Diary

Three surprises that should surprise nobody: Trump, Cruz, and Congress

trump_cruz_ryan

Three questions continue to perplex me. Why is anyone surprised that Donald Trump is still leading the race for the GOP nomination? Why is anyone surprised that [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] is catching up? And last, why is anyone surprised that a GOP-controlled Congress passed a gallstone with a $1.1 trillion “omnibus” budget bloated with pork, pork, and Planned Parenthood funding?

I’ll start with the last question first.

Congress needs an enema, and has needed one for nearly two decades.  The last useful Congress we had, from a small-government, fiscally-responsible viewpoint, sat when Newt Gingrich was speaker and Bill Clinton was president.  Then Republicans became smug, and decided to focus on social issues—putting God back into the White House.  Unfortunately, George W. Bush was not the man to do that, and 9/11 swallowed up the rest of his presidency in any case.

The basic problems of pork politics, the military-industrial complex, corporate cronyism, and a permanent consultancy to keep a permanent electorate fat and happy in office were never addressed.  In fact, they were made worse with Republicans in control.  For that, the country owes no mercy or forgiveness to the GOP.

For the last seven years, with President Obama in the White House, the GOP has clawed its way from a clown car back into power, but never, in any meaningful way, addressed the growth of government.  Lone voices made for good headlines and at least one presidential campaign ([mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]), but at the federal level, nothing changed.  Obama got, and continues to get, essentially whatever he wishes.

The first and second questions are more-or-less intertwined.  Given that the Republican base, and most of “middle America” has been betrayed by our own elected leaders for years, the emergence of a demagogue like Trump should surprise nobody.  In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot ran as an independent and helped hand the presidency to Clinton after President Bush (41) broke his tax promise.  After 8 years of Reagan, Republicans were smug and Democrats clawed their way back in Congress.  The out-of-power party always becomes energized.

Trump is no Perot; neither is he Reagan incarnate.  He is, however, the expression of many disaffected with the smugness of both parties and the deafness of the political class to concerns of Americans who live by a paycheck, not a trust fund or a campaign donor’s check.  I’ve followed Trump’s rise since July, and have not been surprised at his lead and persistence at the top.  The man has incredible assets: Unparalleled name recognition and star power, money, cojones, and a burning hatred for the government.

He comes along at the perfect time when just such a figure is welcome into the fold of “we’re not gonna take it.”  This includes everyone who’s frustrated at government’s betrayals, and doesn’t believe in the purple unicorns of European socialism, Black Liberation Theology, or Obama’s blame-America reflexive self-hatred that we find on the Left.

This leads to why nobody should be surprised that Cruz is gaining on Trump.  In July, I wrote:

Perhaps the other Republican candidates shouldn’t be so quick to ignore and marginalize Trump.  Instead maybe they should build him up a bit, because if the Democrats can successfully take down Trump with his cash, name, and message, it won’t be hard for them to tie the rest of the GOP field to that millstone.

Somehow, Cruz and I were on the same page, although I’ll cede the fact that he’s much more brilliant than I.  [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] has none of the assets Trump brought to the table.  But he does hold the banner, and have the ear, of the true small-government, conservative movement.  He’s no demagogue, and in fact, he’s easy to dislike.  So the more Cruz can tie himself to Trump while Republicans learn who he is, the better it is for him.

When the Trump train no longer provides steam, Cruz will jump off and use his considerable debating skills, lawyering prowess, and government experience to take on Hillary Clinton.  In fact, Cruz is counting on the Trump train running out of steam; at this point it’s his whole campaign strategy in a nutshell.  But it that a dangerous game, wishful thinking, or genius?

Obviously, time will tell, but I put my money on Cruz.

Why? Because Trumpism has to fall of its own weight.  Cruz is correct in predicting gravity will take Trump down, because unless the political laws of physics have changed in America, empty bubbles propelled by invective towing anchors behind have to fall back to earth.  Trumpism is an empty slogan: “Make America great again.”

In August, I wrote that Trump is Biff Tannen running for president.  In fact, he really is, according to “Back to the Future” writer Bob Gale, who said “We thought about it when we made the movie! Are you kidding?” when asked if Trump inspired the Biff character.  Here’s why Biff can’t be president.

One assumption inherent in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is that America is not great. Trump contends somehow we’ve lost our greatness because low-paying jobs are being filled by Mexican illegal aliens and American consumers are buying products made in China.  Trump would measure America’s greatness by our manufacturing capacity, the number of Americans employed, and our “first place” at the table in economic and military terms.

That’s not what makes America great.  In fact, America is not great because of its people at all.  The greatness of America transcends its citizens, its money, and its achievements.

Trump, like Biff, confuses the trappings of wealth and comfort with true greatness.

America is great because our country was founded on principles of liberty, natural law, and enlightened government.  America is great not because of who we keep out, but precisely because we can absorb people from around the world and remain distinctly exceptional Americans.

There’s a segment of Americans—the loud, crass, and bereft of class—attracted to Trump’s cult of personality.  “A Biff attracts other Biffs to do his bidding,” I wrote.  “If this is what we see in a Biff presidential campaign, we can expect no different in a Biff presidency.”  By the laws of political physics, this rocket can only rise so far before it burns out, and Cruz has faith in American politics.

While it’s certainly possible Cruz will fail for other reasons: He could fall victim to [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s excellent ability to communicate and be liked by Americans, is one possibility.  But nobody should be surprised that Trump continues to lead—for now; that Cruz is surging in Iowa and potentially poised to become the frontrunner; and that Congress is as deeply corrupted by the power of government as it ever was.

(crossposted from sgberman.com)