Sunday, February 28, 2016

We All Have To Talk About Trump

The new national pastime seems to be analyzing The Trump Phenomenon. We seem unable to just leave the subject alone.  Everyone wants to proclaim a definitive last word and be done with it, free to resume our regularly-scheduled programming. Then someone says or writes something which we just have to attend to, unable to turn the dial or refrain from clicking the link, and we rise up to comment again. I've had my hand at it a few times, even when swearing I will go no further.

Here is an early prediction of mine that is already coming true, and I think will continue. His critics will add to his power.  When people level criticisms against him which are untrue or crazier than anything he is saying, the natural response, perhaps even the automatic response of observers is to see him as more credible when those fall away. People throw ten things at him, six are unfair, and one is perhaps downright insane. The net result is that the four reasonable criticisms are forgotten. His critics try to keep them in the public eye, they swear that the next blow will lay him low, but he has moved on.

Lots of public figures are like this, especially politicians.  Reagan, the Teflon President, was noted for it.  Bill Clinton and Obama certainly have that quality, and Hillary has some, though not as much. They make their opponents act crazy, then get to raise their hands in exasperation as if to say that all the complaints against them must be similarly crazy. Interestingly, those who seem invulnerable to even reasonable attacks are often remarkably good at making their criticism of others stick, even if wildly unfair. The abilities must be related somehow. As a counterexample, everything stuck to Bush 41, even the ridiculously untrue, and I recall no stinging criticism of an opponent he ever made stick.

When anything upsets me, my second thought is to step back and look at the big picture.  If that doesn't work, I step to an even bigger picture. I'm already a few steps back on this election. It was not so long ago that monarchy was the best government available for prosperous, rights-of-man, enlightened nations. Many of those kings and queens were not at all skilled, were pathological in some way, or downright stupid. We have also had tyrants and buffoons in many decent places.  So long as they don't get into large-scale killing of their internal enemies, the countries seem to have muddled along.  The history of the American presidency includes some pigheaded men.

I also ask myself who I would wish to have as president if some absolute catastrophe came upon us - not one caused by same, of course. My answers surprised me on that one, enough so that I played it backward over the last few presidents, just for amusement.

Of the five people left standing for the presidency (unless a brokered convention brings another to the fore), four of them will be unable to govern.  Each will be entirely hated by the opposition party and only have about half of their own on board.  (The fifth, Rubio, will only be as divisive an average amount. Which is still terrible, but good by comparison.) We may learn that the presidency is far less important than we thought, mostly a symbolic expression these days.


james said...

Symbolic in some ways, since much of the machinery of government is un-elected and will keep making rulings and effectively making laws no matter who is President or Senator. In other ways--court nominations, agency head appointments, using the military for a couple of months, or even disregarding rules---not quite so symbolic.

The list of Presidents and candidates for the job who were willing to subvert negotiations or put the country at risk for the sake of their political ambitions seems to keep getting longer. Allegedly Nixon made overtures to the North Vietnamese too.

Earl Wajenberg said...

"We may learn that the presidency is far less important than we thought, mostly a symbolic expression these days."

Or it will become less important, having lost all popular mandate.

Sam L. said...

I don' wanna, an' ya can't MAKE ME.

Well, OK, I think Trump is the enema for the Body Politic.

Edith Hook said...

In my view, Trump has badly damaged the political class (including any one for whom politics is a revenue stream: the consultants, media, lobbyists....), or as I remark to my friends, "He sure pulled the mask off the Ole Lone Ranger." Even Mitt Romney seemed unhinged, in keeping with your point about over the top attacks.

I really thought Trump's candidacy was a stunt, so I am on hold until he actually releases his tax returns. I don't know how much of his campaign was planned or calculated, but by some fluke, he found himself riding the Tiger of Middle Class Angst (not anger). I'm not sure he is in control, or who is using who. I am talking about the working people who want to contribute and be productive, not only for themselves but for their children. Their future looks at best static and maybe even bleak. This election cycle has made clear that they have no where else to go.

It's not perfect but I ask myself, if I owned a company who would I want to run it. Or I ask myself, if I were in a catastrophe, airplane crash, whatever, who would I follow and who would I trust. Just some other points of consideration. I don't particularly value the skill set of reading and regurgitating white papers. I don't think that it equates to being a doer. I would prefer to vote for a governor or some with executive experience. Lawyer/Senators or Senator/Lawyers are never going to be my first choice especially if they have spent their lives at the public trough.