Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Coming Up Trump

It is a painful thing to have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two unsatisfactory candidates. But that does not mean it is a hard choice.

Strictly speaking, of course, there is another choice or two: there is the Green Party, and there is Gary Johnson. The Libertarian ticket is actually extremely impressive this time around. Nevertheless, unless they climb a lot more in the polls, voting Libertarian looks only like throwing your vote away—the moral equivalent of staying home.

The first requirement in a leader, the sine qua non, is honesty. Lose that in the top tier of government, and welcome to the Third World. Only then comes competence. And only then comes any particular stance on issues. Issues change, and are mostly unpredictable. Most leaders mostly only follow polls and make their political calculations anyway. And presidents are not properly responsible for that; it is the legislature, if anyone remembers.

On honesty, there is no hard choice. Hillary Clinton is the most openly dishonest major candidate at least since Richard Nixon, whom she eerily resembles. Like Nixon, she seems to lie as a matter of general principle, whether or not it is in her own immediate self interest.

This is the mark of a truly mendacious soul. When you have signed on with the Devil’s party, you come to see that general inky darkness is your best protection. As if by instinct you begin to shun the light. You are a person of the lie. Truth, even harmless truth, is the enemy.

If we elect such a person, the consequence is that warned of by Confucius as the greatest danger to good public order: words begin to lose their proper meaning. Nobody any longer says what they think. Terrorism is no longer terrorism. Male no longer means male, nor female female. Right is wrong, and wrong is right.

Okay, granted, this has already largely happened in America. This is what we call “political correctness.” The American elite, its political and social leadership, has already turned down this dark path. And they have done so, I submit, ultimately over the issue of abortion.

But Hillary Clinton would take it all to the next, and deepest level. That is a pit America might well never manage to climb out of.

Now, some will of course respond that Trump is objectively at least as awful a liar as Hillary. Trump steaks? Trump university? He lies often, and obviously. What have we been thinking here?

Sure, Trump lies often. Quite likely as often as Hillary, or more often. But there is a crucial difference here. Clinton lies to deceive. Trump lies as entertainment. Are the tales of Paul Bunyan, or Pecos Bill, lies? Are the tricks of a stage magician lies? Did Shakespeare lie in telling us there was a minor gentleman in Henry IV’s time named Falstaff?

That is the level at which Trump plays; the same level as, in his day, PT Barnum. Call them lies if you like; you are only making yourself the butt of the joke, by thus admitting you believed them.

At a deeper level, the true unshakable source of much of Trump's popular support is precisely his truth telling. In an atmosphere of growing public dishonesty, he is prepared to call a spade a spade. Even, clearly, in situations when this is not, by all conventional wisdom, in his own best interests.

The popular instinct here is a good one.

At this point, all else is already irrelevant. But some might well come back, now, with the point that Clinton is clearly more qualified. Indeed, some say she is one of the best-qualified candidates ever. By comparison, Trump has never even run for public office.

It is true that Clinton has put in the time. But what has she ever done? Yes, she served as Secretary of State. But during her time there, we had Benghazi, the email scandal, and a rapid decline in America’s influence everywhere. Not a reassuring record. Yes, she got herself elected to the senate; but largely, I think, on name recognition. Her great life accomplishment seems to have been marrying well.

So, we have a choice between an unknown quantity, and someone we know is not up to the job. Seems to me that choice is easy, too.

But it is also worth noting that Trump has at least demonstrated the most important skill; and Clinton has demonstrated that she does not have it. The chief value of a president, and his chief job, is as a communicator. The presidency has or ought to have little power to set policy. The president is there mostly to inspire, unify, set the tone, use what is sometimes called "the bully pulpit." Communications skill is what made Reagan successful; it is what made FDR successful; it is what Lincoln had; it is what John Kennedy had.

It is what Hillary obviously hasn’t.

And Trump has done nothing so clearly in the primaries as to demonstrate that he has supernatural, superhuman skill as a salesman, which is to say, a communicator.

Accordingly, there actually seems to be a chance that Trump will be a good president.

Finally, on policy, Trump and only Trump is on the right side of the one most important issue. Abortion. As I say, unrestricted abortion is what has poisoned the well of American public life. The consequences never end. Even if one does not particularly care about publicly sanctioned mass murder, you have to end this before you can do much good anywhere. It is very much like the issue of slavery in the nineteenth century.

I’m with Ted Cruz on this one. The moral path is clear.

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