Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Trumpian Tempest

Whenever words exit the mouth of Donald Trump, storms erupt in the brains of Democrats and Republicans alike.

The storms are anti-Trump in nature, and are so intense that you can practically feel the gales and see the lightning if you happen to be standing next to someone whose brain is beset by one.

Among Republicans, these storms are especially strong in the two very large factions known as The Conservative Base and The Establishment, but nonetheless, polls continue to show Trump way ahead of the other GOP presidential candidates: Friday's rolling average by Reuters had him more than 23 points ahead of second-place Ben Carson and nearly 26 ahead of fourth-place Ted Cruz, who happens to be the man most experts believe is most likely to defeat him. Plus, Trump's standing seems to get stronger every time he says something that would sink anyone else.

From that perspective, this is a confusing and inexplicable situation, so it's understandable why political junkies are driven batty by it ... however, every situation has more than one perspective from which it may be viewed, and when you step outside the conventional political junkie box, Trump's appeal is not at all confusing or inexplicable ... so, it is long past time for his opponents to take his appeal seriously.

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First, let me say that I will not be voting for him when the Florida primary takes place on the Ides of March.

Second, let me say that I am not going to get sidetracked into explaining why I won't be voting for him. If anyone is genuinely curious about my reasons, I will just say that I touched on them very briefly in the third section of my July 14th post; and that this excellent summary has already been penned by Kevin Williamson; and that while you may not know about this apparent scam to which Trump is tied, Hillary & Co. certainly knows about it and is sure to use it against him as an October Surprise.

And third, let me sum up in one sentence why Trump is getting so much support: He appeals to people's gut instincts and gives voice to their concerns, rather than ignoring or dismissing those concerns.

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Political Correctness is a parasite to our culture. It is on the verge of destroying our rationality, shattering our freedom of thought, and rendering us unable to deal with reality. In the words of P.J. O'Rourke, it is "founded on the idea that by means of language you can escape truth -- that if you simply give a different name to something you've somehow changed it. It is a very childlike idea."

Most Americans (including quite a few liberals) know this is true, and because they continuously see our so-called leaders shrivel and cow when confronted with PC nonsense, they are at their wit's end.

And now, after more than a quarter-century of Political Correctness running increasingly amok, along comes a presidential candidate who attacks it instead of bowing to it.

And whenever he says something politically incorrect and is called upon to apologize, he not only refuses to apologize but doubles down even stronger.

That such a candidate appeals to people's gut is as natural and automatic as night following day.

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Most Americans know that common sense is better than academic think every day of the week. They know that the former produces outcomes that are more productive, beneficial, just, and fair than outcomes produced by the latter.

Yet most Americans see with their own two eyes that our government is being run as if the latter was better than the former. They see with their own two eyes that while it is being run that way, our country is foundering impotently and circling the drain.

Then along comes a presidential candidate who spits in the face of academic think, who talks in language that is clear and concise instead of vapid and rambling.

That such a candidate appeals to people's gut is as natural and automatic as night following day.

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Most Americans know that bad guys respond to bald power, not brainy attempts at persuasion.

And they see with their own two eyes that our government's attempts to brainily persuade the bad guys keep resuling in the bad guys striking us with the momentum of a winner, while we piddle around with the diffidence of a loser.

Then along comes a presidential candidate who seeks not to persuade but to pummel; who seeks not to demur but to defeat; who evokes not the eggheaded spirit that created a tie in Korea and loss in Vietnam, but the Patton-like spirit that won World War II.

That such a candidate appeals to people's gut is as natural and automatic as night following day.

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Theodore Roosevelt, famously, based much of his approach on the African proverb that says if you "speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far."

Andrew Jackson based much of his approach on the idea that if you speak loudly, people will assume you carry a big stick and they will behave accordingly.

Needless to say, Donald Trump fits the Jacksonian mold. We should remember that Jacksonian politicians have a history of success in our electoral system, especially in times when people feel like the nation is facing a mortal threat that can only be beaten by immediate, emergency-type actions. In other words, Jacksonian politicians tend to be held in high esteem during times like the present.

How much true bravery is there behind Trump's bluster? Is there any true thinking or knowledge behind his bluster? There are reasons to suspect that the answers to those questions aren't flattering, but that does not mean his bluster shouldn't be taken seriously.

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Trump deserves credit for breaking the Overton Window, i.e., for broadening the range of topics that public figures are willing to openly discuss. Now that he has broken it, his GOP rivals should take advantage of the opening by attacking PC with as much vigor as him and projecting strength with as much vigor as him. They should take advantage of the opening by pushing back unapologetically against the liberal stereotype of conservatives -- the stereotype which falsely portrays conservatives as backward-thinking troglodytes.

Therein lies the key to bursting Trump's bubble. There is little doubt that many of the GOP candidates hold views that are shared by most GOP voters; however, by constantly debating issues on liberals' terms and often giving undue respect to liberal assumptions, and by frequently bending to Obama's will, they have given voters little reason to trust them.

Then, into the void comes Donald Trump, and voters who feel disenfranchised by the apparent weakness of elected Republicans are reflexively drawn to the apparent strength of The Donald.

They know that Trump's strength in political matters is untested, but are drawn to him anyway, simply because they are convinced that elected Republicans are weak. So magnetic is their attraction to a man who might (just might) stand up for them, that they are willing to overlook that his policy positions change with the wind; that his respect for the Constitution is practically nil; and that his personal character seems more like Voldemort's than Dumbledore's.

His rivals can defeat him easily when it comes to debating issues on the merits. Almost to a man, they have thought their ideas through and can lay out the flaws and weaknesses in Trump's proposals.

But before disenfranchised-feeling voters will trust them, Trump's rivals must debate issues on conservative terms, not liberal ones -- and must do so with stalwart confidence, like Trump does.

The cause of The Trumpian Tempest is really quite obvious, and so is the antidote to The Trumpian Tempest.

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