Everybody is talking about Donald Trump, the master of political jujutsu. At this point he seems to the deeply-entrenched political and media classes like Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. All of their givens and conventional wisdoms are being cast to the winds. Trump doesn’t play by their rules and is prospering as a result. At least so far.
After I wrote those lines, I read on Politico this Limbaugh analysis which pretty much agrees with my reading of the situation:
RUSH: Okay, where are we on the situation here with Trump and the debate? So far Trump says he’s not showing up. He claims he’s not showing up because Megyn Kelly is going to continue to be a moderator. And if you believe that, I can give you substantive reasons. And it’s all in The Art of the Deal. Trump is not that hard to understand if you pay attention to him and read his books. In The Art of the Deal, one of the things that he makes a huge deal about is being able to know when to walk away and have the guts and the courage to do it.
Trump is so far outside the formula that has been established for American politics that people who are inside the formula can’t comprehend it. They don’t understand why somebody would want to venture so far outside it, because it is what it is, and there’s a ladder of success that you have to climb. And somebody challenging it like this in more ways than one, as Trump is doing, has just got everybody experiencing every kind of emotion you can: They’re angry, they are flabbergasted, they’re shocked, they’re stunned — and all of it because he’s leading.
Everything he’s doing goes against the book. Everything that any analyst or consultant or professional would tell you not to do, Donald Trump is doing it, and he’s leading the pack. This creates its own set of emotions and feelings and thoughts that run from person to person. Now, the political business, if you want to look at it that way, is like any other business. It has its people who are considered the elites in it — and like any business, they hate outsiders. They don’t want outsiders just storming in trying to take over, and much less succeeding at it.
Like any group of elites, they’re exclusionary.
They want to keep people out.
They want to be in charge of who gets in the club. They want to be in charge of who’s allowed to rise or climb the ladder in the club. Politics is no different, and all of those determinations are made by who gets money and who doesn’t. But Trump is functioning totally outside this structure that has existed for decades. As such, the people who are only familiar with the structure and believe in it and cherish it and want to protect it, feel threatened in ways that you can’t even comprehend. So that leads them to try to figure out: How is all this working for Trump? Why do his followers grow? Why does his support expand every time he busts a rule wide open?
You have to go back to Huey Long and his share-the-wealth populist movement in the 1930s to find a figure that has so spurred party establishments into opposition. FDR considered Long a rival to General Douglas MacArthur as the most dangerous man in the country. MacArthur was beloved by conservatives, less so by the party machinery. If he hadn’t been amassing a huge fortune advising the Philippines government on military matters, he could have done the kind of conventional horse-trading and politicking back home needed to climb the ladder. He had a Trump-size ego that led him to believe God meant him not just to lead a great army but the nation itself. American Caesar is what William Manchester called him in the biography he wrote. Dwight Eisenhower said the lofty MacArthur did not have a staff so much as a court of lackeys. The people of Louisiana were freed from the long rule of an aristocratic elite by the election of Long, a man of the people whose political appeal to the rest of the country worried Roosevelt because he was out-promising the Democrats. He wanted a cap on personal wealth with the surplus going to public works and public welfare, a limit on incomes, free college education and a number of other modern-sounding reforms. If you think today’s politics are hardball, look at the Depression era. FDR survived an assasination attempt that killed the mayor of Chicago. A couple of years later, political opponents succeeded in killing Long.
It has been a long time since an attempt has been made on the life of a political leader, but they are recurrent earthquakes in American history, and today’s atmosphere has been made more poisonous by Barack Obama and his all too obvious disdain and contempt for Republicans and others who challenge his ideas. Obama has done his damage and it is unlikely he will be the target of some deranged crackpot. In any event, Democrats are responsible for almost all of the political violence in this country:
Trump is another question, a deeply polarizing figure who represents the super-wealthy in the minds of the left, the crass embodiment of an economic system that sees ever greater wealth consolidated in the hands of a very few. Yet the disappearing middle class, the Silent Majority that Nixon was so successful in mobilizing, sees Trump as their champion. He will arrest the decline in their fortunes, make America stand tall again, and end the Obama vision of a Uriah Heep nation that must always be dry-washing its hands and begging your pardon. We wouldn’t see a President Trump bowing to foreign potentates as Obama did on the Apology Tour . You wouldn’t see a President Cruz or a President Rubio abasing themselves on our behalf either. But neither are quite the showman that Trump is. You have to go back to P.T. Barnum (“There’s a sucker born every minute”) to find his equivalent.
To continue my account of our house repair misfortunes, the new copper pipe the plumber installed leaks and the guys who got the dryer going again—the grounding wire in the attic had popped loose or something—damaged the threshold of the door wrestling it back inside and it will need repairing. There is something very disheartening about seeing a pickup truck in the driveway.