Can Trump lead us out of bandage ... er, bondage?It is Trump's proactive stance, not his outrageous views, that make him popular
by T.J. Nelson
o some, the glowing admiration that Trump's supporters have for their idol is a confounding mystery. They point out that his positions seem too fluid, his conservatism too recent, and his tendency to shoot from the hip too dangerous. But to others he looks like Moses leading us to the Promised Land. How to explain it?
No matter where they are—in Europe, the UK, or America—the biggest trap a party can fall into is becoming complacent.
The most extreme form of complacency is reactionism. But there are lesser degrees, like a party that rarely proposes anything new and never plans ahead. Complacent politicians wait until the opposition does something, then oppose it, always putting themselves in the defensive. So they get either get picked off one by one or a disaster happens and they're blamed for not acting, and they're deposed all at once.
I am not saying the GOP is reactionary. It is nowhere near being reactionary, but it has become too reactive, almost as if it's living in the past.
There's a myth that valuing the past is what conservatism is all about. It is not, but like any myth, there's some truth to it, because some traditions of the past are indeed worth preserving. But with all necessary deference to the great Russell Kirk: the French aristocracy, Communism, and the traditions of outdoor plumbing, endless tribal warfare, and the Black Death also represent the past, yet no conservative ever pines for them.
I got criticized a couple months ago for criticizing the RFRA, but the hard truth is this: the RFRA was in conflict with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The “public accommodation” clause in the Act was an unexploded bomb that had been sitting in our legal system for fifty years. Goldwater warned us about it, but nothing was done. The Left waited until one of their own was in the White House, and then pounced. Now religious liberty has suffered a setback and we're on the defensive. In war, defense has a ten-to-one advantage. In politics, it doesn't.
Christopher Hitchens once called G.K. Chesterton a reactionary. But even this doesn't make it something to aspire to. Reactionism is not an ideology (even though these guys seem to think it is), but a failure of ideology. The GOP is not there yet, but as it becomes more complacent, it loses touch with its core values and finds itself reacting, always fighting rear-guard actions.
The only way out of the trap is to find leaders who are proactive rather than reactive. Today, that is more difficult than ever. Saying something the news media doesn't want to hear can cost you your corporate sponsorship. Only a supremely wealthy person is immune from this. The Left's tactics have laid the groundwork so that only a John Pierpont Morgan or a Donald Trump can risk showing leadership.
It may be that only a showman can thrive in today's hostile political world. The more the commentators attack him without making him surrender, the stronger he appears. What doesn't kill his campaign makes it stronger.
But it is his proactive stance, not his seemingly outrageous views, that make Trump popular. No one would be arguing about what the 14th Amendment really means if not for Trump. Nor would we be nattering about where blood comes out of. Ironically, silly ideas get more attention than profound ones, which is probably why we're not all at home studying Parmenides.
Whatever his faults, standing behind one's outrageous statements, as if one has the courage of his convictions, is a form of leadership. He even has his own Burning Bush. So maybe the analogy to Moses is not so far-fetched.
But at the very least he has reinvigorated the GOP and pulled them out of the trap of reaction. We are drowning in a Red Sea. Conservatives are hoping he'll part it.
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