“Ugly” requires no definition. You know it when you see it. And the public sees plenty of it in what promises to be a four-year war between President Trump and the “Resistance.” A related concept is “winning ugly.” In sports lexicon, it typically refers to a player or team that competes in unconventional, plodding ways but tends to end up on the winning side.
Both descriptions are appropriate fits as the latest chapters of what I'll call "Russiagate," "Obamacaregate," "tax-reformgate," and "NFLgate" unfold. To wit:
The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee are now shown to be complicit in the buying and marketing of the now infamous Trump Dossier, while a newly un-muzzled former FBI informant will soon testify about Bill and Hillary's involvement in the Russian purchase of 20 percent of America's uranium reserve.
Democrats unwilling to negotiate desperately-needed revisions to Obamacare's failing provider networks are lashing out at Trump's hardball tactics of holding up insurer subsidies for poor participants with an eye toward a more comprehensive, "mandate-lite" approach to (partial) repeal and replace.
Headlines feature brutal GOP internal fractures on the nuts and bolts of tax reform while two (retiring) Republican senators (Jeff Flake and Bob Corker) denounce the ways of the Republican president, who tweets back at them with equal antagonism.
Player displeasure with the president's comments regarding kneeling during the National Anthem continues to backfire as the NFL continues to experience low television ratings and growing numbers of no-shows on game days.
But ugly is not the only description of these high-profile fights. Each also reflects a strong Trump imprint. This president engages and expects to win, with little regard for hurt feelings or broken furniture. That Trump's threats, rants, and innuendo also serve to set Democrats and some establishment Republicans into fits of rage (and overreaction) is now a required addendum to the storyline. Witness the endless headlines devoted to real and imagined Trump misdeeds by the "Never Trump" cable networks. The old adage "it takes two to tango" applies: Both the president and the Resistance never fail to double down on ugly in response to the latest perceived outrage from the other.
And so, it proceeds. The progressive left's fear and loathing daily reaches new lows (or highs depending on one's point of view) every time Trump proves himself the anti-Obama. The mainstream media follow along, often clinging to discredited storylines.
Note that such media “reporting” shares a commonality with the politically-correct thought police now appearing on a college campus near you. It is said that this movement rationalizes its hypocrisy by claiming it must renounce its free speech soul in order to achieve a greater good — the defeat of the forces of "-ism," such as capitalism, pluralism, racism, sexism, nationalism, etc. Then and only then can it reconfigure its former self. This act of self-delusion is similar to the media types who knowingly misrepresent and selectively choose what’s news, but only in the greater cause of ridding the country of Trump and his deplorables.
Two additional points about all the ugliness must be noted.
The first concerns the president's tendency to over-sell — an attribute of a long and generally successful sales career. It is here where overused superlatives are regularly employed: "great," "tremendous," "beautiful," "wonderful" — descriptions that are sometimes disproportionate and often ridiculed. Tweets containing misstatements of fact are yet another legitimate basis for criticism — although it is becoming a common mistake for opponents to overreact to a one day's tweet that is subsequently overridden by a next-day tweet.
The second point is more subtle. It concerns an unintended audience. While ugly narratives feed the Resistance and Trump haters of all stripes, they also tend to drive a subset of lukewarm Trump supporters further to Trump world. The syndrome is familiar. Soft supporters become hardened in the face of relentless ugly because that imperfect guy is still our guy.
Whether the constituent elements of the Resistance truly care about this phenomenon is difficult to gauge. It just may be the antipathy toward anything and everything Trump is so overwhelming that the opposition does not care about losing this (smaller) cohort of voters.
Perhaps they should. After all, these are the soft party identifiers who twice voted for Barack Obama, but were driven by slow economic growth and animus toward Hillary Clinton to the most unlikely of alternatives. These good folks do not necessarily appreciate Trump's own in-artful, sometimes ugly ways. But I kind of think they see a roaring stock market and 3 percent growth as more akin to winning ugly.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich is a Washington Examiner columnist, partner at King & Spalding, and author of three books, including the recently released Turning Point. He was governor of Maryland from 2003-2007.