The New York Post made a surprise endorsement on Thursday night, but it wasn’t exactly logical. Indeed, the editorial board seemed to be suffering under the same delusions hardcore supporters of Donald Trump entertain.
The Post based its endorsement on the fact that Trump is an accomplished businessman, but that he is also a “rookie” when it comes to politics. They assume he will do a full about-face from the primary to the general. This not only explains Trump’s policy simplicity and angry eccentricities, it excuses them. As the New York Daily News’ Shaun King declares, this “is so sad it’s actually kind of funny.”
The editors of the Post not only expect Trump to change his positions, they advise him on how to do so.
Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot — not just on the issues, but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential: better informed on policy, more self-disciplined and less thin-skinned.
Yet the promise is clearly there in the rookie who is, after all, leading the field as the finals near.
Besides Trump’s astonishing success, the editors of the Post cannot name any concrete goals of his that they actually like. Oh, they find plenty of things they disagree with: pulling U.S. troops out of Japan and South Korea, building a border wall, opposing trade deals without supporting free trade, and Trump’s coarse language and manners.
Nevertheless, Trump must be supported, because “he’s challenging the victim culture that has turned into a victimizing culture.” This is true, but how does it not apply to Ted Cruz? The editors “expect Trump to stay true to his voters,” but not to the positions or the personal style which attracted them in the first place.
Indeed, the publication goes so far as to call The Donald “an imperfect messenger carrying a vital message.” What is that message? It is “the best hope for all Americans who rightly feel betrayed by the political class.”
In the end, the Post trusts Trump because “he has the potential — the skills, the know-how, the values — to live up to his campaign slogan: to make America great again.” It ignores all evidence to the contrary, much of which the editors themselves have mentioned in that very article!
This reminds me of something Jonah Goldberg wrote in National Review in March. The fact that Trump has attracted voters is treated as a justification for his outlandish proposals, even inviting comparisons to Ronald Reagan (who was also widely attacked in the media).
Next Page: Why the Reagan comparisons are completely off-base.
But as Goldberg warns, “Just because some people were wrong about one politician nearly 40 years ago, doesn’t mean completely different people are wrong about a completely different politician four decades later.” Furthermore, Reagan shifted from the liberal side to conservatism decades before running for president, while Trump did it just yesterday.
Goldberg does make a long-term comparison that holds, however, and supporters of Jack Kemp might find it a bit disturbing.
I understand that political junkies are likely to marvel at anything that arouses such political passion. I also understand that politicians have a weakness for anything that inspires the masses. I remember how the sainted Jack Kemp was just a bit too spellbound by Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March, for example.
But what bothers me is the way that this admiration or appreciation bleeds into power-worship. One of the most illuminating aspects of this entire sorry chapter in American history — and it’s not even done yet — is how so many smart people reply to criticisms of Trump with declarations about his popularity and his success.
The desire to be on the winning team often overpowers people’s concerns about what Trump is actually saying. They convince themselves that he can’t really mean what he says, that he is a demogogue who will change positions when it suits him (he is), and that he will end up championing the issues they like and discarding the issues they dislike (this is pandering beyond even his ability).
This thinking is fundamentally dishonest. If you like Trump’s suggestion of building a wall, but dislike his position on trade, you can convince yourself that he will hold to one and not the other, but he cannot pander to everyone in this way. Your fellow Trump supporter may expect The Donald to keep his position on trade, and discard his support for the wall when it suits him. Trump could satisfy you, or he could satisfy your friend. He cannot satisfy both.
People who trust that, deep down, Trump agrees with them — regardless of what The Donald actually says — and will implement the policies they like, but not the ones they don’t like, are delusional. How would he know which parts of his platform to reject, and which to keep? If he isn’t championing what you really believe now, why do you expect he will do so in the future?
You can love Ted Cruz or hate him, but the Texas senator is actually clear on what he supports. John Kasich, who just received the endorsement of former New York Governor George Pataki, is a little fuzzier, but even he actually has a few concrete proposals. The Donald shifts in the political wind, and his supporters actually like that.
Like many Trump backers, the Post admits that The Donald is “a divisive, coarse, amateur,” as New York’s competing newspaper, the Daily News, shot back. The candidate will turn 70 years old this year, and they are expecting him to mature in record time, before the election.
“This endorsement of a man, in spite of himself, for the most powerful position in the world, is a shameful reflection not on what makes America great, but what makes us dumb as hell,” the Daily News‘ Shaun King concludes.
Frankly, I’m inclined to agree with him. If you like what Trump proposes, feel free to support him. But if you — like a broad swath of Americans — find the man grating, his policies simplistic, or his manner immature, then don’t back him just because he seems to be a pandering winner.
At least be honest enough with yourself to admit he’s not your guy.