Saturday, September 5, 2015

Trumpmania: an indication that post-America is even sicker than previously thought

Two pieces each of which have stuck with me since initial reading: Jonah Goldberg at NRO and Leon Wolf at RedState.

Wolf's scope - the entire nation; his piece is entitled "An Unserious Candidate for an Unserious Country" - is broader than Goldberg's, which focuses its concern on the conservative movement, but the overall point of each winds up being the same.

Wolf encapsulates the dilemma thusly:

So here we are, Donald Trump is running away with the nomination for one of the two major political parties in this country, and what does that say about us as a people? What does it further say that attacking Trump for not knowing or understanding basic points of policy, or for making an absolute fool of himself (which he does constantly) causes him to go up in the polls rather than down?


If I sound dismayed, it’s only because I am. Conservatives have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter. That is the conservative movement I joined and dedicated my professional life to. And now, in a moment of passion, many of my comrades-in-arms are throwing it all away in a fit of pique. Because “Trump fights!”

Each of them covers a number of aspects of this dismaying phenomenon, with some overlap. They both discuss the Hugh Hewitt interview with Trump, in which Hewitt asked him if, when Hewitt moderates the CNN debate next week, he asks candidates about who the heads of Hamas, Hezbollah and the al-Nusra front are, it would be an unfair type of question. Trump says that it would be, and, in characteristic fashion assures Hewitt that on his first day in office, he'll know more about the inner workings of those jihadist groups than Hewitt could hope to ever know.

Wolf's take on that:

I don’t think we qualify as a serious people anymore, frankly. We’ve taken not being ashamed at our inability to know everything and transformed it into actual pride at ignorance and lack of sophistication. So Donald Trump doesn’t know who Qassem Suleimani is, and instead of saying, “Gosh, maybe I don’t know that but I sure do wish the guy who’s running for President would,” a sizeable portion of the adult party in America when it comes to national security actually applauds Donald Trump for sticking a finger in Hugh Hewitt’s eye by brashly admitting that knowing things is for chumps.


In his embarrassing interview with Hugh Hewitt Thursday night, Trump revealed he knows less than most halfway-decent D.C. interns about foreign policy. Twitter lit up with responses about how it doesn’t matter and how it was a gotcha interview. They think that Trump’s claim that he’ll just go find a Douglas MacArthur to fix the problem is brilliant. Well, I’m all in favor of finding a Douglas MacArthur, but if you don’t know anything about foreign policy, the interview process will be a complete disaster. Yes, Reagan delegated. But he knew enough to know to whom to delegate.
Perhaps what has persistently poked at me the most from among all the observations and conclusions in both essays is Goldberg's application of the principle that it takes far less time to destroy something than to build it to conservatism:

if the conservative movement and the Republican party allow themselves to be corrupted by this flim-flammery, then so be it. My job will be harder, my career will suffer, and I’ll be ideologically homeless (though hardly alone). That’s not so scary. Conservatism began in the wilderness and maybe, like the Hebrews, it would return from it stronger and ready to rule. But I’m not leaving without a fight. If my side loses that fight, all I ask is you stop calling the Trumpian cargo cult “conservative” and maybe stop the movement long enough for me to get off.

Is that alarmist? No, it is not. Consider the caliber of figures - such as Breitbart writer John Nolte, or Ann Coulter, with whom Goldberg deals in  his piece - who have chosen to carry Trump's water.  Two towering talk-radio figures, people who could be counted on to champion three-pillared conservatism consistently, cogently, and fiercely, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, have been reduced to shamelessly cramming in as many mentions of Trump, his poll numbers and rally attendance figures into each segment of their shows as humanly possible.

I've kind of seen it coming over the course of about a year in Ingraham's case. She's become a two-note johnny to a lamentable degree, the notes being immigration and trade. Clearly, these are important issues, but two among an array of equally important matters on the national plate. I've had the growing sense that she has decided that the trend of rising populism is something for her to exploit - for what, I'm not sure, unless she's harboring thoughts of someday running for office. In any event, she's increasingly aimed her show at some proverbial hard-working middle-class family gathered at the kitchen table with a calculator and a stack of bills.

I tend to think Dick and Liz Cheney, among others, are exactly right, that nothing is more crucial than addressing the impact of America's decline on the world stage on our national security. Iran, ISIS, China, Russia and North Korea, considered one-by-one or taken in sum, are threats of the sort that ought to make everyone's hair stand on end. Then there is the overall spread of Leviathan, as manifested by such totalitarian agencies as the NLRB, the IRS, the EPA and such federal departments as HHS and Education. Then there is the advanced rot of our culture: transgender bathrooms, banishing sex-specific pronouns from college courses, Howard-Zinn-inspired history curricula, Black Lives Matter, the obvious and hyper-aggressive effort to crush the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of our civilization - to cite but a few examples.

Donald Trump is utterly unequipped to deal with any of the above-enumerated crises, and that includes the two that animate his enthusiasts, immigration and trade.

Again, I feel compelled to mention my hesitation in naming this blog as I did when I began it. I took a moment to consider that a turnaround in Western civilization's prospects would render it obsolete.

That's not something with which I've had to deal yet.

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