President Donald Trump has achieved more concrete progress for blacks, gays, and Jews than any other American president.
That claim is sure to be disputed, if not mocked, by those for whom grievance and identity politics are a profession or a psychological crutch.
Yet it remains true — and was thrown into sharp relief this week, as the Jussie Smollett case turned from one of the most horrific attacks in recent memory to the worst hate crime hoax in history.
There are two reasons the media, Hollywood, and the Democratic political elite believed Smollett’s claims.
First, he belongs to several victim categories: black, gay, and even Jewish (albeit via his father), according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Second, he appealed to the left’s shared contempt for America in the Trump era: he claimed, for example, that the fact people doubted his story “says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”
The crucial detail in Smollett’s account, which ultimately proved its undoing, was the claim that his attackers had shouted, “This is MAGA country.” It was a gratuitous flourish in Smollett’s story, a “fact” that was not necessary to establish that he was a victim, but which pointed the finger directly at the president and his tens of millions of supporters.
Chicago is hardly “MAGA country,” given that it is overwhelmingly Democratic. Its politicians are also viciously anti-Trump: after the 2016 election, the city took down all of the honorary street signs it once erected in his honor, which were near the Streeterville area where Smollett claimed he was attacked.
But to the left, “MAGA country” is an idea about what the U.S. is, or has become. That is why so many hate crime hoaxes are believed.
It is worth examining what Trump’s “MAGA country” really means for the groups Smollett claimed to represent.
Blacks: Under Trump, black unemployment is at its lowest level in history. Trump pushed for, and signed into law, sweeping prison reforms backed by leaders of the African-American community. He pardoned the late boxer Jack Johnson, whom Barack Obama neglected. He also elevated a new generation of black conservatives in public life.
Jews: Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. embassy there. He deported a Nazi who had lingered in the U.S. under Obama. He directed the FBI to solve the mystery of bomb threat hoaxes haunting the community. He is the first president with close Jewish relatives — his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.
Gays: Trump championed gay voices within the GOP since his campaign, when he backed Peter Thiel at the Republican National Convention. Trump appointed U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, one of the highest-ranking gay officials. His administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.
(Trump has also been a good president for other groups, including women — though the “cis-gender” Smollett would not qualify.)
The arguments against the claims above are familiar. Trump is alleged to have called neo-Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, “very fine people.” Trump took on black football players who knelt during the national anthem, and restored a ban on transgender soldiers serving in the U.S. military.
But the Charlottesville claim is a lie, and in the other two cases Trump was defending the prominence and integrity of core national institutions.
Measured on the post-modernist scale of identity politics, which prizes symbolic confrontations with power, Trump is a villain.
In a world where concrete achievements count, Trump is our most “progressive” president ever.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.