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.
The Post does not stop at this nadir of preposterous inversion. It proceeds to a level of misrepresentation bordering on slander. Trump has nothing to do with the KKK and has never accepted its endorsement. Nor has he “libeled and stereotyped wide swaths of humanity, including Mexicans and Muslims.” The editors of the Post should writhe in shame at purveying such partisan deception, and anyone who supports their claims should have his or her credentials checked.
The fact is that Trump is the only contender, Cruz not excluded, who has directly and vigorously confronted the destabilizing reality of America’s social and political malaise: the flood of illegal immigrants that is changing the cultural, economic and electoral profile of the nation, and the widening incision of Islamic terrorism into the social body. A wall erected to prevent an invasion of millions of illegal migrants into the country makes perfect sense, as it has for many other nations intent on protecting their borders; and a reassessment of immigration protocols and vetting procedures regarding Muslims entering the country is a no-brainer. Trump has never said that he is anti-Mexican or anti-Muslim. He is not libeling or stereotyping “wide swaths of humanity”; he is trying to keep America intact and to stem the tide of forces that are tearing the U.S. apart.
Nobody with any sense believes that the Donald is the perfect candidate for the presidency. But he is not the problem. The problem is a culture that appears determined to sign its own death warrant, splintering into a congeries of special interest groups and reveling in a morass of identity politics, moral relativism and infantile grievances. The problem is the catastrophic legacy left by Obama on the racial, economic and foreign policy fronts, from which the nation may not recover irrespective of who the next president may be. The problem is the brace of leftist hacks and retreads vying for the Democratic nomination, one of whom will occupy the White House if fractious conservatives have their way. The problem is a Republican establishment vastly out of step with its core constituency and seemingly preoccupied chiefly with retaining its beltway perks and privileges.
And the problem is also a media consortium that has corrupted its journalistic standards and thrown any semblance of objectivity overboard. I have learned to regard the Washington Post with the same aculeated skepticism I apply to The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The Toronto Star, Le Monde, The Huffington Post, Salon, The Nation, MSNBC, the BBC, the CBC and innumerable other news fabricators and sectarian opinionators, including Fox News. All of these, of course, have taken bitter and often venomous exception to Trump, both the man and the campaign.
Additionally, the problem, as we all know, is the nature of presidential campaigns that require enormous infusions of cash. They are to a large and distressing extent essentially money games. That is why the candidates, whether Democrat or Republican, are almost inevitably beholden candidates, responsive not only or even to the electorate and the nation but to their deep-pocket donors. They come shackled by the favors they owe their financial backers. Trump, on the other hand, has financed his own campaign and is not in thrall to individuals, groups or organizations whose needs and demands rival and perhaps eclipse those of the nation. Unlike every other candidate on either side of the political divide, Trump is favor-free. And for that, he cannot be forgiven. That is one of the paramount reasons his detractors and adversaries feel he must be stopped at any cost. He cannot be controlled.
Even though there are several aspects of Trump’s program that I cannot endorse — his stand on eminent domain is one of them — and I could wish, as his daughter Ivanka suggested, that he act at times more “presidential” and run a smarter, less belligerent campaign, he is in my estimation the only contender who has shown the courage to confront the range of genuine threats to American cohesion: political correctness, economic implosion, the borderless southwest, and Islamic terrorism and subversion in all its protean forms. The other major figures in the nomination races simply do not measure up to his chutzpah, his indifference to breaking taboos and his disdain for mealy-mouthed propriety.
Let’s face it. Sanders is a radical socialist who would bankrupt the country ASAP — it would shortly feel the burn. Hillary is an Alinsky disciple, a serial liar and political incompetent, no different from Barack Obama. Marco Rubio is a nice guy with a spotty record, who is anyway out of the game. John Kasich, who is pro-amnesty, anti-gun and pro-Common Core, may as well be running for the Democrats. And Ted Cruz in self-contradictory fashion signed on to the disastrous Corker bill giving Obama a free hand in pursuing his agendas, especially in facilitating Iran’s nuclear ambitions and virtually assuring an impending Middle East holocaust.
The press, a preponderance of commentators and the RINO constabulary are ganging up on Trump, whom they see as a runaway train that must be derailed. He is certainly gathering speed and momentum on a track of his own gauge. If one wants to use the train metaphor, then I’d have to say that the other candidates variously resemble toy trains, some with powerful shadow figures operating the switches, others with only a table-top presence compared to Trump’s rumbling carriage.
None of the contenders are ideal, and some are infinitely worse than others. All are flawed beings. No doubt this has always been the case—including the Camelot Kennedy whose celebrity belied his abilities and the sainted Reagan who flinched in Lebanon, was lukewarm on Israel, and found himself entangled in scandals of his own making. No candidate has ever been a high speed express. But as trains go, Trump’s the best we’ve got.