Tuesday, November 29, 2016
In Praise Of Donald Trump And The Outrageous–The Middle Ground Is Too Soft And Squishy
The past presidential campaign (2016) was noteworthy because of its political extremism. Donald Trump was a candidate like no other – an outsized, high-rolling celebrity who lived in glitz and glamour; who was as at home with lawsuits and intimidation as he was with starlets and beauty queens; who built a real estate empire of hotels and resorts which were monuments to wealth and excess; and who reveled in the use of power and its perks. Power was indeed an aphrodisiac, and Trump’s women were all blonde, svelte, sexy, and gorgeous.
He spoke his mind on the campaign trail, energized his faithful with incendiary rhetoric and bombast. He was free and easy with the truth, understood that braggadocio was no drawback; that machismo was as alive and well as ever; that Americans were fed up with social responsibility, caring, and empathy and wanted celebrity, aggressive ambition, yachts, private planes, and penthouses.
Both the traditional Left and Right were aghast. How could this buffoon, this clown, this arriviste think he had any right to Washington? Not only was he a populist radical whose ideas threatened the very foundations of both conservatism and American liberalism, but his lifestyle – so outrageously bourgeois and middle-brow, and so disgracefully disrespectful of tradition, foundational politics, and political righteousness – was abhorrent. Not only did Donald Trump represent an outrageous assault on the political status quo, he was an insult to Eastern propriety, education, and class.
Never before was America so ripe for a Trump-style populist revolution. After decades of liberal sanctimony and righteous hectoring, Americans had had enough. Not only did the progressive Left keep banging on about race, gender, and ethnicity annoy; but its insolence and arrogant dismissal of faith, patriotism, and family angered.
Before Trump these voters could only let off steam privately. Yet they watched police be disrespected while the media championed the formless, aimless, and destructive violence of street protests. Court decisions never seemed to go their way, and they had to accept, tolerate, and embrace legally mandated abortion, gay marriage, and the entitlement of the undeserving. Colleges were a patchwork of safe spaces. Free speech was muzzled and intellectual debate clotured before it began.
Washington elites formed one big cabal, a collusion of Wall Street investors, revolving door lobbyists, venal, self-serving politicians, and media lackeys. Neither Congress, nor the White House, nor the Fourth Estate looked after their interests.
Barry Goldwater was the first stone-thrower of the conservative era. An unabashed military hawk and social individualist, he challenged liberal America like no other politician ever had. “ I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
Yet Goldwater was a gentleman, a respectful, career politician and five-term Senator who understood the machinery of government and worked within political coalitions both in and outside of Congress to promote his conservative reforms. He was far ahead of his time and was crushed in a landslide defeat by LPJ in 1964. Only fifteen years later did conservatism finally have its day with the election of Ronald Reagan.
Goldwater, for all his reform-mindedness and political insights was no revolutionary. His ideas, although radical, still fell well within the ambit of traditional Washington. Smaller government, more private enterprise, less social entitlements, lower taxes, and a more muscular military were acceptable premises if not universally so. Reagan himself was also a decent, respectful, generous, and principled man; a two-term governor, and one of the most popular Presidents in American history. Yet he was also no revolutionary, falling well within the social, economic, and political circle of power.
Donald Trump on the other hand is a true revolutionary. He has dismissed the traditional workings of Washington, scorned the liberal elites of the East Coast establishment, laughed at the inbred sociality of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Georgetown. He had no respect for the lions of journalism – the New York Times and Washington Post – and found them incestuous shills of Washington power-brokers. He threw the Republican canon out the window, and turned instead to mercantilism, anti-business immigration policies, and an absolute intolerance for insider collusion and political
Trump is indeed outrageous. Not only does he not come from political roots, he has no patience whatsoever for governance or government. He has amassed his billions by wriggling around federal regulations, avoiding taxation, skirting SEC rules, and dismissing politicians as venal do-nothings. He knew that because of his wealth, his worldwide investments, and his economic influence he was far more powerful than any Senator or Congressman.
Perhaps most importantly he is not so much a man of the people, but the man the people would like to be. His image is what sells, and we love Hollywood, Las Vegas glitz, big cars, island homes, and private jets. We are a country of fantasy, image, and allure. We resent insiders, backroom tricksters, and two-faced liars. and Donald Trump, the quintessential American, is as attractive, self-confident, independent, and absolute as we could ever hope to be.
Trump people don’t imagine a Renaissance Weekend with Bill Clinton, Warren Buffett, and intellectuals from American and Europe. They wouldn’t know what to do at Aspen, Gstaad, or on Park Avenue even if they had the money. The idea of Camelot, Pablo Casals, Robert Frost, and Martha Graham mean nothing; but Melania Trump, gorgeous Ivanka, Trump Tower, and Florida mansion resorts do.
Liberals are watching with dismay as Trump appoints his Cabinet – all tried-and-true, proven loyalists and ideologically pure; men and women as committed to radical populism as he and as dismissive of ‘the way things are done around here’ as the man himself. Of course there will be compromise. There is enough dissent in the Republican House and Senate for any Trump initiative to have rough sledding; but his appointments send a clear and unmistakable message to the powers that be – “Be prepared for a fight”. Not just a tussle, but a down-and-out, bare-knuckled brawl.
Every corner of official Washington is befuddled as Trump breaks, changes, and ignores the rules. He shoots his mouth off on Twitter; his children are his advisors; he refuses to give up his vast holdings; he could care less about living in the White House with old furniture, paintings of John Adams, and Jackson’s silver. He will do bloody well what he pleases.
Let’s face it. The middle ground is soft, squishy, and messy. Who would ever track there unless it was absolutely, entirely necessary. We, the common people, are forced into sobriety, reasonableness, congeniality, and compromise because we have to. We are too low on the totem pole to anything but. Ours is a slow, difficult, and long path to reasonable rewards. For the time being we – unlike Donald Trump – must keep our own counsel, watch our backs, and do the right thing
Without these constraints, we would be like The Donald, squiring the world’s most beautiful women, staying only in the best and most luxurious hotels and resorts, eating wherever and whenever, saying whatever we please, spending as if there were no tomorrow, reveling in wealth, glamour, sparkle, and fame.
The Left is in denial, not so much because they lost the election but because of the ascendency of someone who so completely and absolutely rejects their policies, programs, opinions, and style of life. They have come to believe their own campaign invective. If Donald Trump is not a racist, misogynist, and homophobic xenophobe, then they have to believe he is to justify their humiliating defeat and rejection of their social, personal, intellectual, and political values.
The rest of us are quite happy that although we can never be Donald Trump at least he can be our surrogate. We will not be able to get enough of him, gorgeous Ivanka, Melania, Trump Tower, Mar-el-Lago, and the People celebrities who will be his guests.
Yes, we hope that he doesn’t have an itchy trigger finger or do something stupid, but those who voted for him knew that it was a risk. Yet, ask any of them and they will tell you. It is worth it and then some.