Is There A Lesson In Trump’s Win?

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Well, the election’s over, and now we know who’s the clear and indisputable loser: Clinton, and the country dodged a major bullet.

But I’m more interested in considering what dynamic was in play that propelled a candidate like Trump to win the GOP nomination at all, and ultimately the election.

For about twenty-five years, since the administration of Papa Bush, the Establishment GOP has continually drifted leftward, all the while trying subtly to redefine “conservatism” while claiming to support the traditional principles represented by the official party planks (or positions). This manifests itself each election season when the candidates on the stump promise to aggressively fight for those principles, but once elected fail to follow through on those campaign promises, instead offering tepid resistance to Dem/socialist programs, and half-hearted efforts to further a conservative agenda, when they’re not offering their own “progressive” programs, such as Bush 2’s “No Child Left Behind”, Scrips for Seniors, and amnesty for illegal aliens; McCain’s amnesty support and lack of Second Amendment support; the despised Common Core; as well as other examples.

This is also illustrated by considering their presidential candidates post-Bush 1: Dole, Bush 2, McCain, and Romney. Not one of them is a bona fide conservative. It’s also underscored by their congressional leadership: Boehner (until recently) in the House and McConnell in the Senate.

Predictably, as this drift has become more and more obvious, the traditional “base” of the GOP has become ever more disenchanted and disaffected. We saw this manifest itself with the rise of the Tea Party, a phenomenon to which the Establishment GOP reacted badly,2008-tea-party_004 with scorn and disdain instead of contemplating it as a symptom of organic and systemic problems. The Establishment elites simply knew better; the Tea Party was a disorganized bunch of uneducated yahoos who didn’t know what was good for them; and they could be minimized and ignored with impunity. All the while the percentage of the electorate registered as Republicans continued to fall while the percentage registered as Independent continued to rise in virtually direct proportion, a crystal clear bellwether to anyone actually paying attention.

Unfortunately for the Establishment GOP, they weren’t paying attention.

And this time around, the pressure in the boiler had built up so much that it exploded. One man put himself forward as the anti-everything: anti-Establishment GOP; anti-liberal; anti-illegal alien; anti-mainstream media; anti-gun control; anti-Big Government… all those hot-button issues that the “uneducated yahoos” the Establishment GOP so despised found so important. Further, he didn’t talk down to those “yahoos”. He COURTED them! He catered to them. He spoke THEIR language!

And how did the Establishment GOP react to that? By trying to rally around and promote more of their same, tired old offerings: Jebbie!!! and Kasich, “moderate” drones. What about the actual conservatives in the race, Cruz and Rubio? Well the Establishment hated them almost as much as Trump, and didn’t have any qualms about making that clear.

So when the dust finally settled, and Trump was the official nominee, did the party regulars and the rest of the Establishment GOP rally around their candidate and do all they could to help him succeed? Far from it. In acts of astonishing perfidy, not only did they abandon supporting him, but many of them – yes, I’m looking at you, Bushes – actually made a point of supporting his opponent, the despicable Clinton, an act of betrayal that will be long remembered.

That perfidy actually goes to the heart of the problem: that the Establishment GOP, at least at the national level, suffers from an elitism – “Beltway-itis” – that’s made them blind to the reality of what they need to do to regain and maintain their viability as a truly k-street“national” party. They inherently disdain the Joe Sixpacks that make up their natural base. They apparently prefer acceptance at K Street social functions over getting down in the mud with the people they absolutely need if they want to succeed.

Trump was the natural result of that disease. He was the revolt the GOP has long had coming, and to which it was willfully blind. And his success, and ultimate election to the office of President, IN SPITE of the Establishment GOP, should make them step back and take a long and hard look at how they want to approach the political arena as the country moves into the future.

The question now is: will they actually learn something from this?

 

©Brian Baker 2016

 

(Also published today in  The Signal)

“The Donald” Is President… Now What?

The dog days of the Summer of 2017 have been especially brutal, with sweltering heat and humiditydc summer turning Washington, D.C. into a miasma.

The election of 2016 was one for the books. The expected “coronation” of Hillary Clinton never took place, her ambitions for election to the highest office of the land crushed when the FBI investigation into her emails resulted in her indictment on federal misdemeanor charges. Only a last-minute pardon granted by outgoing President Obama saved her from a lengthy trial and probable conviction.

When self-avowed Socialist Bernie Sanders became the official Democrat party nominee due to a rabid outpouring of support from the ultra-left fringe, the GOP – now insulated from the threat of a Hillary candidacy – reverted to form and coalesced around Establishment candidate Jeb Bush.

Defeated in the primaries, Donald Trump declared himself a candidate as an Independent. On election night this dynamic played itself out to its finale, with Sanders getting little support from other than the ultra-left, Bush getting little from any other than the GOP loyalists, and the remainder going to Trump. In an election cycle with a record-low turnout, that happened to be enough to give Trump the win.

trump in officeNow, six months after the inauguration, Trump sits at his desk in the Oval Office brooding over his next moves. He’d tried to push through his promise to build a border wall between the US and Mexico with the stipulation that he’d stick Mexico with the bill, but he’d immediately run into another “wall” he hadn’t anticipated.

Congress had refused to create any legislation authorizing such a project, and with no ties to either of the parties in control of Congress, Trump found himself with no leverage at all with which to proceed. His request for such legislation was simply DOA. The only thing he got was a gift from the President of Mexico of a bottle of fine agave tequila, with a sardonic note of congratulations.

Along similar lines, when he’d tried to find some way to suspend the automatic granting of US citizenship to “anchor babies”, there was no actual way to effectuate his efforts. He couldn’t do it by executive order, because citizenship is a state of being, not a document issued by a government agency to which he could issue orders. He again asked Congress for appropriate legislation, and ran into the exact same problem he faced regarding his proposed wall: Congress ignored him.

In August of 2015 he’d said that he’d support a tax increase on the “ultra-rich” – heresy to conservatives – and when he’d proposed the idea to Congress he got strong support from the Democrat side of the aisle, and strong opposition from the GOP, again with the same result: no action from Congress.

Last month’s meeting with Putin had gone badly. They didn’t click on a personal level, a problem right out of the box. He’d tried to insist that Putin call off his dogs, but the Russian just stared at him with those beady eyes. It was infuriating! “All right, so he got a little annoyed at what I said”, Trump thought. “But I was calling his actions ‘stupid’, not him personally. Can’t he tell the difference?”

He’d tested another policy initiative a couple of months ago, a sort of trial balloon. He’d instructed our ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to present to those countries bills for our costs in protecting their countries militarily, including from the Saddam Hussein invasion. After all, they have virtually unlimited wealth from their oil production, and we provide their military support. It was for only $1.5 trillion! Who’d have thought they’d react the way they did? The Saudis even insisted Trump recall our ambassador to that country. Imagine! Looks like that balloon popped…

Which, Trump mused, means the odds of doing the same thing anywhere else look pretty slim…

The backlash from his announcement last week that he was sending the 82nd Airborne Division to the82 airborne Middle East to fight ISIS utterly confounded and perplexed him. If there was any actual personification of actual evil on this planet, they were it. So how could so many people – not only in the electorate, but in Congress – not see that we had to send in the troops?

“Quagmire?”, he grumbled to himself. “What does that even mean? I can tell those generals how to win that war. And anyway, if they don’t do it my way, and win that damn war, I’ll just fire them.”

Seeing that the sun was setting, he rose from the chair and left the room. Tomorrow was another day.

©Brian Baker 2015

 

(Published in my local newspaper, The Signal, on 3 Sep 2015: http://www.signalscv.com/section/33/article/141834/ )

 

Trumpists = Clintonistas

The critics use terms such as “demagogic ideologue” with “no specific policy proposals”, while the cheerleaders say things like “savior of the country” and “America’s best hope”.

Name that candidate.

trump clinton

Yes, that’s right. As painful as it is to write, and maybe even more painful to read, I’ve come to the conclusion that all the rabid hysteria in support of Donald Trump reminds me of nothing so much as the same kind of rabid hysterical support Clinton gets from those on the Left.

In both cases, their supporters have to convince themselves that their candidate’s history is irrelevant. In Clinton’s case, a boatload of scandals, improprieties, and corruption. In Trump’s case a checkered past of being literally all over the map on the political issues, being a big monetary supporter of the “other” party, being a member of several parties other than the GOP, and always serving his own self-interest first and foremost, before any other consideration (in that respect being very Clintonian).

A couple of weeks ago I wrote my first essay on the Trump phenomenon, and I have to say that I was very surprised by the pushback I got from several fellow bloggers and web-friends whom I normally consider to be very reliable conservatives. In that essay, and the one I wrote on the night of the first GOP debate, I pointed out many of Trump’s flaws as a candidate, including his many character failings. Yet many of these people, whom I generally consider to be very level-headed, were willing to simply ignore all of this because they’d either fallen under his spell, or convinced themselves that his basic character – his nature – didn’t matter in this instance.

I remember the 1996 election cycle in which Bill Clinton ran for a second term, and how that was the first time in the modern political era that “character” became a notable issue. Since that time, it’s one the GOP and conservatives raise regularly in criticizing their opponents, but somehow, this time, in the case of Trump they’re more than willing to ignore that very same quality when the question is directed at Trump, while at the same time using it to disparage Hillary Clinton.

What is one to make of this… inconsistency?

Here’s my assessment of their characters: both are egotistical megalomaniacs with a strong sense of entitlement; both are populist ideologues – he allegedly on the Right, she clearly on the Left – who are long on populist rhetoric and short on policy specifics; both have histories of political expediency to advance their own self-interests; both have improperly exercised their personal power, at the clear expense of others and with utter disregard for the consequences to others, merely to further their personal positions and ambitions; both are cynical manipulators; both have flip-flopped on their professed positions on policy issues; and neither one is trustworthy.

According to reliable polling data (Quinnipiac) each of them enjoys broad support from their respective ends of the political spectrum, but that support is undermined by their low ratings for honesty, likeability, and trustworthiness. In other words, a mile wide and an inch deep.

Trump is the Right’s Hillary.

That’s my assessment of their characters; my opinion. Now, if you’re a Trump supporter, look deeply into your own heart of hearts, and ask yourself these questions: Am I wrong? Do you trust Trump? Is he someone you’d have over to your home for dinner? And if the answers to those questions are “No”, then how are you any different from a Clintonista?

If next November’s election night rolls around and we’re looking at a picture like the one at the top of this essay, this country is well and truly screwed.

©Brian Baker 2015

 

(Also published today at my local newspaper, The Signal: http://www.signalscv.com/section/33/article/141085/)

 

“The Donald”: Reigning Clown Prince of Politics

I’ll preface by stating that I’m not a member of any political party; I’m a Constitutional conservative, and if I were to be a member of any party, I suppose it would be the Tea Party, though they don’t actually have a formal “party” per se.

In this very blog, I’ve mocked and satirized Crazy Uncle Joe Biden several times as being the Clown Prince of Politics, but I think he’s now been deposed, proving the Left doesn’t have a monopoly on political lunacy.

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Not very “presidential”. Is this why he wears a hat all the time now?

Exhibit A: “The Donald”, the guy with the world-class comb-over, proving one can be tacky and tasteless in appearance while at the same time exhibiting absolutely no discernible decorum or political acumen.

As George Santayana famously noted, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”, and we can see that play out right now as Trump repeats the bombastic campaign of another eccentric billionaire with delusions of grandeur, Ross Perot, the guy who’s single-handedly responsible for us ever having to say the words “President Clinton”… at least, so far.

There have been other hyperbolic populists in the last few years who have enjoyed their moment in the sun before fading out of the limelight, Chris Christie coming immediately to mind. What is it about these guys that gives them such popularity – Trump currently being the GOP candidate with the highest individual poll numbers – in spite of their political record? Christie is a Northeastern “moderate” with a very mixed record on traditional conservative principles, who famously lauded Obama. Trump’s record on political contributions actually favors Democrats, including Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton; he’s been registered as other than Republican several times over the last couple of decades, even running for President as a Reform Party candidate. He’s advocated restrictions on “assault weapons”, and increasing wait periods.

I think it’s pretty clear that Trump has virtually no chance at all of ever being elected President. In fact, if he were to somehow miraculously win, and if he tried to govern as he claims he would, he’d be either the most ineffective, or the worst, President in American history, as his “style” would be more suited to a dictator than the President of a republic.

I also think it’s instructive that many of the same people who have been criticizing Obama for years about his lack of experience before being elected President would actually support Trump, a man with even less… in fact, none at all.

So why all the hoopla? I think it’s because Trump – and Christie before him – personifies an approach to the arena that they wish was more prevalent in the legitimate candidates of their party: a willingness to be confrontational with a news media that largely and openly supports their opponents; aggressive advocacy on certain hot-button issues of the moment; and a perception of independence from vested party interests.

That last is a very key element, I believe. Sadly, the GOP of the post-Reagan era has become infamous for claiming to support traditional conservative principles, and then promptly abandoning them as working priorities as soon as they win the elections. There was a brief resurgence of conservatism during the Gingrich era, but it very quickly dissipated.

Instead, we’ve seen a constant parade of lackluster “moderate” candidates who can’t generate anyth[7] (4) enthusiasm among the conservative base of the party. In fact, on a personal note, the 2008 nomination of John McCain was the final straw that caused me to renounce my own membership in the GOP of almost 40 years.

Even at the congressional level, we’ve see that same problem as recently as last year’s election, during which the GOP candidates ran on a platform of directly confronting Obama’s policies and fiats only to promptly abandon taking any real action as soon as they took office and the majorities of both chambers of Congress.

I think Trump has been imbued with a kind of representational fantasy, just as John Wayne was perceived as a “hero” because of all his exploits in westerns and war movies, though he never served a day in uniform or heard a shot fired in anger. He represents what they want that party’s legitimate candidates to do, and be like, and support.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the fault for Trump’s current popularity can be laid right at the doorstep of the Establishment GOP itself, for failing to comprehend the unrest among its own claimed “base”.

©Brian Baker 2015

 

UPDATE: Recently released polling data by Quinnipiac shows Trump being the worst performer of any of the current Republican candidates in a matchup in the General Election, being soundly beaten by Clinton, Biden and even self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders. Not only beaten, but solidly thumped. To quote the poll: “Trump has the worst favorability rating of any Republican or Democrat”.

Read it all for yourself:  http://www.quinnipiac.edu/images/polling/us/us07302015_U645de.pdf

Second update: It looks like no less an intellectual illuminary than Thomas Sowell agrees with everything I said:  http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2015/08/04/the-trump-card-n2034124/page/full