Thursday, August 4, 2016
Donald Trump–Win, Lose, Or Withdraw The Donald Has Reshaped American Politics
Donald Trump is unlike any presidential candidate who has come before. He is outrageous, defiant, unrestrained, and refreshingly honest. He has not only defrocked American progressivism and its sanctimonious righteousness but he has upset the applecart of the Establishment status quo. He has restored populism to its rightful place, spoken for the marginalized and disaffected white middle class, and challenged the arrogant entitlement of the media, Washington insiders, and the incestuous relationship between them. He has voiced the frustrations of millions about federal interventionism, entitlement politics, and the race-gender-ethnicity shibboleth. Win, lose, or withdraw, Trump has unsettled the powers that be, and American political democracy will never be the same again.
Trump, invoking Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Reality TV, has forced the old guard, entrenched, intellectually absolutist Coasts to take notice. Politics is not about logic, rationality, issues, and making sense. It is about image, appeal, visceral emotion and passionate allegiance. Americans have always fallen for revival tent evangelism, itinerant hucksterism, and circus side shows, all natural expressions of curiosity, faith, and idealism; and their reversion to this more basic if not primitive irrationality is honest, home-grown, home-spun, and legitimate.
Why should anyone believe or even pay attention to politicians who promise much but deliver little? Who can believe the nostrums, evasions, and bald-faced lies of Washington insiders masquerading as men and women of the people? Who can believe the Clintons who have made an art form of lying? Who can believe any government source of information when administrations build arguments to suit their ends? There was no North Vietnamese attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Russia is not a malevolent anti-democratic demon. China is not a hegemonic, imperialist neo-Mandarin power.
Why should anyone believe anything any politician says after Bill Clinton’s parsing of sex; John Edwards duplicitous lying; Mark Sanford’s walk on the Appalachian Trail; John Kennedy’s disingenuous sexual demurral; Colin Powell’s UN testimony on yellowcake? Anyone who has paid attention to history knows that it is nothing if not a chronicle of self-interest, deception, greed, and territorialism. Shakespeare knew this well; and if one were to lay his Histories down in chronological order, one would find nothing but predictable repetition of events. Men and women always act in the same venal, self-serving, and self-protective ways whether kings and queens, courtiers, or the common people.
When Trump rails on about immigration, Muslims, Washington, and national security, no one takes him at his word. He speaks in images with a rich political iconography. His supporters know that all Mexicans are not rapists nor are all Muslims terrorists; but his inflammatory messages convey the concern about immigration and ISIS better than more temperate, considered, and carefully crafted position papers of more traditional politicians.
Trump supporters not only disregard his hyperbole, but they encourage it. For the first time in recent memory, a major presidential candidate has not only said that he disagrees with the opposition, but shouts a loud f**k you! The resentment and hatred felt for the Washington intellectual oppressors is unbound; and Donald Trump has given voice to it.
The resentment is visceral and unforgiving because the progressive Left has imposed its policies and programs on the country willy-nilly. There is no evidence that progressive policies favoring race, gender, and ethnicity have improved the lot of minority communities. In fact there is considerable evidence that such policies have retarded racial and ethnic integration, that have hardened the opinions of anti-abortion Christians who are skeptical of gay marriage. Programs which have purportedly promoted civil harmony and reconciliation may have done just the opposite. School curricula promoting self-esteem, tolerance, and pluralism go against the grain of religious and social conservatives who believe that advancement is a matter of values, family discipline, and order.
Donald Trump, therefore, has been truly revolutionary. He has not simply promoted a conservative agenda – that is old hat, tried-and-true, and the staple of the GOP for decades – but a radically conservative one. There is no compromise implicit in Trump’s stance against entitled liberalism. There is no reason to be tolerant of minorities if they do not subscribe to majority values. There is no reason to give young black men a pass when they are responsible for most of the crime in America. There is no reason to be tolerant of Islam when it is the foundation for international terrorism.
Of course his positions can lead some to extremism; but there will always be radical fringes in any revolutionary movement. There will be those who will resort to racism, xenophobia, and extreme nationalism hearing Trump’s words; but to listen only to them would be to miss the point.
Every issue before the American electorate today is nuanced whether immigration, abortion, terrorism, or social programs. Immigration is a complex issue and resolving it will require a consideration of corporate interests, consumer prices, government search-and-seizure, trans-border relations, and cultural integrity. Yet it is clear that Americans on all points of the political spectrum feel that current policies are unclear if not chaotic. Trump supporters are only the most vocal and incensed; and despite the calumny of the Left, give voice to what most Americans feel.
Abortion is not so cut-and-dry as progressives would have us believe. Morality is indeed in play, and the expediency of a woman’s right to choose may in fact be the morally inferior choice.
These concerns are not simply conservative. They are traditional. Views on the sanctity of life are not new, nor modern in conception. They have their origins in the Bible and the Koran and have been enunciated time again by both liberal and conservative popes.
Trump is revolutionary not because he espouses new values but because he is unapologetically forthright about them. There are no ifs, and, or buts about his positions. Most Americans do not parse on-the-one-hand-on-the-other. They are absolute in their convictions, and thus cheer and applaud a candidate is similarly simple, forthright, and declaratory.
Many commentators have commented on Trump’s ‘populism’; but his appeal goes far beyond that 19th century philosophy. While he is a populist in that he has understood and championed the causes of the disaffected and angry; he is a new breed – a radical, confrontational political revolutionary who not only wants the demands of middle American known and promoted but the destruction of the Establishment powers that be and the erasure of all their received wisdom.
As of this writing (8.4.16) Trump is well behind in the polls, and there are rumors that he may quit the race. Whatever the outcome of this unique and unforgettable election year, Americans should applaud Trump’s candidacy and campaign. The system needed a shake-up, and shake-up we got.