When seen as a political contest, it really makes no sense. On the one hand you have two, up-by-their-bootstraps decent conservative men. Men who are have been married to the same woman for years. Men with families. Men who have accomplished much and have contributed much. Men who, to all appearances, try to live Christian lives. Against them you have a man born into wealth. A man that has accomplished damned little with what was given him. A man who is an adulterer, a philanderer, a man who has literally cheated workmen of their wages and tried to take a widow’s home. A man who has been behind a string of business failures that left him either enriched or untouched while harming a great number of people. And yet, while the two conservatives can’t gain any traction, the other man is being endorsed by various church leaders and is drawing into his orbit the very people upon whom he has preyed.
“When my wife and I bought some land in West Virginia and built a house there, many friends in Washington asked why we would ever do that. Jokes about guns, banjo music, in-breeding, people without teeth and so forth often followed. These Washington friends, in case you were wondering, are good people. They’d be offended by crass, cruel jokes about any other group. They deplore prejudice and keep an eye out for unconscious bias. More than a few object to the term, “illegal immigrant.” Yet somehow they feel the white working class has it coming.
“My neighbors in West Virginia are good people too. Hard to believe, since some work outside and not all have degrees, but trust me on this. They’re aware of how they’re seen by the upper orders. They understand the prevailing view that they’re bigots, too stupid to know what’s good for them, and they see that this contempt is reserved especially for them. The ones I know don’t seem all that angry or bitter — they find it funny more than infuriating — but they sure don’t like being looked down on. Many of them are Trump supporters.
“Granting the appeal of the straight-talking outsider, one still must ask, why Trump? I mean, he doesn’t actually talk straight: In his own inimitable way, he panders like a pro. Shouldn’t it matter to someone who usually votes Republican that Trump isn’t a conservative — that, in policy terms, he isn’t really anything? He’s a liar and proud of it, transparently cynical and will say whatever comes into his head. How could anybody trust this man?
“Yet, contrary to reports, the Trump supporters I’m talking about aren’t fools. They aren’t racists either. They don’t think much would change one way or the other if Trump were elected. The political system has failed them so badly that they think it can’t be repaired and little’s at stake. The election therefore reduces to an opportunity to express disgust. And that’s where Trump’s defects come in: They’re what make him such an effective messenger.
“The fact that he’s outrageous is essential. (Ask yourself, what would he be without his outrageousness? Take that away and nothing remains.) Trump delights mainly in offending the people who think they’re superior — the people who radiate contempt for his supporters. The more he offends the superior people, the more his supporters like it. Trump wages war on political correctness. Political correctness requires more than ordinary courtesy: It’s a ritual, like knowing which fork to use, by which superior people recognize each other.
“This isn’t the whole explanation of Trumpism, by any means, but I think it’s part of the explanation. Supporting Trump is an act of class protest — not just over hard economic times, the effect of immigration on wages or the depredations of Wall Street, but also, and perhaps most of all, over lack of respect. That’s something no American, with or without a college degree, will stand for.”
If you have a doubt about how real this class bias is, think about the way Trump’s opponents have responded to Trump’s candidacy. They have done it by creating cute little derogatory names for his supporters and by claiming that a solid plurality of GOP primary voters are racists or white supremacists. No effort has been spent to understand why they vote for Trump but rather to denigrate them, this, in itself, is a level of contempt that we didn’t even show the “99%” bunch when we were mocking them. And, of course, we all know insulting people is the best way possible to get them to come to your point of view.
Today in The Federalist, Angelo Codevilla explains creditably why a President Trump would largely govern like President Obama, that is, we would see the extension of the rule-by-man at the expense of rule-of-law, and at the same time shows why people who loathe Obama are going to Trump:
Like Obama, Trump is not about persuading anybody. Both are about firing up their supporters to impose their will on their opponents while insulting them. Throughout history, this style of politics has been the indispensable ingredient for wrecking republics, the “final cause” that transforms free citizens into the subjects of emperors.
Both are about firing up their supporters to impose their will on their opponents while insulting them.
This style of politics has grown, along with a ruling class that rejects the notion that no person may rule another without that person’s consent. As I have shown at length elsewhere, America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. Its control of access to prestige, power, privilege, and wealth exerts a gravitational pull that has made the Republican Party’s elites into its satellites.
This class’s fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed. Its increasing self-absorption, its growing contempt for whoever won’t bow to it, its dependence for votes on sectors of society whose grievances it stokes, have led it to break the most basic rule of republican life: deeming its opposition illegitimate. The ruling class insists on driving down the throats of its opponents the agendas of each its constituencies and on injuring persons who stand in the way. This has spawned a Newtonian reaction, a hunger, among what may be called the “country class” for returning the favor with interest.
Ordinary Americans have endured being insulted by the ruling class’s favorite epitaphs [err… actually epithets, right?] —racist, sexist, etc., and, above all, stupid; they have had careers and reputations compromised by speaking the wrong word in front of the wrong person; endured dictates from the highest courts in the land that no means yes (King), that public means private (Kelo), that everyone is entitled to make up one’s meaning of life (Casey), but that whoever thinks marriage is exclusively between men and women is a bigot (Obergefell).
Trying to stop the cycle of political payback with another round of it, while not utterly impossible, is well-nigh beyond human capacity.
No wonder, then, that millions of Americans lose respect for a ruling class that disrespects them, that they identify with whomever promises some kind of turnabout against that class, and that they care less and less for the integrity of institutions that fail to protect them.
It constantly amazes me that the same people who cheered on the Tea Party in 2010 and crowed about Eric Cantor’s defeat and taking back the Senate in 2014 can’t understand that the impulse that created those things had zero to do with masses of heretofore politically disengaged conservatives voting and everything to do with the same populist chain-reaction that is fueling Trump’s campaign. And if the GOP ruling class had the conceit that they could soon co-opt and manage this movement, many smart conservatives had the same vision of an army who would push for conservative goals when, I would assert, a clear majority of Republicans reject the ideas of movement conservatives. Or, as Ben Domenech, who is one of the most astute observers of what is happening with the Trump phenomenon sums up in today’s The Transom:
Democrats and Republicans who still think that this is a phase – a fever they just need to wait out before a return to normalcy – are utterly delusional. They keep talking about voters “waking up” to realize that Trump is a bad choice – but the whole reason Trump is the choice is because voters believe they have woken up to the truth about the American leadership class. The old order is breaking down, thanks to Iraq. Katrina. The financial crisis. The failed stimulus. Obamacare’s launch. The Tea Party. Occupy Wall Street. Sanders. Trump. The American people are trying to find a new way, and they are looking for outsiders to lead them through the wasteland.
To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy. Something new will replace the old order, and there are a host of smart, young leaders on all sides who must prove they have the capability to figure out how to create or retrofit institutions that can represent and channel this new energy.
In ten years, the Republican and Democratic parties may still exist – but they could look as different from what they were in 2012 as the difference between Tower Records and iTunes.
I think all of this is exactly right and it explains the Bernie Sanders brushfire that will never burst into flame because the Democrat establishment understands that voting is too important to be left to voters. Maybe I am partial to this view because it reflects the opinion I expressed back in early September in a piece titled Why A Trump Candidacy Doesn’t Bother Me.
We need to keep in mind, though, that we got into this position because we let the ‘serious’ people run the show. It was serious people who made a shambles of our immigration system. It was serious people who destroyed our economy. It was serious people who have Americans convinced, for the first time ever, that their children’s lives will not be a good as their own. It was serious people who turned our government into a jelly bean jar of crony capitalism. It was serious people who turned college education from a ticket to upward mobility into a financial millstone. Serious people gave us Obamacare and homosexual marriage. By the Great Jehovah, we have a freakin right to be pissed off. And the political establishment is damned lucky that the only torches and pitchforks we are carrying are figurative ones because given the magnitude of their criminality and duplicity we would be justified sending thousands of serious people to the gallows.
The real question for millions of Americans is ‘how can anyone do worse than the serious people?’
I am by no means a Trump supporter but I may very well be alone among RedState contributors in my determination to vote for Trump should he become the nominee, an event that looks to have high likelihood right now:
If anything I feel more strongly about this today than I did in September. I have no delusions about what kind of a man Trump is. He’s a blowhard. An incompetent. But Trump is the logical result of Bob Dole, Bob Michel, John Boehner, Trent Lott, George H. W. Bush, George Bush, Mitch McConnell and many other Republican luminaries. The fact that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz can’t gain traction is that participating in contemporary politics has become so disreputable that you can all the Senate Majority Leader a liar on the floor of the Senate and still be labeled as a member of the Establishment.
Cordevilla sums up his article thusly:
But not only do opposing sets of wrongs not make anything right. As I have argued (Sophocles did it a lot better), trying to stop the cycle of political payback with another round of it, while not utterly impossible, is well-nigh beyond human capacity.
Neither Obama nor Trump seem to know or care that cycles of reciprocal resentment, of insults and injuries paid back with ever more interest and ever less concern for consequences, are the natural fuel of revolutions—easy to start and soon impossible to stop. America’s founders, steeped in history as few of our contemporaries are, were acutely aware of how easily factional enmities deliver free peoples into the hands of emperors. America is already advanced in this vicious cycle. The only possible chance of returning it to republicanism lies in not taking the next turn, and in not following one imperial ruler with another.
There is a lot of truth there. But what Cordevilla omits are one critical factors. No one believes Hillary Clinton is less imperious than Barack Obama. And now we are to the point where the choice is not going to be between Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton, in fact, their vote totals combined still would fall short of Trump’s. So it isn’t like we have an election between Trump and a Democrat who treasures civility and the Constitution. The choice is between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And just like I have no delusions about Trump, I have none at all about Hillary Clinton.