Boarding the Right Train

The fear and loathing with which Donald Trump is regarded by establishment Republicans, by the predictably hostile media apparatus, and by a veritable army of political pundits betokens not so much a reasoned analysis of the Trump phenomenon as an access of unbefitting panic. As historian Bruce Thornton notes, a substantial degree of historical nonsense is equally at work, as commentators like Bret Stephens, Dana Milbank and David Brooks have relied on “the stale ad Hitlerum fallacy used by progressives to demonize the candidate." For whatever reason -- political calculation, congenital idiocy -- such observers have simply gone off the rails.

This pathology is evident even when Godwin’s law is given a rest. One of the canards making the rounds, for example, is that Trump’s heated rhetoric is responsible for the rowdy, often violent disruptions of his campaign events. Trump has “activated the desire for violence in many of his supporters,” writes John Ellis, presumably justifying aggressive blowback -- a logically dubious charge. Robert Spencer puts it succinctly: Republican attacks on Trump “have tacitly encouraged the rioters by claiming that Trump is at least partially responsible for what they did.”

Whatever violence has erupted has flowed directly and deliberately from leftist thugs and Democrat supporters, precisely the demographic adept at shutting down debate and speakers it doesn’t approve of. Indeed, as Matthew Vadum points out, the anti-Trump riots are “planned and executed by … the usual culprits”: the Soros-funded MoveOn.Org, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the revolutionary communist organization ANSWER, the National Council of La Raza, and the misnamed Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Reform. Nor should we forget the legion of Twitterites calling for Trump’s assassination. Media escalation as well has obviously played a role in demonizing Trump and thus legitimizing criminality. “There is no louder progenitor of hateful, vitriolic, violent rhetoric,” justly says social critic Paul Joseph Watson, “than the anti-Trump crowd.”

Conservatives of all people should resist the tendency for pseudo-sophisticated dissection. Ellis and those like him are plying what I call a boomerang argument, that is, one that is self refuting. By arguing that Trump is a verbal agitator who condones violence, as Spencer has noted, they furnish a pretext for and may provoke actual violence on the part of those who oppose Trump’s candidacy. In How to Do Things with Words, philosopher John Austin posits that speech may be an act, it may be “perlocutionary” or “performative,” intended to persuade or inspire or conclude an agreement. But one person’s speech act is not equivalent to another’s person’s act of physical assault. If this were the case, then any jihadist would be exonerated in attacking or murdering someone who insults his faith.

Scurrilous allegations and exaggerated comparisons continue to abound. My own dim and politically gentrified country is no exception to the anti-Trump animus. In a March 21, 2016 cover article, Canada’s weekly current affairs magazine, the soft-socialist Maclean’s, snidely refers to Trump as “Trumputin” with its Putin-Rasputin implications, denouncing Trump as a “bullying Reality-TV star who breaks every rule of American political life” and condemning his promise to deport illegals, his refusal to coddle terrorists (“torture,” a “war crime”), and his picking Twitter fights with the pope -- a liberation theologian whose white vestments might as well be communist red. So far as I can see, these are pretty sturdy planks from which to build a viable political platform.

Consider, too, the disingenuous censure of Trump by the Washington Post, cited favorably by PJ Media's Rick Moran. It reads like a piece of bathos, an unintentional descent in argument from the sublime to the trivial or absurd, a kind of self-parody. It is also a classic case of psychological projection. The editorial tells us that Trump:

must be stopped because he presents a threat to American democracy. Mr. Trump resembles other strongmen throughout history who have achieved power by manipulating democratic processes. Their playbook includes a casual embrace of violence; a willingness to wield government powers against personal enemies; contempt for a free press; demonization of anyone who is not white and Christian; intimations of dark conspiracies; and the propagation of sweeping, ugly lies.

As if this mau-mau job were not enough, the Post continues with what it obviously assumes are the most damaging of condemnations:

He has flirted with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. He has libeled and stereotyped wide swaths of humanity, including Mexicans and Muslims.

Had the Post published this opinion piece almost verbatim, substituting only a few critical terms, prior to the election of Barack Obama, its accuracy would have been undeniable.

Who represents a threat to American democracy? Who has manipulated the democratic process? Who has embraced and fomented violence? Who has wielded government powers against personal enemies? Who has tried to hamstring a free (conservative) media? Who has stirred racial violence against whites and Christians while hosting incendiary black leaders and assuring us that the future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam? Who plays the victim/conspiratorial card and regularly blames others for his own failures? Who is the propagator of “sweeping, ugly lies” that many observers believe are impeachable offenses? The answer is blatantly obvious -- and it isn’t Donald Trump.