"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Morality Of Donald Trump–How Class Arrogance Occludes The Inconvenient Truth

In between those who adore Donald Trump and those who think him the Devil Incarnate are those who are simply fascinated by the rise of a Hollywood showman, Las Vegas huckster, and New York real estate mogul. 

How is it possible that after decades of traditional, insider politics and the hegemony of the Eastern Establishment, that such a wild outsider could have possibly made it to the Presidency?  There have been outsiders before but they were tempered by political office. 

Ronald Reagan was a revolutionary president, changing forever the perception of government from the solution to the problem; unshackling the private sector from decades of public intervention; and fearlessly challenging, as no one before, the threat of Godless Communism.

Yet he was a two-term governor of California, as popular as any, able to appeal to both constituents and to state bureaucracy.  He understood that popular legitimacy and legislative savvy were the two keys to successful governance.  As a movie actor he was far removed from the locus of federal power and even farther distant from the culture of the East Coast establishment; and yet because of his California gubernatorial experience, he  entered American politics well-prepared for challenges to both his principles and his management style.

Neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton were brought up in the culture of the elite – the Hyannisport of the Kennedys or the Kennebunkport of the Bushes – but, like Reagan, they learned the politics of governance in the Statehouse, and thanks to brains, savvy, and political agility managed reasonable reigns.   LBJ was unschooled in the ways of the liberal elite and resented them for their privileged and undue influence.  He hated the Kennedys for good reason; but despite his animus, he was the classic insider President, working the House and the Senate to a fine tune.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no such pedigree.  He was neither born to power and noblesse oblige like the Bushes, nor schooled in Ivy League traditions like the Clintons.  In political terms, he came from nowhere; but in populist terms, he came from everywhere.,

Of course he was not really a Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club shopper; a bass fisherman, or an assembly line worker.  He was born to enough privilege to give him a leg up on the business of America and therefore could only empathize with the struggles and resentments of the middle class; but he is unlike any President before him.  No experience in governance, not a member of the ruling elite, no embossed calling card to the best and most exclusive clubs; but a President more American than any before him

More than likely he got into the electoral race because reality TV and high-stakes real estate were getting boring.  What more satisfying and consistent with his high-octane, high visibility, showmanship career than a Presidential run? What greater ego-rush than standing before thousands of cheering, applauding, hysterical supporters?  Nothing in his resume even came close to such adulation and hero-worship.

So this crude, unschooled, unsophisticated man of the people will become the 45th President of the United States in the company of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.  How could someone with such minimal political credentials, such a bourgeois, middlebrow background, and with such a meager academic record ever become the leader of the world’s superpower?

Class issues were never far from the surface in the presidential campaign.  Although progressives tried to make it into a fight between a woman on the side of civil rights, justice, racial and gender equality, and good and a man as retrograde, racist, and  homophobic as the political establishment has ever seen, the crude distinction never took.  A cursory look at Trump’s real estate empire demonstrates his gender- and race-blind employment policy.  The love and trust he has for his wife and daughters shows his confidence and respect for women.  His well-documented friendships with gay performers and associates dispels any doubts about his sexual respect.

Yes, he made crude remarks about women, and even ‘groped’ them; but any 70 year-old man with half Trump’s allure has the same sexual character.  They all made explicit sexual references about women around the poker table, in the gym, and in the cloak room.  Men chase women.  Always have, always will; and women have always known how to handle them.  An untoward advance in an earlier pre-PC age was ‘no problem’.  Men’s egos are notoriously fragile, and savvy women have always been able to put them into their place.

Sexual dynamics, sexual interplay, sexual games were simply played differently in the era of Trump’s youth; and the Left’s attempts at discrediting Trump for past behavior is ignorant, silly, and worthless.
Put aside for a moment Trump’s sexual peccadillos, say the Left.  What about his depredations as a Wall Street investor and New York real estate titan.   He must have destroyed the lives of thousands, feeding on the weaknesses of the underprivileged and increasing his wealth on the backs of the poor. 

Of course there is no evidence of any such implied criminal behavior.  Of course he skated close to the ethical and legal edges of proper professional behavior; but so does everyone from the highest rollers on Wall Street to the small IRA manager.  There is no gain whatsoever in paying more taxes than legally mandated, and every reason to benefit from loopholes and undiscovered advantages in the tax code.

It all boils down, then, to class.  The Eastern Establishment is flummoxed by the ascendancy of this bourgeois interloper.  How can this man of unashamed glitz, arm candy, and tacky hucksterism have the audacity to sit in the Oval Office?  He is far worse than Bill Clinton and his trailer-trash bimbos.  At least President Bill had Ivy League credentials and saw himself as the first black president.  Trump is an unreconstructed and bullying champion of tinsel, glitz, show, and bare-knuckled macho posture.

The most sophisticated observers of the recent electoral campaign have taken no sides; but have been over-the-moon about the ascendancy of Donald Trump.  He not only represents a radical political p0pulism (the disaffected, frustrated, and marginalized voted overwhelmingly for him), but a defiant antagonist to arrogant, privileged elitism.  When Trump speaks of ‘draining the swamp’, we understand that it is not simply a cleaning of the Augean Stables, but a dismissal of the very culture of the powers that be.

A close friend and committed progressive criticized a classmate for refusing to take a ‘moral’ stance in the election.  It was immoral, he insisted, to stand by while an immoral candidate rose to power. Not to challenge Trump’s obvious racism, homophobia, and overt sexism was callow at best.  There could be no sitting on the fence in this election.

Of course the friend was still in shock and dismay; but troubling was the fact that he overstated his particular and self-centered  moralism.  Trump’s positions on controlling immigration, restoring authority to the police , rolling back ‘tolerant’ policies of inclusivity, redressing religious grievances concerning abortion and gay marriage, and questioning received wisdom peace and climate change, he said, were tantamount to moral dereliction.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  There is nothing immoral or amoral about any of these policy positions.  They are simply conservative formulations of moral policy.

There is nothing immoral, amoral, or offensive about Donald Trump or his policies.  He simply represents a point of view which is antithetical to the entrenched liberal powers that be.

Casting Trump as an immoral bigot is politically expedient, understandable, but wrong.  We have enabled him.  We are him.  Accept him or get over it.

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