Trump's Misdemeanors vs. Hillary's Felonies
Early in November 2015, when the 2016 election was still an over-populated free-for-all, I had lunch with a friend who is a member of an endangered species: the conservative, "Scoop Jackson" Democrats. They are very thin on the ground these days, and are vanishingly rare in public life. But once upon a time these patriotic, unashamedly pro-American Democrats provided a life-giving current of realism and sanity to their party. They were strong on defense, pro-labor but also pro-prosperity, and they tended to regard their Republican counterparts not as enemies but as colleagues with whom they had differences of opinion or strategy.
As I say, such Democrats are all but extinct today, especially in the corridors of power. My well-connected friend is almost as aghast as I am at the Democrats' lurch to the hard, identity-politics Left. He could not muster any enthusiasm for my candidate — Ted Cruz — but he was not flattering about the two Democratic contenders, either. Bernie Sanders he regarded as insane and Hillary Clinton — whom he knows well — he regarded with that visceral distaste that only close personal acquaintance can impart.
At the time, Ted Cruz seemed to be doing well — my how appearances can be deceiving! — and already there were troubling stories about Hillary Clinton's health. I said that I doubted she would be up to the rigors of the campaign, but he replied: she won't need to campaign. She will win the primary and then the election by acclamation.
"Er, ah," I said, or words to that effect. I didn't believe a word of it. Now I am not so sure.
A year ago, I thought that a growing, cross-party impatience with the self-serving Washington establishment would usher in a candidate of change. I favored Ted Cruz, but I understood those making the case for Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and even, on the other side, those making the case for Bernie Sanders. Yes, he was insane and his policies were (in my view) preposterous, but he was the understandable mouthpiece for a certain species of populist revulsion. Why, just to take one issue, should the presidency of the United States be a prize that rotated among the Bushes and the Clintons?
That said, I wasn't surprised that Hillary won the nomination. The Clinton machine is a formidable thing, and of course she commanded a bottomless supply of money.
Still, I have been surprised at the evolution of this campaign. I made my peace with Donald Trump at the Republican convention. Trump's continuing erratic behavior (the business about Ted Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald was especially bizarre) caused me intermittent pangs of regret. But as the weeks passed I found my position on Trump changing.
At first, I supported him chiefly because he was not Hillary Clinton, whom I regard as a thoroughly corrupt candidate. But as Trump's campaign evolved, I found myself supporting more and more of his announced policies — not everything: that silly wall, for example, or his plan to make me pay for other people's child care.
But I like his list of candidates for the Supreme Court. I like his tax plan. I like his energy policy. I like his pro-growth orientation. I like his plans to rebuild the U.S. military. I like his plans to reduce onerous regulation. I like his recognition that the inner cities are petri dishes of civic pathology. I like his determination to enforce our immigration laws. I like his realism about the threat of Islamic terrorism. I've laid out my thoughts about all this a few times, here, for example, and here.
At the end of the day, however, I like Trump not just because I support many of his of his announced policies. No, its something more general that undergirds my support. It's his unvarnished pro-American stance. "Make America Great Again" may sound corny. But we have had nearly eight years of a president who hates this country and has done everything in his power to make us poorer, less secure, and to expose us everywhere to the contempt of the international community. It is a breath of fresh air to behold a candidate who is unapologetically pro-American, who wants this country to be richer, freer, more secure. I like that.
But back to the idea that Hillary's coronation will essentially be a matter of acclamation by the powers that be.