Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the GOP has befuddled many people. In every way, he has violated Ronald Reagan’s three-legged stool upon which the GOP supposedly stood. On foreign policy, he has adopted an isolationist view and openly mocked the Bush administration and the Iraq War. On economic issues, he has proposed a wealth tax, considered single-payer health care, and is clearly anti-free trade. On social issues, his incoherent views on gay marriage and abortion are well-documented.
Trump is not the first so-called insurgent to come forth in either party. The Tea Party wave of 2010 was certainly anti-establishment as is Ted Cruz and Cruz is decidedly to the right of Trump on most issues. Marco Rubio may have been to the right also and although he is now wrongly viewed as less anti-establishment, he was clearly more electable than the other two. The difference is that Trump seized upon and doubled down on cultural grievances right from the start.
Cruz and Trump supporters felt the same way: that were betrayed by the system. This explains why they were really neck-and-neck leading into Wisconsin. But, obviously something changed and that was Trump’s allegations of unfairness. Although a deft political move by Cruz to scoff up delegates sympathetic to him if not ambivalent or hostile to Trump, Trump played the “unfairness card” for all it was worth. While this notion of being betrayed by the system played well for both Cruz and Trump, the visceral image of Trump winning Arizona, but losing huge swaths of delegates played nicely into the unfairness charges.
But, it is also anti-conservative. American culture places a high demand on fairness. Too often, fairness is a convenient synonym for absolute equality, or the belief that people deserve the same outcomes in life regardless of what they put into their efforts. This is a central tenet of liberals! Instead, a true conservative places a high value on equality of opportunity. Fairness is a private virtue, not a political ideal. As proof, look at the race-baiting rhetoric of Al Sharpton and one sees “fairness” arguments eerily similar to those of Trump. In the GOP primaries and delegate selection procedures, there was equality of opportunity; they all played under the same set of rules.
Obviously, the media has become a major player this year. Technology now allows us to connect with people of differing viewpoints so that we hash out our differences and hone our arguments. But, too often we resort to the echo chambers of our own and wall ourselves off from differing views, no matter how wrong those views are. This is a tendency of the Left.
The fact is that conservative media did a terrible job of policing its own. People continued to rely on windbags like Rush Limbaugh, or to consult the Drudge Report for “news” much like young people believe The Daily Show is a real news telecast. The fact is that these outlets were espousing populism, not conservatism. Complaints now by certain people are clearly too little, too late since the horse is out of the barn and running amok. As an example, witness the vitriol directed at Paul Ryan who, some could say, is the most conservative speaker in many years. To hear some outlets speak, you would think Nancy Pelosi is in charge of the House again.
Trump is a reflection of the popular, reality-TV driven culture the Left has invented. He realizes, like any good Leftist, no matter how insane the rhetoric or no matter how unrealistic the utterance or policy, he is immune if his supporters believe he is fighting for some higher good.
And there are numerous examples when it comes to Trump. His statements at Liberty University that Christianity is under attack were an unveiled pandering to the evangelical Right, still a formidable force in GOP politics. And this was from a man who cannot correctly cite a verse in the Bible. Even more egregious is the fact the evangelical base ate up the rhetoric.
But is Trump any different in this respect than anyone on the Left and their pandering to identity politics? In fact, they invented it. It is not correct to say that the color of one’s skin or ethnicity describe the Trump supporter the most. Instead, it is more correct to say that Trump’s style most approximates their’s. Like the Left, they view themselves as immune from criticism because of who they are, not the strength of their arguments. Their grievances are their justification for their support. Like the folks at Black Lives Matter claim immunity from criticism and then victimhood, so do the Trump supporters.
They are united not in ideology, but in their feelings of being left behind by the progressive/Leftist slave masters that control many institutions. In effect, they act like the oppressed masses one can find in Das Kapital, rather than in the true conservative circles.
And Trump is the undisputed master in the political cult of authenticity. No matter how stupid or inconsistent or incoherent his statements (and there are many, many examples), his supporters spring to his defense in knee-jerk fashion. They care less that thousands of Muslims were NOT dancing in the streets of New York on 9/11; they just know most Muslims hate Americans. It does not help that Islamic terrorists attack Western targets. It helps even less when the progressive Left’s solution is a Marshall Plan for Islam. The narrative is the truth is a tactic invented by the Left.
Trump also shares a lot in common with the Leftist tribe when it comes to nativism. That is, he weaves into the rhetoric conspiracy theory. For example, Obama and the Left believes the National Rifle Association is behind every murder in America. They believe the Koch brothers are behind every winning Republican candidate. They believe a racial bogeyman is behind every tree. They are the purveyors of the Republican war on women. And the list could go on. Is it any wonder that a reality TV star comes along and preys upon the paranoid delusions invented by the Left? Trump is showing that old-fashioned paranoia held in check for the past two decades is still a potent political tool.
And the Left is responsible for this state of affairs. Multiculturalism has been radicalized to the point that patriotism is ostracized in the media and culture. They have created a nation of hyphenated individuals. Is there much difference between the Left’s belief that the NRA is responsible for murders and the Trump supporter’s belief that all Muslims are terrorists? When conservatives question gay marriage, should they be shouted down and ostracized when they invoke the very real concern over religious liberty? In effect, the Trump supporter is living “the enemy of the enemy is my friend” dogma. This has long been the tactics and beliefs of the political Left. It is why they crawl into bed with the Hamas-linked CAIR and support the boycott and divest movement against Israel. Despite its wrongheadedness, the Left will support it because its opposite- unwavering support of Israel- is the belief of the other tribe.
Donald Trump can use these tactics of the Left for one simple reason: HE IS NOT CONSERVATIVE. His proposals run the gamut from the far Left (single payer health care, Planned Parenthood does great things, etc.) to the far Right (nativism and white supremacy). This makes him a populist- a little bit from “there” and little bit from “that” and some of “this” thrown in for good measure.
His campaign, if anything, has been anti-conservative. Conservatism places an emphasis on decorum (failed), individual responsibility (they started it, “I’m a counter-puncher”), limited constitutional government (yeah- right), and organic change (hardly). One might add a respect for contractual relationships which he clearly violates with regularity in his businessman incarnation.
What is most disturbing is the fact that supposedly staunch conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others are falling into this tribal mentality. Like the average run-of-the-mill Trump supporter in the primary, they are proving themselves to be just as easily duped by the greatest political huckster in American history all in the name of party unity. Which leads this writer to ponder: Did they really deserve our respect from the beginning?