It’s time that the sophisticated analysts who pride themselves in their ability to discern nuance realized that Donald Trump’s popularity and his defenders are more nuanced than most people imagine.
Because Trump is outrageous compared with the usual presidential candidate, Beltway pundits assume his followers and sometime defenders are classless rubes willing to overlook any objectionable remark he makes and his mixed record on conservative causes.
These commentators seem more disgusted with Trump defenders than with President Obama’s destructive agenda and the threat it represents to America.
Their angst, I would argue, is not primarily about Trump. Their real beef is with Reagan conservatives and others who refuse to be calm about Obama’s assaults and are sick of lectures on bipartisanship and “civility.”
They are the superior ones who regard Sen. Ted Cruz as a grandstanding extremist because he refuses to be calm about this nation’s predicament and vigorously fights back. They are the ones who always want to throw in the towel in battles with Obama before those battles have even begun.
They see themselves as the only adults in the GOP room, and though they pretend to tolerate — if not admire — the tea party and Christian conservative activists, they must race to the bathroom and wash out their mouths with soap every time they publicly demonstrate anything but contempt for these lunatics. Some of them may even be among those silently grinning as the Obama administration dubs the tea party and returning veterans “domestic terrorists.”
They weren’t at all bothered by Sen. John McCain’s slander of Trump supporters as “crazies.” But they couldn’t wait to pounce on Trump when he fired back with a barb impugning McCain’s heroism. Of course, I won’t defend that remark, but even if Trump meant it literally, which I doubt, it doesn’t excuse McCain’s initial insult and its significance.
These three overlapping groups — tea partyers, Reagan conservatives and Christian conservatives — are fair game not just for liberal Democrats but also for establishment Republicans, and the groups are fed up.
After all, if it weren’t for them, establishment honchos would be powerless; they depend on these millions for their political lifeblood. Still, they give them nothing but disrespect in return.
I think I understand the inclination of establishment types to be cautious and not rock the boat too much with Obama for fear of losing that “next election.” But there is always going to be a next election. At what point does our side really stand up? At what point do we quit pandering to the mushy middle with pale pastels instead of pressing forward with policies marked by bold colors? Their fear has reached the point of paranoia, and they have neutered themselves.
I am glad Trump has shaken up the political world this campaign season, even if I don’t approve of everything he says and don’t prefer his candidacy. As an occasional defender, I think I take his candidacy less seriously than some of his attackers.
It seems that those attacking Trump most vociferously are the ones who generally attack Cruz. They mainly condemn Trump, I believe, because they see him sucking the oxygen from their beloved establishment candidates. His brashness and perceived crudeness are mostly an excuse, and it is quite convenient for their purposes.
The irony is that Trump will only be a viable candidate if establishment types keep obsessing over him and offending his supporters or drive him to pursue a third-party run. If they would quit trying to marginalize genuinely conservative candidates, perhaps the void that Trump has filled would eventually fill itself and squeeze Trump out.
The main difference between the establishment position and that of Reagan conservatives is more than a matter of disposition. It is that the former is impervious to the objective urgency of America’s predicament. Establishment types seem content to sit around the table, legs crossed, and dispassionately consider current events and the political climate as if they were little more than a game. “We’ve seen this all before,” some of them say, “and the situation will correct itself, so not to worry.”
They are yawningly unpanicked about the threats facing America and confuse their own apathy with adulthood. They are not, despite their apparent calm, the adults in the room, nor are the conservatives the unruly children. Adults realize true dangers facing their children (and their nation) and take action. They don’t congratulate themselves on appearing mature while letting their children or their nation be destroyed.
Some Trump supporters may be blind followers who would trail him over a cliff, but most are people who see their country disintegrating and having no effective means of turning it around.
There are a number of GOP candidates who would strive to dismantle the Obama nightmare, and we should all be grateful for the depth of the GOP bench. It is remarkable and a further testament to the public’s awareness of our nation’s dire predicament that so many capable people have stepped forward.
So please, my establishment friends, quit worrying about Trump; don’t be so quick to judge the Trump phenomenon and his supporters. The sooner you quit misjudging, underestimating and insulting them the sooner this race can return to what you would consider more normal. Have a little faith in the American people and in those conservatives with whom you claim to have common cause. They will be heard from this election season one way or the other.
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