Trump’s appeal comes down to a few things, but more than anything else, its source is his refusal to speak in the idiom of the ruling class, and his willingness to speak to the Republican base about things they have repeatedly expressed concern about, which the mainstream leaders pay some minimal lip service too, and then forget as soon as they’re elected. We hate political correctness, are concerned about the third world reengineering of America’s people, and think the ruling class could care less about our economic prospects.
Whether Romney or McCain or Bob Dole, none of the GOP’s front runners got this. W did, indirectly, with his tough talk on Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, he got us involved in losing wars, forgot to close the borders, and the mainstream candidates are now forced to say both that we never should have gone to Iraq and that we never should have left. It is a ridiculous position and a sad sign of a lack of intellectual depth. Anyone paying attention should have learned something about the inconclusive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the all-too-frequent internal attacks since 9/11 by disloyal immigrants from the Middle East.
This piece by Angelo Codevilla went around a few years ago, and I missed it at the time, but it says something very relevant, namely, that the GOP voters are alienated, ripe for takeover by a third party, and are well aware that the mainstream GOP is as hostile to them as the more open and notorious haters of the Democratic Party. I thought this passage particularly good:
Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg’s tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate — most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class’s prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans — a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents — lack a vehicle in electoral politics.
My concern with Trump, incidentally, is not what he’s saying or how he’s saying it, but whether he means it. His ego and frequent shifts suggest there is something else afoot here, and, as I always say when candidates like him appear, the presidency is not an entry level job. If he were serious about political power and political leadership, he would run first for some minor office and demonstrate his mettle and his values. Politics is not business, or, rather, it is a serious business with a different logic from that of commercial business. For starters, unlike the business’s narrow concern for profit and loss, it depends first of all upon an apprehension of what is the good one is seeking. Indeed, it is too serious a business to leave in the hands of a loose cannon.
Nonetheless, I find his presence and his tone bracing, and I find the ruling class’s horror at him notable for the consensus across Democratic, Republican, and media leadership. It is all very telling. I hope he accomplishes something worthwhile in the process beyond exposing (yet again) the cravenness of the ruling class.