Sunday, February 28, 2016

Donald Trump in the Age of Obama

Many people, myself included, are convinced that the ascent of Donald Trump reflects the damage that Barack Obama has done... to the culture, to our politics, to our standing in the world, to our morale. Many people believe that Trump will restore American greatness, that he will lead us to recover the greatness that Obama has frittered away over the past seven years.

Let’s grant that Obama was clever about it. He was cagey and subtle, not boisterous and bombastic. And yet, the results were the same: declining morale and diminished self-confidence. America is now a nation in decline, nation far less free than it was. Many Americans do not seem to know how it happened and are willing to do what is necessary to restore America’s greatness.

Some pundits thought that Obama would be a Messiah, redeeming America’s sins, first among which was racism. Many people today believe that Donald Trump is a new Messiah, saving America from the horrors visited by the Obama administration.

This morning Ross Douthat offered a cogent analysis of Trump within the current cultural context. He showed how Obama has paved the way for Trump, or better how Trump is the perfect candidate for the age of Obama.

In his words:

President Obama didn’t give us Trump in any kind of Machiavellian or deliberate fashion. But it isn’t an accident that this is the way the Obama era ends — with a reality TV demagogue leading a populist, nationalist revolt.

Douthat began by pointing out that Trump is a Republican problem, a reaction to the repeated failures of Republican leaders to stand up against Obama and to stop his agenda. Beyond that, the Trump candidacy is also the antidote to the failed Bush presidency.

Douthat wrote:

The Trump uprising is first and foremost a Republican and conservative problem: There would be no Trumpism if George W. Bush’s presidency hadn’t cratered, no Trumpism if the party hadn’t alternated between stoking and ignoring working-class grievances, no Trump as front-runner if the party leadership and his rivals had committed fully to stopping him before now.

Obviously, Trump comes to us from reality TV. But, Douthat noted, Obama was the first candidate to base a campaign on tropes from reality TV. After all, Obama had no qualifications to speak of. Thus, his campaign was based on smoke and mirrors, the work of a master illusionist:

First, the reality TV element in Trump’s campaign is a kind of fun-house-mirror version of the celebrity-saturated Obama effort in 2008. Presidential politics has long had an escalating celebrity component, a cultish side that’s grown ever-more-conspicuous with time. But the first Obama campaign raised the bar. The quasi-religious imagery and rhetoric, the Great Man iconography and pillared sets, the Oprah endorsement and music video and the Hollywood stars pledging allegiance — it was presidential politics as one part Aaron Sorkin-scripted liturgy, one part prestige movie’s Oscar campaign.

And also:

If Obama proved that you can run a presidential campaign as an aspirational cult of personality, in which a Sarah Silverman endorsement counts for as much as a governor or congressman’s support, Trump is proving that you don’t need Silverman to shout “the Aristocrats!” and have people eat it up.

And, with his executive orders and his unwillingness to enforce or implement the law, Obama has acted as an imperial and imperious president.

In Douthat’s words:

… voters are increasingly habituated to the idea of an ever more imperial presidency— which is also a trend that Obama’s choices have accelerated. Having once campaigned against his predecessor’s power grabs, the current president has expanded executive authority along almost every dimension: launching wars without congressional approval, claiming the power to assassinate American citizens, and using every available end-around to make domestic policy without any support from Congress.

It ought to be obvious to everyone by now, but Trump is not a conservative. His most fervent supporters are not conservatives either. Count Chris Christie and Maine Governor Paul LePage, Northeastern liberal Republicans, among his most prominent supporters.

But, Trump also appeals to disaffected Democrats, and surely that is one of his strongest selling points:

Trump’s strongest supporters aren’t archconservatives; they’re white working-class voters, especially in the Rust Belt and coal country, who traditionally leaned Democratic and still favor a strong welfare state.

These voters had been drifting away from the Democratic Party since the 1970s, but Obama has made moves that effectively slam the door on them: His energy policies, his immigration gambits, his gun control push, his shift to offense on same-sex marriage and abortion. It was possible to be a culturally conservative skeptic of mass immigration in the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton. Not so anymore.

Of course, it’s all speculation right now. Conventional wisdom has concluded that Trump is the presumptive nominee and that he cannot lose. It believes that Marco Rubio’s attacks are too little too late… especially if, as now seems plausible, Trump crushes Rubio in Florida on March 15. It believes that Trump is coated with purest Teflon, and thus, that even his refusal to denounce David Duke and the KKK—on the grounds that he knows nothing about them-- will not hurt him.

Of course, if Trump defied all expectations in doing as well as he has done, what will happen now that the expectations are reversed. Is he like a stock that you should buy when no one wants it and sell when everyone wants it?

But, even if the Republican establishment succeeds in stopping Trump-- which seems less likely now that he is presenting himself as an establishment Republican-- it would alienate so many of his voters that it would almost guarantee the election of Hillary Clinton. Of course, if voters were really concerned with sticking it to the Republican establishment they would be flocking to Ted Cruz. When faced with the choice of Trump or Cruz, establishment Republicans largely prefer Trump.

As for the higher truth, the late, great Yogi Berra said it well: It ain’t over till it’s over.


Larry Sheldon said...

Methinks you are coming around.

This article is exactly right.

Well done.

sestamibi said...

I'm coming around too. I see a liberal media once again posing "gotcha" questions and tsk-tsking when they don't get the answer they want. I see a candidate who refuses to play along and jump through the hoops they place for him. And I hope the public sees the same thing and regards it as a feature and not a bug.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The one unfair item in this post is the core assertion "Trump comes to us from reality TV." This is untrue. While "The Apprentice" certainly amplified his celebrity, his prior media exposure was mostly gossip about his marriages, and his bestselling book, "The Art of the Deal." Otherwise, Trump has been more or less successful in business, managing multiple commercial entities in a range of industries. He builds things, most of which are quite expensive and complex, requiring a great deal of diplomacy and navigating political and complex regulatory hurdles.

He is a businessman. He rose to prominence as a businessman. One may not like his personality, but the man clearly knows how to run a complex business operation. His bombast has been a useful tool in these endeavors. His celebrity as reality TV star builds on this.

Contrast this with Obama. No need to bore anyone with the flimsy resume on his rise to power -- the activist phase, the phony intellectual phase, the senator phase, etc. -- it's been documented as a loose timeline, and much of it remains opaque to the public view. No matter, Obama was a celebrity as we've rarely seen.

Obama is responsible for the rise of Trump among Republican and middle class Democratic voters. But this does not fully explain the phenomenon you pointed to in this post: the feckless disregard for Constitutional prerogatives and moral abandonment of the core Republican Party philosophy -- both the void in its institutional (party) leadership, and the cowardice of its politicians. That's the reason for the anger. Obama can try to do whatever he likes... it's up to his opposition to stand up and stop him. Watch them cave on the Supreme Court. Watch 'em.

Obama initiated the callow descent, and I believe it was by design. And they're responsible for Trump. This is more of it: the Ruling Class. They are so insulated from the consequences of their ideas, so deaf to the desires of the people they claim to champion, and so ignorant of mainstream America, that they can only be surprised. I received a post today from a college friend offering his two cents about the hilarity of this Trump "madness," and that he'll be laughing all the way 'til Election Day, when the "undeniably experienced Hillary Clinton" (his words) will vanquish Trump into oblivion. That is the level of ignorance we are dealing with. And guess what? This person is a chief of staff for a U.S. senator.

On a happy note, Al Sharpton announced he will leave the country if Trump is elected president. I am sure some Lefties and Hollywood types will wail about this, too, with their own threats of renouncing citizenship. Good riddance, and may many more step forward and offer similar promises. They won't, because they're greedy... the graft money's too good here. Perhaps a threat from someone like Sharpton will motivate some Bible thumpers to step out of the shadows and actually vote, so as to check the number of illegal immigrants who will be voting across the country. Thank God for the Electoral College... you can only stuff the ballot box so much in a single state: California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I was disgusted to hear Chris Wallace complaining about the Thursday Republican debate as "unpresidential" and full of "gotcha points." Yeah, Chris, it's not so funny when you're on the viewing side of that kind of crap, is it? Just like you and Megyn Kelly in the other two debates. Maybe Fox News will invite someone from Telemundo to be on the panel and give speeches, punctuated by the question "Do you get it?" I refuse to believe that Hispanic citizens are a myopic voting bloc that wants open borders.

Trump's most instructive stance is that you can take all that mainstream media bullshit, turn it around and jam it right down their throats. Too bad John Boehner was too timid to try. Nancy Pelosi tells journalists to get bent if they ask whether ObamaCare is constitutional. Maybe it's time Republicans tried that, too. Not the constitutionality, but full contempt for the silliness of playing the Democrat-Media game.

We must stop accepting the premises of so many of these Leftist assertions. Democrats don't have to apologize for ACORN, Planned Parenthood or calling Cambridge Police Officers stupid. Why should we accept these questions? Time to refuse to defend peripheral assertions, stand up and get our country back!

And as for Trump giving money to Hillary, everyone knows the game is pay-to-play (and clearly she does, too, given her speech price tag) and Trump played the game that she and her corrupt politicians set up. That charge gives him more credibility on Citizens United. He should say: "Well, how else do you suggest I get a politician's attention?" The truth is, the more power these D.C. politicians get, the more corrupt everything gets. Shred 'em.

Ares Olympus said...

It does seem accurate that Trump's temperament is nearly the exact opposite of Obama's, but its hard for me to take seriously the idea Obama's success created Trump's success.

I'm more supportive of David Stockman's views, David being Ronald Reagan's Budget director, until he quit because Reagan retreated from his trickle down economics in favor of working with the Democrats and raising taxes, and raising government spending to record amounts. Reagan can be considered the father of our modern debt-based economy, maybe unfair, but needed for a new Morning in America.

Anyway, here's some quotes from David. You'll note his contempt for the Neocons, calling them the Warefare State, although that complex surely bigger than they are.

Reminded about Pat Buchanan's 2000 take over of Perot's Reform party, perhaps a Trump-Buchanan ticket would help solidify Trump's empty bluster into a reasoned message that have some useful truth to stand up to The Hillary and the Status Quo.

Losing with truth is better than winning with feel-good lies.
America will need the Almighty’s unstinting favor if Donald Trump becomes our 45th President. Still, blessed be The Donald for running a demolition derby in the Republican primaries.

There is no hope for the future of capitalist prosperity and a free society at home and world peace abroad unless the Republican Party is destroyed. And, by golly, Trump may well accomplish the deed.

We need to be clear. There is no longer a Republican Party rooted in the main street highways and byways of America. What’s left of it is not really even the xenophobic, nativist, crypto-racist flotsam and jetsam of the populist right that Trump is successfully calling to political arms.

The fact is, the GOP has mutated into the Warfare State party. Nestled comfortably in the Imperial City, it operates a plethora of special interest rackets which underwrite its incumbents’ bi-annual electoral campaigns out in the provinces.
In a word, as the party of the Warfare State, the GOP’s main business has become promoting the agenda, campaigns, machinations and glory of the Imperial City. ...
Today’s Republican crowd bears no resemblance. They live in the capital, fully embrace its projects and pretensions and visit the provinces as sparingly as possible. And that’s why The Donald has them so rattled, even petrified.

To be sure, there is much that is ugly, superficial and stupid about Donald Trump’s campaign platform, if you can call it that, or loose cannon oratory to be more exact. More on that below, but at the heart of his appeal are two propositions which strike terror in the hearts of the Imperial City’s GOP operatives.
In short, The Donald is tapping a nationalist/isolationist impulse that runs deep among a weary and economically precarious main street public. He is clever enough to articulate it in the bombast of what sounds like a crude trade protectionism. Yet if Pat Buchanan were to re-write his speech, it would be more erudite and explicit about the folly of the American Imperium, but the message would be the same.

That’s why the War Party is so desperate, and why its last great hope is the bantam weight Senator from Florida. In truth, Marco Rubio is an obnoxious kid who wants to be President so he can play with guns, planes, ships and bombs. He is a pure creature of the Imperial City, even if at his young age he has idled there only since 2010.
At the end of the day, America is on a slippery slope toward failure because the Warfare State and the Welfare State are suffocating what was once a prosperous capitalism and a resilient free society lightly intruded upon by the machinery of state.
Maybe The Donald’s startling but palpable momentum toward the White House will have one saving grace. His relentless campaign against the “politicians” and the Washington money rackets may end up knocking the hypocritical stuffings out of both parties.

Marsh said...

If Christie' s endorsement means Trump is establishment, what does Session' s endorsement mean? Come on, Stuart, no one believes the establishment would prefer Trump over Cruz or Rubio.

Cruz is every bit establishment as Rubio is. They both voted to give our sovereignty away w/ TTP.

Christy' s endorsement shocked everyone b/c he was an insider for years, and was privy to the plans the establishment had for this election. He was a mole. Trump has been five steps ahead of the establishment and now we know how. Christie was feeding him Intel.

Session is a trusted conservative, who has never endorsed anyone before. He endorsed Trump b/c he knows Trump will put the breaks on the globalists plans.

priss rules said...

Trump also feeds on crisis in EU.

Merkel is a practitioner of suicidal imperialism.

During WWII, Germany practiced genocidal imperialism against Russia: Invade and wipe out entire populations.

Now, Germany practices suicidal imperialism. Not only has it decided to destroy itself but is pressuring other European nations to follow and open their borders and welcome destruction along with Germany.

Maybe this is Hitler’s revenge. At the end of WWII, Hitler felt Germans had failed him and wanted the nation and even all of Europe destroyed for good and forever.
It seems like Europe is carrying out Hitler’s order.. in the name of opposing Hitlerism.

Merkel is the Jim Jones of Europe. Let’s all die together.

priss rules said...

"But, even if the Republican establishment succeeds in stopping Trump-- which seems less likely now that he is presenting himself as an establishment Republican-- it would alienate so many of his voters that it would almost guarantee the election of Hillary Clinton."

This is exactly what the GOP leadership is banking on.

I think Trump is entertaining. But is he for real? Can he reverse the damage that's been piling up over the decades by moral decline and economic globalism? No.

US is in decline but then need not worry since other nations are doing worse. China has big problems, sanctions are biting Russia, Brazil is imploding, etc. So, even US in decline is way ahead of the game. Also, US had four things going for it always: science/tech, agriculture, natural resources, finance as dollar controls the world.

But culturally and morally, this is a rotten nation. 'Gay marriage'? It'd be bad enough if Americans accepted this reluctantly as a moral abomination but as legal necessity. But Americans really think it's moral progress to define marriage in this decadent sicko manner.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: It ought to be obvious to everyone by now, but Trump is not a conservative. His most fervent supporters are not conservatives either. Count Chris Christie and Maine Governor Paul LePage, Northeastern liberal Republicans, among his most prominent supporters.

I am curious by the claim that Paul LePage isn't a conservative. At least he's got the standard Right argument against moochers, and keeping taxes low on the wealthy by a flat tax. (Incidentally he's won the last two elections with less than 50% of the vote by 3-way races against a Democrat and one or two centrist Independent.)
LePage is pro-life. LePage supports the death penalty in cases of the murder of a baby.

LePage has said that the permitting process to start a business in Maine is too cumbersome and expensive and he will look for ways to make it cheaper and easier. He opposes raising any taxes during his term as governor and supports the creation of a 5% flat tax on all households earning more than $30,000.

Speaking before a conservative women's group in Falmouth, Maine on October 14, 2013, LePage said that "About 47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work ... It's really bad."

Pointing to a report issued by a conservative think tank, the Maine Heritage Policy Center, LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said, “Liberal activists are determined to increase the number of residents who take tax dollars by expanding the size of government and the benefits government workers get and increasing the welfare rolls.”

Sam L. said...

Minor correction: Berra, Yogi, not Barra. Fix and delete this post.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

In case you were wondering what's wrong with "journalism" in America, check this clip out:

Wow, what courage. Either way, ABC's John Quinones looks so wise.

Disgusting to do that to a soldier. Simply disgusting. Quinones should be fired. Immediately.