Monday, January 25, 2016

"The Good Trump Has Done"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day

“The Good Trump Has Done”

January 25, 2016

At dinner recently, it was observed that, while Donald Trump’s candidacy is vexing to the Republican establishment, it has served a useful purpose. The argument made was that people across the political spectrum have been forced to confront issues they otherwise would have avoided. Not being a Trump fan, and abhorring the term “establishment,” at least when applied to myself, I listened, considered and found merit in her theory. Washington’s political elite, molded in correctness that is too often self-serving, encourages bad policies and ignores reality, have, as Peggy Noonan recently wrote, eroded “the power and position of the American working class,” while raising themselves to the ranks of the exclusive. 

In Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” two weavers (actually two thieves who claimed to be tailors) promised the emperor a new set a clothes, a suit so fine that only those who were not stupid could see it. Finally, the suit was ready. Of course, there was nothing to be seen; but, for fear of being called stupid, the emperor pretended to admire what he could not see, thanked the tailors, and when asked to parade down the street in his “new clothes,” eagerly agreed.

The people saw the emperor as he was born. But, again, for fear of being called stupid, they ignored the obvious and applauded. Until finally a young boy cried out: “The emperor is naked!” Pretty soon, everyone else first began to murmur and then shout the same thing, “The emperor is not wearing any clothes!” The emperor realized the truth, but preferred to think the people stupid – to persist in the charade, of which he was its victim.

The story has relevance. It has relevance in an environment where hypocrisy abounds, in which a politician’s personal life is at odds with their message. It has relevance in a world in which personal sanctimony replaces collective empathy. While the elite on both sides of the aisle are guilty in this regard, it is the Left that is most protective of their turf. Liberals are like actors, choreographed to a belief in their infallibility. They are supported by sycophants, whose job is not to challenge but to support, and by a mainstream media that editorializes rather than reports and, especially, by Hollywood where fame is mistaken for wisdom – where Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, can seriously suggest we leave fossil fuels in the ground. Mr. DiCaprio’s brilliance as an actor is matched by his lack of common sense.

The adulators who serve as advisors to the President and members of Congress are the tailors. They build moats and erect barricades that delude those they serve into believing they are flawless. Unlike the tailors, they do not do this to deceive (or have fun) with their bosses, but to keep the power that comes with an association of those in command. The emperor is the political elite. The naive people, mouths agape, are ourselves.

Donald Trump is the boy who verbalizes our instincts: That political correctness does more harm than good; that fear of Islamic terrorism may justify a harsher stance toward Muslim refugees; that border security cannot be ignored; that Hillary is a liar and her husband a womanizer; that Jeb Bush lacks energy; that Obama has weakened our country, both domestically and globally.

Unintentionally, in demonizing Trump, the Left helps him. For example, a few Leftist extremists recently formed a McCarthy-like organization, #StopHateDumpTrump. Included among their founders are such liberals (I use the word facetiously) as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Jane Fonda. I don’t particularly care for Donald Trump, but threats to silence any individual with whom one disagrees is far more dangerous to a liberal society than letting Mr. Trump spout off. SHDT (I love the acronym!) is trying to muscle the media into giving him less airtime. Free speech is part of the foundation on which our liberty is based. And the media has a right to focus on who and what they will. They have, after all, a bottom line to consider. I generally disagree with the content of the New York Times, but I understand their right to editorialize as they wish. Illiberal attempts to shut down Mr. Trump will backfire.

The phenomena that is Donald Trump’s candidacy deserves study. It is a unique reflection of our current society. It may portend a realignment of our political parties. (Note the front page article in Sunday’s New York Times on Michael Bloomberg.) It is certainly more meaningful than the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who represents the past more than the future. Socialists have been prevalent in our culture and politics for more than a century. Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas both ran for President numerous times. We have had Socialist mayors and members of Congress. Well known and revered authors, like Jack London, Upton Sinclair and Carl Sandberg were Socialists. But we have never had anyone quite like Mr. Trump run for President. Herbert Hoover was a businessman. But he had served as Secretary of Commerce for Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and during World War I headed up the European Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which saved perhaps nine million lives. Trump, as the New York Times crossword puzzle would have it, is an oner.

While I have made no secret of my opinion that Donald Trump would not make a good President, I have also been wrong about him. I expected that people would find his arrogance off-putting. I had thought that by now he would have been hoisted by his own petard. But, like many others, I misread the mood of the country and the resentment of the average person toward the Washington establishment - that it is not just the one percent against the ninety-nine percent; it is Washington against the people - that the actions of those who represent us have not matched the campaign promises made. They are delusional, living in a world where facts don’t matter. Working-class Democrats listened to Mr. Obama in 2008, when he promised unity, fairness and an end to wars. What they got was the most racial divisiveness in fifty years, a wealth transfer to the richest people in the country and an expanded, never-ending war. They are angry; Trump has tapped into that anger. His anger mimics their own.        

Mr. Trump is humorless; he shows little respect for those who disagree with him. He has alienated those whose appearances are different from his. He is nativist in his domestic policy suggestions and protectionist internationally. As a businessman he certainly knows how to negotiate, but he also is an expert in the art of cronyism. As the head of a private business, he is used to dictatorial-like powers. That may work in the private sector, but governing a democratic republic, filled with individuals of myriad opinions, the ability to delegate, compromise and to persuade are critical to success. Political leadership involves knowing what star to follow, but recognizing that the path is not straight.

As a conservative, I believe in the principles of limited government, the separation of powers, the sanctity of our basic rights, liberty and the rule of law. I am not convinced that Mr. Trump does. However, there is no question he has enlivened the process; however, in doing so he has put emotion above reason. He has , though, brought politically incorrect subjects to the foreground – issues that need to be discussed openly and honestly and that are critical in the give and take of ideas; for that we should be thankful. In brief, I believe his candidacy has had a positive influence; but not if it serves to get him nominated or elected.

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