book, Liberal Privilege is as much a whinging manifesto as it is a labor of love between the MAGA prince and princess. Like the book, Guilfoyle’s narration oscillates between sneering condemnation and wary disbelief, but while the content itself was unbearable to listen to for more than three minutes straight, her voice wasn’t. The smooth, irreverent delivery of the former Fox News host didn’t mask Trump’s brusque temperament that his fans love but instead showcased her zeal for dishing out right-wing propaganda. Together, Guilfoyle and Trump’s performance plays out in harrowing harmony.

Throughout Liberal Privilege, Trump outlines Biden’s hypocrisies with the air of a long-suffering everyman, a persona he’s perfected in the last four years, more than once writing “you can’t make this shit up.” And when he’s not offering dull accounts of Biden’s alleged corruption in Ukraine and China, he’s gleefully vilifying the media, cancel culture, and “wokeness” like a right-wing Mad Libs; a noun, a verb, Antifa. Ultimately, Liberal Privilege reads as the Trump 2020 campaign talking points expanded to book form: Defending President Trump’s indefensible covid-19 response, lauding the police while denigrating protesters, dismissing the various investigations against Trump, calling Biden a puppet of the left (Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the like), and warning suburbanites of violent poor people who are out to destroy once pristine neighborhoods with affordable housing. Of course, Liberal Privilege also acts as a vehicle for pushing the usual right-wing bread and butter talking points, like entire chapters dedicated to calling undocumented immigrants violent and wastes of resources.

Liberal Privilege lacks the kind of personal touch that defined his first book, Triggered. That book was chockfull of autobiographical anecdotes that at least made Don Jr feel like a real person; albeit, a horrible one. The most intimate moments in Liberal Privilege are when he describes Guilfoyle—his “Puerto Rican girlfriend”—as a “calming presence” during their heated appearance on The View in 2019.

For Trump, “liberal privilege” is “the ability to rewrite history, neglect facts, and alter the news in a one-sided fashion to further the liberal agenda.” This is a well-trodden conservative talking point that treats the victors—the power-wielding status-quo—as victims. He claims that the media uses this privilege to let Democrats and leftists off the hook for infractions that would sink—or, rather, “cancel”—a conservative in a similar position. “We’re not supposed to look at Biden’s Senate papers or his voting record,” Trump sneers. “We’re not supposed to look at his racist comments or hair sniffing, because he’s part of the liberal privilege class.”

Trump’s breathless charges of “liberal privilege” largely boils down to wondering why-wasn’t-this-random-thing-a-Democrat-did-a-huge-weeklong-media-scandal and acting as if being the Twitter villain of the day holds actual value. And even when Trump makes fair points about the media dropping the ball, a lack of sincerity undermines his entire argument. For example, when discussing the collective—and, importantly, media—outrage to President Trump’s family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, Don Jr. points out that the Trump administration was simply “using detention facilities Biden and Obama built.” He also mentions one photo in particular that was circulating in Democratic circles depicting migrant children in bleak cages, covered in emergency blankets. Many believed the photo showed the heartlessness of Trump’s family separation policy, but the photo was taken in 2014, during the Obama years.

“But of course, the DNC marketers in the media would never criticize Obama’s immigration policy, even if he did lock up more kids than Trump,” Trump wrote.

It’s true that there wasn’t much pushback from the media against deportations during the Obama years, and that Obama’s deportation apparatus only helped the Trump administration deploy their own anti-immigrant agenda with ease. But the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their guardians as they sought asylum was, in fact, new and uniquely cruel. Trump’s complaint here seems to be that his father’s administration can’t be more brutish with less scrutiny.

But that’s not the only way that Don Jr’s concept of “liberal privilege” falls flat. Trump argues that liberal privilege villainized Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and intensified the sexual assault allegations against him during his confirmation hearings, while the allegations against Biden were ignored (they weren’t). He complains about the liberal privilege that granted news outlets the permission to criticize MAGA teen Nicholas Sandmann, the liberal privilege that apparently sustains the Democratic party, the liberal privilege that gave Democratic politicians the reprieve when they flubbed their covid-19 response.

If liberal privilege existed, it hasn’t done a great job at keeping its intended targets out of power

But the current state of affairs does not support his thesis. Let’s grant for a moment that so-called liberal privilege is real and not a fantasy courted by the son of a multi-millionaire to launch complaints: A villanized Kavanaugh still made his way to a lifelong position on the Supreme Court. Even if Sandmann was turned into a perfect villain, he was likely awarded a sizable sum in damages and even got to speak at the 2020 Republican National Convention. And ultimately, Trump is still president and the country has been at the mercy of a Republican-controlled Senate for the majority of the last two decades. If liberal privilege existed, it hasn’t done a great job at keeping its intended targets out of power.

If anything, Liberal Privilege solidifies the fact that, ironically, conservatives only know how to carry themselves as victims. Even when they’re winning, they think they’re losing. The presidency isn’t enough, Supreme Court appointments that will impact the next generation aren’t enough, because as long as they have to respect a transgender person’s pronouns they believe they’ve lost the culture war (Trump suggested “liberal privilege” has made transgender women “fully protected,” as if trans women—particularly Black trans women—aren’t murdered at an alarming rate). Throughout his book, what Trump is actually describing is the abject horror having to consider others.

Liberal Privilege ends with a desperate pitch at the reader, an attempt to frighten them into voting for Trump via dog whistles and anarchistic boogeymen.

“That’s [the Democrats’] legacy, and it’s overtaking their party,” Trump writes. “Their goal is not a more exceptional America; their goal is the defeat of America. They are after you, what you have, how you earned it, and anything you hold dear. In their demented minds—it’s THEIRS.” This message becomes increasingly dire, especially when listening to Guilfoyle on the audio version. Her calm devolved into the kind of blaring chauvinistic fervor that defined her Republican National Convention speech:

They want you to do what they say, when they say. They want you to repeat their talking points mindlessly, without having your own opinion. The only option is their opinion; otherwise, they cancel you. They want to dictate your values, which change by the hour. They will not protect you or your property or your rights, because they will give preferential treatment to the dependents they court as their voters. They’ll support riots and anarchy because it’s woke, and they will drive this country into the ground.
Honestly, America, can you see yourself voting to destroy all you hold dear?

For the right, the answer to this question is a resounding “no.” But even if President Trump wins re-election, the war against so-called liberal privilege has no end in sight. There’s no winning in the worldview Donald Trump Jr has laid out, and that’s precisely what he and his comrades the right want: A neverending battle against phantom threats.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to more accurately reflect Nicholas Sandmann’s settlement with the Washington Post.

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