The whole Donald Trump political phenomenon, culminating (so far) in last Thursday night’s Fox News GOP presidential debate, has the American political class in a tizzy and his opponents in a quandary. For that alone we ought to thank him. No matter the hair, the harangues, or the heresy, none of it seems to matter as Trump’s standing in the polls continues to defy accepted political gravity.
While the media keeps insisting that this is only the “Silly Season”, and The Coiffed One will tumble eventually, even his debate take down of Fox News darling Megyn Kelley last Thursday hasn’t taken the pink from his political cheeks. And previous barrages against Mexicans and John McCain he now wears like political battle ribbons. Everyone keeps wondering how the Big Bluster can remain atop the heap of what is considered the best class of GOP candidates in recent memory.
On Monday, Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin asked, ‘if it’s such a strong field, and he’s so weak, why isn’t it any Republican overtaking him?”
Might it be suggested that the issue/problem isn’t the Trumpster, as such, isn’t the great field of candidates, isn’t the political mainstream’s dislike. The Trump ascendancy — like that of his Democratic counterpart Bernie Sanders — has risen out of the disaffections in America circa 2015. That alone should give us pause. For when the usual complement of political assets: experience, likability, collegiality, well-modulated argument, get Trumped by bluster and bullying, what we have is a political reflection of a nation on the defensive, one putting on its bark as it senses the loss of its bite.
People have become more sensitive, rubbed raw, feeling pressed. They are keeping a closer inspection of perceived slights. Comics don’t do colleges anymore, too PC. But how much longer do we keeping spouting ‘everyone is a winner’, where grade inflation and social advancement are seen as educationally worthy, and celebrity lacquers the culture in a shiny, vacuous veneer? Who was it that said, “people get the government they deserve?”
So welcome to the show. That’s what The Donald calls it, btw, “The Show”, as in “who do you think they came to watch, Jeb Bush?”. In a world of growing uncertainty and relativism, of collapsing boundaries,Trump steps onto the stage abso-effing-certain about everything! He knows who the losers are, and how to make America great again. The world isn’t complex, it’s that simple.
Don’t dismiss how attractive a life-support that is for those who feel the underpinnings of their world going all liquid around them, whose mortgage is underwater and job is overseas.
America is increasingly disaffected from its political class, whether Dems or Repubs doesn’t matter. It’s all variations on the same themes: government grows, debt skyrockets, and the middle class erodes. So Trump is the political expression of Moe with a two-finger poke in the eye to all the Larry and Curlys of the established order, ready and able to knock some heads, and with enough money to bankroll his boisterous challenge without compromise or care.
With fewer and fewer people feeling connected to the established order, he’s their guy, no matter what the insiders hope or try to manufacture in the way of consent to the contrary. But Trump isn’t the problem, per se. He’s just the symptom.