by N. A. Halkides 10/22/16
That Donald Trump is a divisive figure is a truism that would have no need of utterance except that it matters very much exactly what groups are divided about him. The electorate is divided over him, which was inevitable; the Republican Party, already undergoing a civil war before he showed up on the scene, is divided over him, which is a positive good; the Conservative movement is divided over him, and that spells real trouble for the movement’s future. It is this last division that concerns us here, and I would like to enquire as to its precise cause and likely consequences. (More on the GOP Civil War here; some comments from the ST regulars on Trump’s potential damage to party and country here).
The Conservative division appears to arise from vastly different assessments of Trump’s moral stature and finds expression in equally different assessments of his likely brand of politics (for no one can state with certainty exactly what Trump would do if elected). It’s not simply his overt behavior: all of us are disturbed by his crude descriptions of women and some of his sexual escapades. It goes deeper than that, with one group seeing him as a decent man who means to fix what’s wrong with America even if he doesn’t know exactly what to do and who are going to vote for him with at least a modicum of enthusiasm (we’ll call them “supporters”), and another group (we’ll call them “detractors”) seeing him as the worst Republican candidate of all time, perhaps even a Democratic stalking horse trying to throw the election to Hillary Clinton, morally repugnant and almost the antichrist. (Indeed, there have been some actual discussions about whether Trump really is the antichrist, although not at ST). It’s as if there are two different Donald Trumps walking the earth.
Although I think I can be objective, I’m not going to pretend to be neutral and I will disclose at the outset I have my feet planted firmly in the first camp. I’ve donated to the Trump campaign (money I could ill afford thanks to “Obamanomics”) and will pull the lever for him in November without the least reservation or holding my nose. Now let’s see if we can explain the two Trumps.
From the beginning, Trump has aroused an almost visceral hatred in many, but I have considered most of this group to be pure Establishment or unorthodox Libertarian and suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). Many of the NRO staff fall into this category. To maintain that Trump is some sort of incipient führer or even that he would be somehow worse in office than Hillary Clinton (in terms of what he would actually do, not his future effect on the Republican Party or the Conservative movement) seems to me to require an actual break with the facts of reality disturbingly close to the degree where psychiatric care is needed. And yet perhaps Trump’s Conservative detractors see Trump the same way the GOPe does. When I began writing this, I was sure I could eventually see the (Conservative) detractors’ point of view even though I didn’t agree with it, but now I don’t know. Let me explain what I see when I look at Trump, and then pose a question for his detractors.
To begin with, I didn’t start out with any pro-Trump bias. I hate reality TV and the culture of celebrity, never watched his show, and considered his occasionally-expressed opinions on the economy of little value since I figured he knew the New York real estate market but not much else about economics (this is probably still true, but beside the point now). But as the campaign season progressed, I saw no real ambition in the man, no lust for power so characteristic of the Democrats, no desire to bask in the perks of office so characteristic of the Republicans. It seemed to me that a very wealthy man at the age of seventy, if not corrupted by personal ambition (as the equally-aged Hillary Clinton most certainly is), seeking public office must at least intend to do good. If Trump had some base motive in running for President, what could it possibly be? No doubt some ego is involved here, or that Trump overestimates his limited capabilities, or that good intentions are not enough to be a good President, but that he intends to be a champion of America and her people I have no doubt. It would be some ego that would prefer in old age the stresses of the Presidency to a quiet life of luxury!
What do I see when I look out onto the political battlefield? Trump is beset on all sides with the Democratic media and now even a good part of the GOPe (which earlier had mostly decided it would simply cut a deal with him) eager to stab him in the back. It’s rather ridiculous to say that “Trump brought all this on himself” with some crude comments made over a decade earlier, when if Republicans were not so spineless and not so willing to lose the Presidency in November they could have simply refused to comment on this piffle of a “scandal” and it would probably have died out in two or three days. The house is on fire and they’re complaining about some crude remarks the fireman who’s coming to their rescue made over ten years ago while sitting around the firehouse? Instead of keeping quiet, many fueled the flames by being quick to publicly disown him, thus aiding the enemy by keeping the story alive – and still Trump battles on, against them, against millions of government dependents who will automatically pull the “D” lever no matter what, against a culture corrupted by Leftism, against Democratic vote fraud.
I would not have chosen Trump as my champion. Without a consistent Conservative philosophy he has no reliable guide to policy, and yes, I would have preferred someone whose view of women was not at about the level of a fourteen-year-old’s. And yet Trump understands, however imperfectly, that the American people are plagued with a ruling class that seeks wealth and power for themselves and that has betrayed their trust. In the end, Trump is not part of that ruling class; he’s on our side and is fighting for us in a way no other candidate except possibly Cruz would have. If elected, his policies will be a mixed bag, but if he avoids an amnesty for illegal immigrants he will do no permanent damage to Conservatism, for there is no such movement as “Trumpism” to be afraid of.
It seems to me that Trump detractors have allowed their personal loathing of Trump to cloud their judgment so that some apparently consensual groping is now inflated into “sexual assault”; so that Trump’s unfortunate support of eminent domain abuse (you think Hillary is better?) makes him a fascist; so that every misstep is held to be the product of a reprobate soul; so that Trump’s primary season voters, who objectively did no worse than make an innocent error in preferring Trump over Cruz, must in their view be either morons or degenerates.
And so my questions to the Trump detractors: If your judgment is not beclouded, how can your Donald Trump be so different from ours? How is it that we, his supporters, can see quite clearly the man’s many failings, yet you can detect no trace of valor in him as he fights against the malignant evil of the Clintons and the rest of the Democratic Left? Is your view of the man as all bad really more likely to be true than ours of him as a sadly mixed lot of good and bad?
Win or lose in November there will still be a Conservative movement. Many forces will be arrayed against it, and it is possible that even a united front won’t be enough to win against them. But most assuredly if Conservatives remain significantly divided over Trump and what he represents – if there remain any large number of Trump detractors bent on avenging not Trump’s defeat but his victory in winning the Republican nomination – then we are all lost. I do not think you Trump detractors can convince us Trump supporters that he was the antichrist; for all our sakes, I hope we can persuade you that he wasn’t as bad as you thought.
Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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