David Brooks is too young to remember Abbie Hoffman at his prime — he was seven years old at the time of the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 — so to compare Trump to Mr. Hoffman is based on nothing more than what he has read in the papers. Calling Trump an antiestablishment provocateur in the mold of Hoffman and Jerry Rubin is both speculative and silly.
This establishment, too, has had its failures. It created an economy that benefits itself and leaves everybody else out. It led America into war in Iraq and sent the working class off to fight it. It has developed its own brand of cultural snobbery. Its media, film and music industries make members of the working class feel invisible and disrespected.
So in 2016, members of the outraged working class elected their own Abbie Hoffman as president.
Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.
That’s exactly what he’s doing. Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.
Day by day Trump is turning us into a nation of different planets. Each planet feels more righteous about itself and is more isolated from and offended by the other planets.
For one thing, Abbie Hoffman was literate and had a sense of humor; his best seller Steal This Book is a page-tuner of not just countercultural wisdom but it’s funny on a scale of Al Franken. Trump is both illiterate and humorless.
Abbie Hoffman would never have seriously run for president, and if he did, he wouldn’t run as the champion of just one class of people — the white folks. He would have been for everybody. Trump’s entire campaign was about the grievances of the poor oppressed white man who can’t catch a break in this world, and he hasn’t given up on that.
If Mr. Brooks is so intent on finding a 1960’s icon to compare toTrump, he’d have better luck if he went with Bull Connor.