Friday, July 31, 2015

The Donald Rises

For now, it’s all Donald Trump. This morning Peggy Noonan pens an encomium to the real estate developer by channeling an acquaintance from Georgia, a true believer who shares what Noonan calls Trump’s contempt for government and who agrees that if Donald says he can do it he can do it.

Noonan writes:

So, why Trump? “The whole country will be in better shape. And ISIS won’t like it that he’s in charge. He’s very wealthy and can turn around the economy. He’ll get things moving. The Donald will kick a—.” She knows other supporters locally and among friends of her son, an Iraq vet. “They’re completely disgusted and just furious, and he’s igniting their passion. He’s telling them ‘I will make this country great again,’ and they believe him.” Mr. Trump is dismissed as exciting, but “we have to get excited to get up out of the chair to vote.”

Hmmm… being wealthy means that you can turn around the economy? Does this Georgian have any evidence to support the assertion?

Trump’s positions have been all over the political spectrum. Sometimes they verge on incoherent, and clearly there is no reason to believe that he can do the job. We are talking about some very serious on-the-job training. Unless you believe that Vladimir Putin is going to start quaking at the prospect of confronting the Donald....

None of it seems to bother people who thrill to the notion that someone is finally standing up, not just to the Democrats, but to Islamic terrorists and the media elites who have cowed the rest of the opposition into silence.

Trump is the polar opposite of an administration that has been sucking up the ayatollahs. The spectacle of America surrendering in negotiations with Iran has impelled the candidacy of someone who, whatever mess he might make, will not be crawling to Tehran, begging for a deal.

One understands that Trump seems to be ready to restore wounded American pride. One admires his supporters’ enthusiasm, but still, new polls yesterday came out showing that Trump is the one major Republican candidate who is losing to all three top Democrats… by a lot. It’s not because of a lack of name recognition. Trump is down substantially when he is pitted against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Many Republicans have now chosen not to fight the Trump steamroller. They are waiting—and hoping—that it runs out of steam on its own.

One must say, however,  that next to Trump, the other Republican candidates are looking small. Stature and gravitas matter, even though, as happens with Trump it is more show than substance. After all, people who have accomplished great things let their achievements speak for them.

When it comes to governance Trump has no achievements to speak of; thus, he can do no more than bluff by insisting boisterously that he can do it. I suspect that he believes every word he says, but that does not make it true.

By comparison, note Camille Paglia’s description of Rand Paul, someone with whom she generally sympathizes. She offers a cogent explanation for why the Rand Paul campaign is moribund:

As a libertarian, I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul on so many different social and political issues. Unfortunately, however, Paul lacks gravitas as a physical presence. The U.S. presidency has a highly ceremonial aspect.  The president isn’t merely a prime minister, a political leader–he’s the symbolic embodiment of the nation. Therefore, physical attributes and vocal style are very important.  

One might say the same of Jeb Bush, another conspicuous casualty of Trumpmania.

Curiously, while the chattering classes and the moneyed interests have been convinced that the presidential candidates would be named Clinton and Bush, I have suspected that neither Clinton nor Bush would be on the ballot. For now it seems clear that Jeb is not going to make it. He’s fading in the polls. At a time when people want tomorrow’s candidate, he is increasingly looking like yesterday’s news.

In Paglia’s words:

The major media have been constantly saying that Jeb is the GOP front-runner, which is utter nonsense. It’s the same thing with Hillary–the polls have just been showing name recognition, nothing more. I’ve been looking at the comments on political news articles since last year, and Jeb Bush seems to have absolutely no support whatever–like zero!  To this day, I’ve never seen an online commenter enthusiastically supporting him.  It’s really strange!  All these rich people throw big money at him, but I don’t know who his voters could possibly be.

Of course, Paglia has always been a stern critic of Hillary Clinton, and I agree with her that Clinton’s chances have been fading with her approval ratings.  Democrats are currently looking around for anyone who can replace her… that means Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden.

And yet, the only other candidate who has approval ratings as bad as Mrs. Clinton’s is Donald Trump. Strangely, more and more Republicans are embracing him as their savior.

Strangely, Paglia seems to believe that Barack Obama had exactly the right kind of gravitas to be president. She sees him as a commanding presence:

He projects a sober, unflappable confidence and presents himself with elegance and grace–all of which produced his success early on, when Hillary was the frontrunner in 2008.

In principle, we should all know better than that by now. Obama’s deer-in-the-headlights look, his tendency to believe in his own lies ... none of it makes him appear to be a strong leader, a commanding presence. Paglia is wrong to overlook the manifest weakness, the pusillanimous demeanor of our current president.

Of course, Trump does not display the calm confidence of a true leader. But, next to Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi… to say nothing of the weak-looking Boehner and McConnell… Trump looks like the real thing.

Keep in mind, it’s much easier to project an image when you do not have to forge political compromises and to defend a record.

For Paglia, Obama is a blind spot. But, on the topic of presidential stature and presence, Paglia’s remarks are on point:

In the primary debates, Cruz will benefit from having a tall and commanding physique, as Bill De Blasio did in the New York mayoral debates.  On the whole, Republicans don’t seem to realize that persona and self-presentation are crucial in a media age.  For example, Rand Paul has obviously had his eye on the presidency for years, so it’s astonishing that he apparently has never given any thought to how he should dress or cut his hair or even stand in front of cameras.  It’s as if his idea of style was flash-frozen in the Everly Brothers era. The tall candidate often has a big advantage in any campaign….  People do want a sense of implicit authority in the president. 

If she’s right, look for Joe Biden to enter the race at some point in the fall. One recalls that he managed to make Paul Ryan look small in the 2012 vice presidential debate. Those who thrilled at Ryan’s marvelous intellect failed to notice his inability to project a commanding presence.

What do Republicans have against Donald Trump… aside from the fact that he does not look like he can win the election? For a more substantive critique we turn to  David Goldman, aka Spengler:

He [Trump] blames most of America’s problems on a “tidal wave” of illegal Hispanic immigrants and unfair Chinese trade practices. He reminds me of H.L. Mencken’s classic one-liner: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” One might add, “dangerous,” because Trump appeals to our desire to blame someone else for problems we created.

Surely, it is possible that some part of Trump’s appeal lies in his ability to shift the blame for America’s problems. But then, Trump has strongly opposed the American media and American politicians. It’s not as though he has limited himself to blaming the Mexicans and the Chinese.

Goldman offers some data to sustain his argument:

Immigration from Mexico actually fell after the 2008 crash, mainly because construction jobs disappeared. The best data we have suggest that net immigration from Mexico was negative between 2005 and 2010–that is, more Mexicans left the US than arrived. Hispanics, to be sure, are more visible in the workforce–their share of total employment has risen from about 14% 10 years to to 17% today–but that is due to the natural increase in the Hispanic population. In 1990, non-Hispanic whites had a fertility rate of 1.7 children per female, vs. 2.9 children for Hispanics. This bumper crop of Hispanic children has been entering the workforce for the past several years. But that has nothing to do with recent trends in immigration.

Somehow or other Goldman neglects to factor in the more recent increases in illegal immigration that followed Obama’s initiatives.

As for the influence of China, Goldman adds this:

As for China: During the early 2000′s, US imports from China were growing at 20%-30% a year. Since 2011, imports from China have hardly grown. That’s because China’s currency has appreciated by one-third since 2005 (from 12 cents to the dollar to 16 cents), making Chinese goods pricier in the American market.

What should we be worrying about? Our loss of industrial and technological competitiveness. Goldman explains:

China is graduating twice as many PhD’s in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines as the US. China’s economy is way behind the US, but catching up fast in key areas. Chinese missiles can sink any US aircraft carrier within a range of several hundred miles from its coast. China can knock out American satellites. Chinese computation capabilities are on par with America’s. China has more industrial robots installed than any country in the world. China is about to become the dominant producer of Internet communications equipment (with Huawei replacing Cisco as the global market leader). China and its periphery manufacture everything that goes into American tech products.

America used to have disruptive, innovative tech companies. Now we have corporate giants run by patent trolls rather than engineers whose mission is to suppress innovation. Apple, a design company that relies on Asian production, now accounts for two-thirds of all profits in the S&P 500 Technology Sub-Index.

America used to have nonpareil defense technology. Now we are betting the defense budget on the F-35, a plane like the proverbial horse designed by a committee, and sold by defense industry lobbyists.

Can Donald Trump reverse these trends with his negotiating skills? Will the pending loss of competitive technological advantage be reversed when Trump talks tough with the Chinese? I have my doubts.

Still, it appears that Trump is working to restore our flagging national pride. Since the Obama administration has been giving it away as though it was of no real value, apparently, it takes a Trump, a flamboyant showman to rise above the din and to remind us of what it can be.

Goldman agrees with Trump that we ought definitely to close the border. If it requires a fence, let’s build a fence. As for reversing the flow of immigrants, apparently the slowdown in the construction industry was a highly effective way to encourage what Mitt Romney called “self-deportation.”


Katielee4211 said...

What Noonan is disregarding is the anger. America has contempt for Government, disgust with Democrats, but anger is a big factor with the Republicans. They feel betrayed by them, used by them and played. Those emotions are outweighing contempt.

The polls were barely closed, and with a Republican victory rolling in, they were already saying Americans wanted them to work with the Democrats, work with Obama (Was that McConnell?). No, that wasn't what was being said - the mandate was to stop Obama. Stop him. And many didn't care how that was done. Just stop him. Second was reverse and undo the damage. Instead they treat the American voter like the unwashed masses, their disdain and disregard is glaringly apparent. And they smugly don't really care. They thumb their noses and do the opposite. They're getting things done. They don't even try to hide behind needing to get this or that out of the way to deal with the bigger things anymore. Apparently bigger things are to help Obama since he has so little time left in office. Complicit. The Republicans have displayed contempt for the Americans who voted for them. Sneering contempt.

They've created a boiling pot, a void that Trump steps into. And as Noonan notes, Americans are willing to overlook things, inconsistencies, and support him. He has a track record of getting things done.The Republicans built this. America is standing at the Rubicon, ready to toss the die, and cross that river to Rome.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Still, it appears that Trump is working to restore our flagging national pride."

Yes. Trump is the current embodiment of "Newsroom" (1976). People are mad as hell, and aren't going to take it anymore. Trump is the antithesis of political correctness. I must admit my own sheepish grin when I watch Trump talking back to Anderson Cooper, and it falling for the usual media traps that constrain Republican maneuverability on key issues. That said, Trump will implode because he lacks discipline.

The reason why people are so angry is because of the media double standard in how Democrat and Republican candidates are treated and how issues are covered. Trump has enough media savvy and boldness to cut through a lot of that. He's a celebrity, so he gets attention for being a... celebrity. He's famous because he's famous. His poll numbers are inflated because of name recognition.

Ares Olympus said...

Paglia: He projects a sober, unflappable confidence and presents himself with elegance and grace–all of which produced his success early on, when Hillary was the frontrunner in 2008.

Stuart: For Paglia, Obama is a blind spot. But, on the topic of presidential stature and presence, Paglia’s remarks are on point...

Blind spots are always interesting. I wonder what credibility we should give people with known blind spots. I mean first the Atheist thing, but she's respectful at least, so she can see right through God, but not Obama. What strangeness!

And to Trump, perhaps he'll not be president, but the upcoming debate should be interesting. I wonder if all 10 candidates will be bidding up the height of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. How high?! Hopefully Trump can answer first, so the others can make sure to not tell a lesser tall tale of what they'll do to keep the Mexican murderers and rapists out.

Anonymous said...

But does China have a little google box that informs me of the meaning of words like encomium or nonpareil complete with an audio button giving the pronunciation?

During times of social disruption angry people frequently seek to assign blame or find a savior (Jesus is the scapegoat-savior).

The Trump popularity in primary, but not in general, demonstrates the fracturing of the Republican party.

I took American history in community college decades ago. I realized American is going to become more like Europe in the future because the wilderness is being tamed and people are living in higher density cities just like happened in Europe when the wilderness was tamed in that region. Change is inevitable and some people resist it.

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. If we're done with the ummm... "feminist" opinions, Nate Silver offers his view. He does suggest anything about Trump "imploding", but simply running out of voters willing to consider him as a serious candidate.
As the Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini points out, the bulk of Trump’s support in polls isn’t necessarily coming from passionate Republicans but rather from “low-information voters” who may not turn out in Iowa and New Hampshire. That doesn’t mean none of Trump’s support is real, however. There’s another factor that helps him: He’s highly differentiated from the rest of the Republican pack.
It isn’t so unusual, however, to see a candidate like Trump polling at 20 percent. That happened for several Republican candidates in 2012, including Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain.
The problem for these candidates is that support never grew much beyond 20 or 30 percent of the vote, so they were lapped by others. The same is likely to happen this year, eventually.
But if you’re going to imply that a candidate is popular based on their receiving 20 percent of the vote, you ought to consider what the other 80 percent thinks about him. Most Republicans who don’t plan to vote for Trump are skeptical of him instead.

And with his magic polling math, he subtracts candidates unfavorable rating from their favorable rating, and Trump comes out 13th place (of 17th) at +4% net (+47 favorable and 43% unfavorable), while Scott Walker leads with 56% favorable and 13% unfavorable, for a net +43% rating.

Silver has a cool VENN diagram of 5 coalitions (Moderate, Establishment, Christian Conservative, Libertarian, and Tea Party), with Trump sitting pretty and alone within the tea party circle, with no appeal to the other 4 circles (and pretty shallow tea party appeal too, I'd guess too.)

So if you believe such things, then what we need to do is reduce the set of candidates from 17 down to 7 or so, and the order of candidates bowing out will tend to affect which candidate JUMPS up in the next poll, like if two candidates are splitting a similar voter base.

Christy for instance is the "largest" loser out there right now, so he's got ZERO chance of winning, but he's someone people will listen to, if he endorses another candidate, say Scott Walker, and that might sink Trump from the lead faster than Christy's 3% support suggests.

If only real problems of competently managaging a declining republic were as much fun as watching the horse race for who will be responsible for the free world crashing into the ocean of debt.

And my prediction is we're due for another 2008-type economic crisis just in time for 2016. How many trillion will we spend on the next "stimulus"?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the link to Nate Silver... always worth studying.

Malcolm said...

When talking or writing about Trump I think these articles need to be read.

Sam L. said...

Malcolm's links have and make a point.

Larry Sheldon said...

I am looking for a line-by-line, item-by-item analysis, showing how Carter, Reagan, and Obama where obviously more qualified than Trump.

Note that I said "looking", not "holding my breath". I am expecting the "Trump is obviously not qualified" pundits to go silent on the matter.

Which would be an improvement.

Dennis said...

Larry Sheldon,

I have often wondered where people find those qualifications for political office especially at the federal level. It surely is not in the Constitution.

"Article II Section 1; No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

I suspect the political class needs to mislead everyone into believing that only they have the unique ability and qualifications for federal office such as president. Given how poorly most of these people have done the people's business a cynic might wonder whether we might do better doing a random selection for Congress, Senate and president to do the job. Surely it has been demonstrated that those who want the office are the ones who should not have the office.

David Foster said...

See my post on anger....I didn't mention Trump in the post per se, but he's discussed extensively in the comments:

Larry Sheldon said...

Somebody famous should have said something like "The top tier of each of the three branches of the Federal government should be filled by selecting the first 500 names in the Cheyenne Telephone Directory".

(Apologies due to William F. Buckley, Jr.'s memory. I think.)