Tom Cotton: The future of Trumpism | Arkansas Blog

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tom Cotton: The future of Trumpism

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 7:31 AM

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Jeffrey Toobin's profile of Sen. Tom Cotton is now on-line in The New Yorker.

It depicts the ambitious junior senator from Arkansas as successfully navigating a divide in the Republican Party. It also depicts him as a stout defender of Donald Trump and someone whose personal style could stand a charisma injection.

Toobin observed Cotton at a speech before a Fort Smith Republican audience:

“Go home tonight and turn on one of the nighttime comedy shows. Tomorrow morning, turn on one of the cable morning-news shows. This Saturday, watch ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” he said. “All the high wardens of popular culture in this country, they love to make fun of Donald Trump, to mock him, to ridicule him. They make fun of his hair, they make fun of the color of his skin, they make fun of the way he talks—he’s from Queens, not from Manhattan. They make fun of that long tie he wears, they make fun of his taste for McDonald’s.” He went on, “What I don’t think they realize is that out here in Arkansas and the heartland and the places that made a difference in that election, like Michigan and Wisconsin, when we hear that kind of ridicule, we hear them making fun of the way we look, and the way we talk, and the way we think.”

It was, on one level, a breathtaking leap—to equate mockery of a louche New York billionaire with attacks on the citizens of this small, conservative city, which lies across the Arkansas River from Oklahoma. But Cotton’s appeal to his audience for solidarity with Trump, which was greeted with strong applause, represented just one part of his enthusiastic embrace of the President. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former top strategist and the chairman of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, told me, “Next to Trump, he’s the elected official who gets it the most—the economic nationalism. Cotton was the one most supportive of us, up front and behind the scenes, from the beginning. He understands that the Washington élite—this permanent political class of both parties, between the K Street consultants and politicians—needs to be shattered.” At the same time, Cotton has maintained strong ties with the establishment wing of the G.O.P. Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, told me, “Cotton is not like a Steve Bannon, who wants to blow up the existing structure, uproot the ideology of the Republican Party and replace it with something new. He’s a rising star. He’s capable of building bridges within the Party. He wants to get things done.”
Toobin got face time with Cotton, something generally denied all but friendly reporters in Arkansas. I talked with Toobin and emphasized my belief that race — a black president — had a lot to do with the rise of the Republican Party and Cotton in Arkansas. Cotton, naturally rejects that idea.

Toobin notes some stylistic lacks of Cotton, though he remarks his speaking style isn't quite as robotic as it once was.

On the day after I visited Cotton’s family’s home, I told him that I had driven the scenic route back to Little Rock. “That’s because you drove along the Ouachita Mountains, which is the only range in Arkansas that goes west to east,” he said. “It provides more attractive views of the sunset than the north-south ranges.” This was an accurate, if rather bloodless, assessment of the aesthetics of the countryside, one that might be made by “Star Trek” ’s Mr. Spock, whom Cotton, with his air of icy certainty, somewhat resembles.
Some other points are noted, such as his opposition to a cancer-stricken Obama appointee that still leaves Democratic senators fuming.

Bottom line:

Cotton has carved out a clear Trumpism-without-Trump agenda: limits on immigration through legislation, deportations, and a wall; longer prison sentences for American convicts and suspected terrorists abroad; a bigger budget for the Department of Defense. The question is whether he has the charisma to sell that agenda to a broader public. 

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