Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Trump & The Transfiguration Of American Politics

The Emperor & the Empress at his Inaugural Ball. 

I've been asked to contribute to Common Sense, a quarterly publication of the non-profit organization Action for Liberty run by Jake Duisenberg. The magazine is currently not online. Consequently, I have posted my debut article here, submitted September 26, so some references are dated as to then.

Donald Trump is president. That short, four-word sentence belies the enormity of what it represents for American politics. Last year’s primary and then general election was unlike anything we’d seen before and for good reason. The political rot of both parties had set in so deeply that a singular candidate like Trump could sweep them both away. Remember, the man hadn’t run for anything before, fatally putting the lie to the need for parasitic consultants and career politicians of stunning mediocrity.

Republicans were aghast to learn that the “base” didn’t care to eat the dog food it arrayed before them last year. “The deepest bench” of candidates turned out to be simply a large number of political apparatchiks, eager to continue to do the bidding of their donors, only this time from the Oval Office.

Democrats were horrified to see--even in the primary--Trump steal what used to be considered their issues and were then flattened when they realized he had stolen their voters in order to beat the deeply corrupt Hillary Clinton. Like Republicans, Democrats had long abandoned their traditional base while paying only the most disingenuous lip service to them. People aren’t stupid.

President Trump represents what Marine Le Pen said the day after his victory: “the free people of the United States.” We didn’t vote as commanded. Media worked nonstop to disparage him and felt free to denigrate his supporters in ways not seen in modern politics. No one, someone said, deserved to lose the election more than the media.

* * * *

Trump is a political force of nature; he creates his own weather. Yet he both is and isn’t the story. As a supporter, people mistakenly think I blindly support him at every turn. I don’t: no one should blindly support any politician. But given the epochal changes he is bringing, I’m more than happy to push back against the laughable narratives that a Rubio, or a Jeb, or even a Cruz would do as well or better. Sorry, those men are the product of the system against which the American people just rebelled and it shows, painfully so at times.

Roger Simon recently wrote that Trump is reinventing what it means to be a politician and I think that’s exactly right. Mark Steyn said just last month that Trump revealed the “sheer artificiality” of modern politicians. Go back and watch the Republican presidential primary debates. Almost all other contenders look like something from a political antique store; canned, programmed and fake is what used to pass for good political skills. Those days are gone, never to return.

Simon notes “these days Donald’s getting better and more precise at his core strategy--saying things that many, often most of us think but don’t have the courage to utter.” His comments about kneeling at football games are just the latest example of this instinct to say what he believes is right. The Regressive Left and its media allies are wholly dependent on name-calling and general abuse toward others with whom they disagree in order to stay in power.

Trump’s election, I’d suggest, shows the limits of that power. How many names, over how many months, were his supporters called? Media power depends upon enforcing political correctness. Trump mortally wounded that in the course of his campaign and now we see the death throes.

Simon correctly observes, “Trump has completely reinvented the template of what it means to be a politician and it’s no surprise that so many other politicians (not just John McCain) are publicly or privately appalled. He has unmasked them.”

This unmasking is likely to continue throughout the eight years of Trump’s presidency. Yes, eight years because no one who is paying attention honestly thinks the Democrats have a candidate that can provide a credible alternative to Trump. Put it another way: what Democrat can win Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania after Trump’s historic win of them? The economy is already set to have a GDP of 3%, something the experts said wasn’t possible. The Trump administration is only eight months old.

* * * *

As important as Trump is, it’s essential to look past him in order to obtain a fuller understanding of the current political environment. That’s because, I believe, he represents conditions that have existed for some time but which no one before had the ability to see or, if they did, the courage to act upon. He saw and acted and is now President.

The culture wars used to be important to Conservative, Inc. until Trump joined them and routed the opposition, as he is doing currently with the national anthem and football games. Kurt Schlichter has called out the frauds on the right: “It was all a scam, a lie, a pose for us rubes. The Tru Cons didn’t actually mean it.”

The breathtaking incompetence--if not outright dishonesty--of Congressional Republicans has been on daily display for all to see since January 21, 2017. Who really knew though, before Trump, that it was this bad? Probably only those members in good standing of The Swamp who likely were pleased with themselves for keeping the deception going for as long as they had. With Trump, that corrupt jig is up.

Again, though, the point is larger than Trump. “Conservatism has become a racket,” Schlicter correctly says, “and everything happening now is a result of its members hoping to wait out Trump and the demand for change he represents. Maybe if they do nothing, but say all the right things, we normals will get tired and go back to our jobs and keep providing those votes and renting those cruise cabins. But that’s not happening. We aren’t going away; business as usual is over. We aren’t just giving up, tossing away our country, and submitting to the ruling caste. We were nice with the Tea Party. Trump’s not as nice. What’s coming after is going to be much, much less nice.”

Nice or not, everything has changed and there’s no going back. Democrats have marooned themselves on the Island of Identity Politics from which no rescue apart from themselves changing is possible. There’s no evidence that they are capable of such change and their doubling down on divisiveness that suggests the condition of electoral powerlessness will last for some time.

Similarly, Republicans have been unmasked as so many servants to their donors. The spectacular, ongoing failure to repeal Obamacare isn’t the only indication of this but surely it is the best, the most obvious and the most disgusting, given they ran for eight years on that promise. As Johnny Rotten, of all people, famously said long ago “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

* * * *

The political class of America has failed the American people for decades while pretending they were serving its interests. This masquerade was finally undone by a person who didn’t need the job and hadn’t spent his life pursuing it according to the dictates of endless focus groups. Given the chance to vote for someone who would put them truly first for a change, and despite obvious flaws and imperfections, the American people took courage in both hands and elected Trump.

In turn, Trump has governed thus far as our first independent President. Willing to give the Republican establishment first dibs on making good his campaign promises, Trump recently made a deal with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to raise the debt ceiling and put an end to the stale kabuki of a threatened government shutdown. That’s the old order and it is passing away.

He gave notice of the new order immediately after being sworn in as our 45th President. Among other things in his inaugural address, he said:

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”

* * * * 

A government that genuinely belongs, once again, to the people represents the transfiguration of politics as we have known it. Having given themselves this necessary gift, the American people will not readily give it up again.

That’s because they know, as Trump said, “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”