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The Op-Ed Writer Wants Respect, Not Rebellion

Might the New York Times piece have been written by a disgruntled youngster in the Trump administration?
The New York Times building.

Quite a bit of ink has been spilled trying to identify the author of the anonymous New York Times piece from last week who claims to be a senior White House official thwarting aspects of President Donald Trump's agenda. But could everyone be looking at this all wrong? Or, to be more precise, could they be looking for the wrong motive?

The title of the op-ed proclaims, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." Yet there's a good chance the author had no role in writing the title. Indeed, toward the beginning of the piece, the writer specifies that they're not part of the "resistance" of the left. What we see is not some sort of heroic saboteur within the administration, but rather someone trying to make the White House function more like its Republican predecessors.

Perhaps we can find the motivation for this op-ed in a Politico article from a few months ago in which younger Trump administration officials complain that no one in D.C. will date them. "Thank God I've had a girlfriend of three years," one staffer told Politico, "because the last person I would want to be is a single Trump supporter dating in D.C. right now." These staffers feel largely shunned by much of Washington, far beyond what party identification would suggest.

My guess is that the author of the anonymous op-ed belongs to this cohort of younger staffers (though not necessarily someone quoted in the Politico article). This person feels as if they've been derided for performing a job they consider a public service. More importantly, they feel entitled—entitled to some respect, and entitled to some gratitude for doing a job that many people told them not to do.

From their perspective, they are part of an embattled minority. Democrats keep criticizing them for propping up a racist and sexist regime. A cadre of Republican pundits keep attacking them for enabling the destruction of democratic norms. They view themselves as trying to patch up a flawed organization and make it deliver for their vision of America. They don't consider themselves racists or sexists and they're upset that the world seems to be treating them that way.

So this op-ed was a way for this person to announce: "I'm not a bad person. Really, I'm kind of a hero. You're welcome."

One might object that the Times described this person as a "senior official in the Trump administration," but that can mean a great many things. This person may well have a substantial work profile and a supervisorial position over many employees but still not be anywhere near the rank of a presidential assistant or cabinet member.

One might also note that, as several analyses have detected, this person's writing style is similar to that of Mike Pence, Dan Coats, and Nikki Haley. But more junior staffers regularly model their writing styles on those of their superiors, especially if they are (or are trying to become) a correspondence or speech writer.

Obviously, I have no special knowledge about the identity of this person, and I could very easily turn out to be wrong in the next few days or hours. But this strikes me as less an example of a hero bravely undermining a corrupt system from within and more of a proud member of that system insisting on some gratitude. This person posits themself as Oskar Schindler sabotaging the Wehrmacht's guns with defective bullets, but they're a lot closer to George Costanza whining that no one saw him pay the tip.