Had Donald Trump urinated on Marco Rubio’s podium during the last debate in Houston, it’s possible his support might have intensified. Not grown, but intensified. The rest of the country saw the essence of Donald Trump on full display in Houston: insult, bluster and bombast.
The Trump campaign is an issues-free zone. Sure, he promises to “Make America Great Again,” but never quite says how. We hear that to “Make America Great Again,” he’ll build a wall along the Mexican border. Good idea. But does that make America “great”?
What else? New highway projects? A replacement for the B-52? Make trains run on time? Bread? Circuses?
We just don’t know because Trump doesn’t say. His policy depth reaches its limits when he says “things will be wonderful, great, wonderful. Wonderful and great.”
What about an out-of-control Justice Department? We don’t know a thing about his views there. We know that Ted Cruz has time after time put the thumbscrews to Holder and Obama on Justice Department issues. Trump is silent.
What about the stranglehold the institutional left has over the ministerial federal government? I’m sure Trump supporters think he’ll take care of that, even though he never mentions it and I doubt he knows how.
What about Obamacare? Well on that score it hasn’t been a good few weeks for The Donald since he got caught in a mandate trap.
But do issues and ideology matter to the Trump wave?
It’s almost as if Trump running for president is one big bit. He’s putting us on, showing what suckers Americans have become. And Obama has made it easy for him to play this part. All Trump has to do is sound angrier than Americans are. Americans are angry with a Republican Party that didn’t fight Obama when it should have. What good is Trump when Obama is gone?
Americans are angry about political correctness. Trump’s bit is to play the part as a modern bombastic Archie Bunker, without the slurs and racial animus. He is Norman Lear’s worst fear. Instead of laughing at Archie, Archie leads the polls.
So is all of this one big bit? Is it all an act? Is Trump playing the country with a campaign built around insult and the hollowest of slogans and promises? Has he figured it out, that when a nation is angry because the nation is being transformed, whoever sounds angriest wins?
Surely Trump doesn’t behave this way in private.
Throughout the Obama presidency, culturally conservative Americans were aligned with movement conservatives to oppose the Obama agenda. Together, they scored victories. I saw up close how the anger in the culture about radical Justice Department nominees allowed movement conservatives to channel that fury into blocking Debo Adegbile’s nomination to assistant attorney general. That wasn’t the only victory by far, but it was the one where I saw how this relationship worked between the grassroots and the movement conservatives.
Trump has broken up that relationship. He has stolen the cultural anger at Obama’s transformation and turned it into political momentum — or perhaps customers for his bit.
Trump’s campaign is not based on ideas or ideology. It is based on culture.
Why do some of Trump’s biggest supporters in the conservative media cover the theater of the race instead of the issues facing America? Perhaps Trump is what plants crave. Perhaps Trump has figured out that America is so badly decayed in 2016 that theater matters more than ideas. When will his conservative media supporters do America a favor and start pressing Trump-land on ideas, rather than campaign theatrics?
Maybe Trump knows from history that an enlightened citizenry is a precious and fleeting thing, and when it vanishes, new types of politicians arise. After all, he tells us he went to the “best” school.