Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It gives me no pleasure to write about Trump again, but there he is

This week has done nothing to lessen my frustration with the Trump phenomenon.

Here's something I would like to know: Why are so many well-credentialed conservatives giving him the kid-gloves treatment? Rush, for example, on his radio show yesterday, painted what he thought the most likely scenario for Thursday evening's debate would be, namely, that Trump would come right out of the gate displaying maximum impatience with the format and blowing it to smithereens.  Rush is probably accurate in this; his analysis seems to be rooted in Trump's actual pronouncements of the last few days, along the lines of I'm-a-guy-who-gets-things-done-this-debate-stuff-is-for-the-losers-who-make-up-the rest-of-the-field.

But here's my question: A guy like Rush is never shy about expressing opinions. It's the business he is in. It is his profession. In fact, his absolutism when it comes to conservative principles is his most attractive quality. So why does he leave his observations of Trump at the level of analysis? Does Trump have some kind of leverage over him? Rush doesn't strike me as the kind of figure who would be bothered if Trump tweeted that he was "a dummy," as Trump did about Charles Krauthammer.

And why the disproportionate amount of discussion time on Trump vis-a-vis the actual conservatives in the race? Are not Cruz, Fiorina, Jindal and Walker far more exciting if one is a conservative?

It probably boils down to oxygen, to numbers. The top teams in the league are the ones who get discussed.

I am pleased to see that this bothers Thomas Sowell:

The danger is not that he will get the nomination, but that his irresponsible talk will become the image of the Republican party, and that his bombast will drown out more sober voices that need to be heard, thereby making it harder to select the best candidate.

And the danger isn't just confined to the drowning out of very good contenders.  There are global implications:

Donald Trump has turned this opening phase of the 2016 primaries into the Donald Trump Show. All of this might be very entertaining, if this were not a crucial juncture in the history of the country and of the world. But, while all this political theater is going on, the world’s leading promoter of international terrorism — Iran — has gotten a “deal” that all but guarantees that they will have nuclear bombs and, not just incidentally, intercontinental missiles to deliver them. Iran doesn’t need intercontinental missiles to reach Israel, which is closer to Iran than St. Louis is to Boston. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

David Brooks is not a pundit I generally feel any sense of alignment with, but his column today actually nails it, I think:

Trump’s support base is weird. It skews slightly more secular and less educated than the average Republican, but he doesn’t draw from any distinctive blocs. Unlike past populisms he’s not especially rural or urban, ethnic based or class based. He draws people as individuals, not groups.Continue reading the main storyUnlike past populisms, his main argument is not that the elites are corrupt or out of touch. It is that they are morons. His announcement speech was fascinating (and compelling). “How stupid are our leaders?” he asked rhetorically. “Our president doesn’t have a clue,” he continued. “We have people that are stupid,” he observed of the leadership class.
In other words, it’s not that our problems are unsolvable or even hard. It’s not that we’re potentially a nation in decline. The problem is that we don’t have a leadership class as smart, competent, tough and successful as Donald Trump . . . ego is his ideology, and in this he is absolutely consistent. In the Trump mind the world is not divided into right and left. Instead there are winners and losers. Society is led by losers, who scorn and disrespect the people who are actually the winners.
Megalomaniacs historically gain footholds in societies when those societies are unprecedentedly fragmented, when their populaces are short on hope and long on anger. Wisdom, heart and real vision are more scarce than ever.

Are we there?

UPDATE: Very telling - and encouraging - that Trump was not invited to speak to the gathering of 450 big donors that Charles and David Koch hosted in Dana Point, California last weekend. Most other candidates were there. Of course, Trump wasted no time tweeting that this makes them puppets.

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