Donald Trump has certainly revolutionized American politics. And he did so by a very simple act—mentioning substantive truths that other Republicans fear to utter.
Trump is not perfect. But criticism at this point (some from over-fastidious Chronicles writers) is like Titanic survivors complaining about accommodations on the lifeboats. No ordinary man would climb into the hog pen and tangle with the whole herd of filthy Republican sows at once.
That small but illustrious company who follow my scribblings know that I have long been a gadfly of the Republican Party, a tiny wasp trying to sting through the thick elephant’s hide. I have tried to disabuse those people who consider themselves “conservatives” of the obstinately held misconception that the Party is, ever has been, or ever will be of any use to them. (One of the many destructive achievements of the Republicans in American discourse is emptying the term “conservative” of any meaning.)
A couple of years ago I predicted that a maverick would rise in the Republican Party to challenge the Establishment. Trump has justified my prediction. I also discussed the lengths to which the Establishment would go to protect their power. They have no real quarrel with Hillary Clinton. But Trump is a genuine threat to their self-appointed supremacy.
Remember Goldwater. The Republicans blackened his name, even before the convention, as well as during the election campaign, to the extent that he could not possibly be elected, although he represented a strong mood among the people. The same tactics are being used against Trump. The Establishment has unlimited funds and connections and complete cooperation from the media on Trump. They are capable of stealing votes, of damaging last-minute false allegations against the candidate, and worse.
Republicans have always preferred vague and “respectable” campaigns that avoid any reference to real issues, policies, or opinions. “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”; “The Rail Splitter; “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion”; “Morning in America”; “a thousand points of light”; “No Child Left Behind.” Rubio, the latest Establishment candidate for Leader of the World and Great Decider, tells us: “This election is about the future.” Thank you, Senator for making your ideas clear.
Even worse, is the series of multi-colored slick-paper mailings from Jeb Bush. One tells us that he has a plan to deal with ISIS. Oh, goody. From such a noble source we don’t need to know what the plan is or how it might differ from any of the other plans of Democratic and Republican incumbents and wannabes, nearly all the same.
In another, Jeb Bush, with arms majestically crossed and fearless gaze, assures us: “We are living in serious times that deserve serious leadership.” We are expected to rally gratefully to his generous offering his august person as “serious leader.” No substance need be addressed, no evidence is needed except his word. I am your prince. Bow down and honor me. Unfortunately, in the past this approach has worked with millions of Republican voters. Can we hope that at last the people of the grassroots are beginning to cop to the Establishment’s contempt for them? Even better, might we hope that the Republican party is going into history’s dustbin with the Federalists and Whigs, to be replaced by an actual opposition political party.
Note that the platforms of nearly all the Republican wannabes are of this vague imperious nature. The one exception being foreign affairs, in which they take a militant stance for war in the Mideast and hostility to Russia. Republicans don’t have any real principles or any ideas about anything, but for foreign affairs they do have neocon “intellectuals” who have prepared their positions for them. Can these people have given any real thought to the dangerous consequences of the positions they are taking? Have they learned nothing from reality, as opposed to campaign ads that have been supplied them?
The American people are often fooled, but they have a natural, healthy, deep down aversion to making a wimp President. Remember Adlai Stevenson, Nelson Rockefeller, Al Gore. This is why Jeb Bush and Rubio will never make good nominees. Rubio has a shifty, over-sensitive demeanor that bothers normal people. A President must appear to have at least a little bit of gravitas. Sad to say, a great deal of the current American public even attributes some to Obama.
Will the Establishment hold their collective aristocratic noses and support Ted Cruz to cancel Trump? Cruz is intelligent, unlike the aforementioned, which means he is able to perceive reality and change. He seems actually to have read the Constitution. His support, alas, rests heavily on the stupider sort of Protestants, those who have loyally lined up to again and again to be betrayed by their leaders. If he is elected, we must hope that his connection to the idiocy of Christian Zionism is cynical and expedient and not taken seriously. Meanwhile, there is little evidence that he is anything other than the usual Republican on the issues that count: declining prosperity, uncontrolled immigration, and imperial overreach.
Then too, if Cruz is nominated it will be unprecedented. The Republicans have always been a Deep North party and never nominated a candidate who was really from the South. And the Goldman Sachs connection must be a worry to any patriot. ?
Note in passing: Americans are catastrophically ignorant of our history. Else it would be noticed that the very first war carried out by the U.S. government was against violent Muslims. But President Jefferson did not try to convert the Barbary pirates to democracy or invite them to immigrate. He made them stop doing all the nasty things they were doing to Christians.
Clyde N. Wilson is a contributing editor to Chronicles. A retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina, he is the author of numerous books, including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture. He is the editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.