March 24, 2016

Observations on a Trump Rally, Dayton Ohio

These are a few observations and personal reflections about the Trump Rally on March 12th in Dayton Ohio – the rally at which a protester, Thomas DiMassimo, charged the stage.  While I was there, I didn’t actually see the attack.  The event was held in a large aircraft hangar and as soon as the commotion started everyone stood on tiptoe to see – which meant that only people very near the stage saw anything.  In any case, there is plenty to say about the event itself.
Above all else, it is more than a little notable that thousands of people would gladly come out and stand on a hard concrete floor, crowded together waiting for hours on end, to watch a presidential candidate who, by any objective standards, is no great orator.  Trump likes to say there is “alot of love” at his rallies, and from his perspective he is right.  The man is a political rock star.  He doesn’t get polite applause – ever.  He gets a deafening roar of solidarity.  I saw several people who had obviously come to disrupt his speech simply lose heart and slink back through the crowd to quietly leave.  I did not, by the way, see one of them impeded or threatened.  It is fair to say that Trump supporters are angry, but it is unfair to say they are a mob.  Having been to many Tea Party events where the average age was probably close to sixty, it was refreshing to see a large turnout of people in their twenties and thirties.  I’m not going to say the crowd was a perfect mirror of the latest US census in racial terms, but frankly I am sick of caring.  There were Asians and Latinos here and there.  There were a scattering of blacks, some of whom had actually not come to shout the speaker down.  I didn’t get any sense that anyone who honestly came to listen was unwelcome.
The event really had two salient features.  The first was Trump’s own rambling, off-the-cuff, idiosyncratic stump speech.  The second was the premeditated, periodic interruptions of protesters.  I can fairly say that most of the protests were little conspiracies in themselves because when someone either raised an inflammatory sign or shouted some self-righteous obscenity, there were almost always two or three others in support, ready to capture the event on their cell phone cameras.  The goal, I suppose, was either to become heroes on YouTube or to get extra credit in their multicultural empowerment studies classes.  These people were not beaten or pushed, but ushered off with swift efficiency by the Secret Service.  Usually they went out peaceably and smiling, though one young gentleman left throwing mock punches at the crowd, and hooting like an ape.  I am sorry, but I actually witnessed this.  Most of the protesters I saw were white college-age males with furry faces and glasses – not that I want to be accused of profiling.  Without talking to them, I admit I have no idea with what race or gender they actually identified.  I retain a measure of sympathy for the blind idealism of youth, but it is strained pretty thin when it is treading on someone else’s freedom of speech.  Trump supporters have not performed such antics at Bernie Sanders rallies.
The content of Trump’s speech was an amalgam of things I’ve already heard him say, with a few hard jabs at Governor Kasich who was, of course, Trump’s major competitor in the state.  Not very many thoughtful people like all of Trump’s message, but there is much there to like if you give him a fair hearing.  Trump’s genius is simply to state obvious things that all of the other candidates have been too straitjacketed by consultants and donors to say, and he says these things over and over again to the delight and reassurance of his supporters.  We need a real border.  Muslim immigration is a risky proposition.  Trade deals should be made for economic rather than political reasons.  This makes Trump a reincarnation of Hitler – really?  I looked hard, but did not see the little mustache. 
To be honest, I am truly bothered when Trump reaffirms his advocacy of torture.  Sometimes I wonder if I am ready to vote for a man who does such a good imitation not of Hitler – but of Tony Soprano.  He thinks that we should reinstate waterboarding and worse, on the argument that ISIS is unconstrained by moral qualms and our constraints make it impossible for us to fight them effectively.  George Orwell said it with a bit more eloquence: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  There is some truth to this species of argument – made all the more credible by the Obama administration’s anemic suggestion that the way to defeat ISIS is to somehow raise employment levels in the Middle East.  I think that torture will always happen in war, and in certain cases really is the lesser of two evils, but I have a problem with introducing it as a legally sanctioned instrument of the government of a republic.  I fear that what is done to terrorists today may be done to ordinary criminals tomorrow, and, eventually, to people who just hold politically unpopular views.  It bothers me.  I worry.  It does not end my support for Trump, however.
It is not as though the choice we have were Trump or Gerald Ford.  We no longer live in a functioning, rational republic – but a thoroughly degenerate kleptocracy.  Apart from Trump, we have essentially two choices.  On the one hand, we have Bernie Sanders – a comparatively honest ideologue who would have more-or-less the same relationship to the US economy that an iceberg had to the Titanic.  Hasn’t the world tried socialism often enough?  Why should we imagine that, maybe this time, it will not lead to chronic economic lethargy at best – and gulags and totalitarianism at worst.  In answer to my own question, most millenials simply don’t know any real history.  They believe in socialism because they’ve been indoctrinated by a couple of generations of frustrated old radicals.  Socialism has always had a pleasant icing of progress and idealism – it’s the rotten or iron-hard cake underneath that always proves distasteful to digest.  On the other hand, behind the other podiums we have – everybody else.  Cruz supporters will probably fume that I would toss their perfectly-branded hero into the same dirty basket with Hillary Clinton, but ultimately the two associate with the same Council on Foreign Relations, the same Goldman Sachs, and they both went to the same elitist, ultra-liberal universities.  They are both surrounded by similar groups of political consultants to craft their messages for maximum effect and minimum culpability.  They are, in short, just members of different family branches of the same corrupt, inbred, politic class.  Kasich is just an awkward uncle of the family – out of touch and past his prime.  I have ceased to listen to what any of these people say because, frankly, their words are empty.  “Conservative,” from the lips of a politician, means about as much as “racist” from the lips of Melissa Harris-Perry.  It’s a nonsense word used solely for effect.  Political consultants have undoubtedly estimated the fraction of the public who will be seduced by a particular lie, what fraction will check their facts, and if the lie will probably net more votes from suckers than it will lose from fact-checkers – any of these candidates will use it.
There is every reason to believe the mother of all monetary crises lurks just over the horizon.  Running crushing deficits year after year is unsustainable.  An elitist, lying, kleptocratic lawyer versus Tony Soprano with some real world experience and an economics degree?  Is that really a hard choice?  Which is more unpleasant – the human suffering caused by an unchecked economic implosion or the waterboarding of a few terrorists?  The latter does raise risks – the former is all but a certainty.  Trump’s detractors may just wish they had a strongman when the banks collapse again.
The ending of the rally was surprisingly calm and quiet.  When the news cameras were put away, the protestors disappeared.  Trump walked the edge of crowd, smiling and shaking hands.  A small cloud of signs bent in his direction for autographs the way that plants bend toward the light.  He signed a few.  From the side he could barely be seen among his federal bodyguards – standing out only because of his distinctive hair.  It is strange to witness the unlikely fulcrum on which history appears about to pivot.  Tens of millions of people watch and pray.

March 10, 2016

Backhanding the public has consequences

It is bitterly amusing to watch the two party establishments and the miscellaneous talking heads recoil in horror over Donald Trump – as though he were some evil titan that the public’s worst sentiments had conjured up.  If there is anyone to blame for Trump’s spectacular rise, it is the very people who now oppose him the most desperately.  Most real conservatives would have been quite content to vote for a second term of Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich – but we were not given that option.  We were given “Mittens” Romney because, I suppose, it was his turn.  The Washington establishment is upset because many Americans want to see every illegal immigrant in the United States deported?  Perhaps if both parties hadn’t cooperated to all but erase the southern border by effectively nullifying the immigration laws, you and I might be able to find a bit more Christian charity in our supposedly racist little hearts.  People tend to have more compassion for others when it isn’t obvious those others are being imported to replace them.  I don’t hate Spanish-speaking countries – but I would like at least a little say about whether or not I am going to have to live in one.  Moreover, importing 1.5 million Muslims in the wake of 9/11 has to be one of the most irrational public policy decision ever made.  It takes a kind of cultivated blindness to see it as anything else.  A virulent strain of Jihadist terrorism is spreading across the Muslim world – and the reaction of our “best and brightest” is to give Muslims not only admittance, but a kind of “preferred immigrant” status.  That isn’t tolerance – it is sheer contempt for the security of ordinary American lives.  When Trump says he will end these things our enthusiasm is not so much a reflection of our trust in him as it is our justifiable distrust of everyone else.
I used to like Ted Cruz – until I had a cursory look at his background.  Most politicians are in bed with the big banks and the globalists to some degree, but Cruz is the only one I know of who is literally in bed with them – his wife Heidi being a former operative at both Goldman Sachs and the shadowy Council of Foreign Relations.  Neither Goldman nor the CFM are exactly known for their conservative principles or their love for American national sovereignty.  Maybe Ted and his campaigning wife manage, somehow, never to discuss potential public policy but, you know, “I’m just saying...”  While Trump’s New York City is not particularly a bastion of conservative thought, Ted and Heidi’s alma mater, Harvard, doesn’t exactly have direct flights to the Reagan Ranch either.  Sure, Mark Levin gives him a 97% liberty score for his voting record, but it doesn’t fully cover up that underlying elitist odor.  Rubio, Kasich, and the others who have fallen by the wayside hardly seem worth the trouble of mentioning.
We have Donald Trump, the last man standing – and the first in a very long time to actually stand up and speak his mind.  He is everything America ever was – good and bad – all rolled up into one big, beautiful, raucous, uncouth package.  What country but America could have made such a man?  I am tired of apologizing for my country or for him.  It is true that Donald Trump will never write the 21st century equivalent to the Gettysburg address, but we’ve just suffered through seven years of a president who believed he could remake the entire world with the vastly overrated power of his words.  We have nothing good to show for either his eloquence or his ideas.  It is evident enough that behind the amazing shotgun blast of language that comes our of Donald’s mouth there lies that formidable talent that we used to call “American know-how” – that force that built the greatest nation on the Earth before we all learned to be so sensitive that we’re afraid to breathe.  We need a businessman with an economics degree more that we need another passive-aggressive elitist with a law degree.  I’m not going to waste time voting for one more candidate whose obvious goal is to manage America’s decline for the benefit of the current political class.  If we are to fail as a nation and as a people, then by God let us fail standing up and being heard.
Yes, Donald Trump is a big roll of the dice.  What worthwhile president in our history has not been?  And, for better or for worse, the die is already cast.  It is now Trump or nothing.  Conservatives looking for the perfect candidate in 2020 or beyond ought to consider that, if Trump fails, the establishments of both parties will do everything possible to insure that no genuinely popular candidate will ever rise to viability again.  In their spectacular dismissal of public anger, the Trump phenomena has caught both parties by surprise – but the train is leaving the station now.  We have to get onboard and hope for the best.  If we do not get on we may never see another train worth boarding in our lifetimes.  We may not be living in a country with a franchise worth the name.