Donald Trump has now won three straight impressive victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. That he thinks this is great will surprise no one. What else would Trump think? As he likes to say, he’s going to “run the table” from now to the convention in Cleveland. For a man who knows his casinos (or, at least, those that aren’t in bankruptcy), it’s lucky sevens all the way to the bank.
What’s disturbing is the number of people who ought to know better that are cheering the result. Some of them we know. The Monday after South Carolina Laura Ingraham mused aloud on what The Donald might do next. Change water into wine? Walk on water? Laura, who makes no secret of her Roman Catholicism, was joking, of course, but what have we come to when we start uttering borderline blasphemies about such a man and when the jokes aren’t meant as ridicule?
Who is the man who will perform analogous miracles?
He’s the businessman the country needs in spite of four chapter 11 bankruptcies.
He’s the man who can fund his own campaign because he’s so rich, although he is in fact receiving donations and the fortune is apparently a fraction of what he claims. He’s the pro-life convert who won’t defund Planned Parenthood (“We have to look at the positive.”). He’s the “Bush lied, thousands died” peacenik who’s “the most militaristic” candidate in the field. Hilary’s scared to death of him, that is, when he’s not donating to her campaign and the Clinton Foundation.
He tells it like it is, except when he changes his mind.
He’ll be the most presidential man the country has ever seen once he’s gotten over his penchant to bully and blather his way through the debates, calling his opponents liars and idiots. And allowing for his whining, he’s tough.
Will this man become the leader of the free world? If numbers tell us anything, there’s a fair chance he may. Ultra-conservatives, whom Ted Cruz has counted on, like him; so do evangelicals, Hispanics, women, men, rich, and poor. When Donald speaks, they listen. What are they hearing? Now there’s the rub. All of the reasons for looking askance are easy enough to ascertain, as dozens of writers have noted, but the warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Forty-five percent of Nevada’s Republican-caucus is the most recent proof. They’re a gun-toting, freedom-loving, don’t-fence-me-in bunch from what I hear, and Trump, whose vocabulary doesn’t even include the word liberty, is their man.
The shocking revelation here is that the old politics of prudence and principle simply doesn’t apply anymore. Tells the people what they want to hear and hope they’ll love you enough to forget when you do the opposite.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this new game because in many ways, Obama prepared us for it. Call it the pop-star model. Use the right lingo, cultivate an attractive, even glamorous outside, and throw in a dash or two of arrogance, and the old-style politicians will be swept away in a tidal wave of adulation for the star. Personality is everything.
I won’t claim issues are irrelevant to Trump’s rise. We’ve been told time and time again that he’s tapped in to anger. But unlike Laura Ingraham and Mark Steyn (not to forget true believer Ann Coulter) I don’t think for one minute Trump can be counted on to implement policies that will assuage the people’s ire, either on immigration or trade reform, the two familiar hobbyhorses in the campaign. Trump’s resume is that of a wheeler-dealer, a wildcatter, and a gambler.
If that particular personality is now everything, the people have their man; any issue he tackles will have the same bottom line: will it enhance Trump, will it stroke his ego?
But will a man whose character is so tied up in large, glitzy, and expensive gambles that, naturally, bear his own name withstand the blandishments of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the corporate cronies he defends? All they have to do is show him the ‘yuuuge’ economic benefits of mass immigration, the unbelievable perks to accrue from TPP, promise him a Trump building in Beijing or Mexico City, and he’ll cave.
Some will insist rather ominously that Trump’s success has everything to do with Nazism or Fascism, but I doubt it. There’s no ideology here. It has less to do with conservatism. What, after all, is a conservatism without prudence, tradition, liberty, and a fundamental grasp of human limitations? Let the radio talk show hosts deny it, but Trumpism is reality television, focused on the one reality of Trump himself, imported to the political arena: loud, garish, expensive, and empty.
It’s South American banana republicanism North American style, with Trumpistas (or Trumpomanics) replacing Peronistas.
The man is everything; he’s the tough-loving father who single-handedly will make America great again. You call yourself a Christian? Your faith can accommodate this new secular pope. A Tea-partier? Who needs small government when you’ve got a giant among the pigmies?
And anyhow, he’s going to build the Wall—with his name on it.