by G. Murphy Donovan (May 2016)

“One picture is worth a thousand denials”- Ronald Reagan

In any other election year, at this point in the primaries, party leaders would be rallying around the front runners in the name of unity. 2016 is no ordinary year. Hillary Clinton’s coronation has been a bumpy ride thanks to Bernie Sanders. Nonetheless, short of a federal indictment, Mrs. Clinton will probably be the liberal standard bearer come November. The Democrat Party will be running under the “business as usual” banner too. Their campaign slogan might well be: “If you liked Bill and Barack, you will love Hillary.”

In contrast, the Donald Trump phenomenon, under a Republican guideon, is nothing short of revolutionary. Trump defies the pundits, the prognosticators, both parties, the conventional wisdom, and the politically correct at every turn. He has redefined candor and the notion of outsider. Trump is reviled by the establishment press and entrenched political hacks on both sides of the political divide. Neither left nor right, neither liberal nor conservative; Trump is anathema to the American nomenclatura, and still wildly popular with many American voters. Indeed, the Republican front runner seems to have redefined “high negatives” as a virtue.

Trump is running on a telling theme. He wants to give America back to democracy and the hoi polloi

Trump’s boast that he will help make “America great again” touches the G Spot of national angst. The emphasis is on the conjunctive adverb, implying that America is not what she once was or could be. Such candor is fraught with peril and possibility. 

Verily, people are fed up with the smug condescension and pandering of both political parties. Voters are also fed up with a special interest oligarchy which finances American political elitism. The “pay to play” ethic perfected in the Clinton years may have reached its sell-by date. The electorate is also fed up with the cooked books of national security threats and all those small wars with no objectives save bigger defense budgets. A popular vote on “humanitarian intervention” and “regime change” doctrines is long overdue. A popular vote on immigration, especially from Muslim nations, is timely too. Trump challenges the conventional wisdom on these and many other fronts.

Ironies here are not lost on the lumpen proletariat. A belief that only an oligarch like Trump will do battle with entrenched political elites seems to underwrite the new American populism. Trump raises the specters of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt simultaneously. The Republican Party was begun by the Lincoln revolution. Trump has donned the mantel of parvenu iconoclast.

Combined primary votes for Sanders and Trump may be an augury of things to come. When Bernie Sanders returns to maple syrup country, the angst vote on the left may swallow hard and stay home – or vote for Trump. Either way, none of those possibilities is good news for the Clintons.

With Hillary, you know what to expect. With Trump, there is more than a possibility of real change. Clinton is stasis or yesterday’s news. Trump is the uncertain, yet sure to be messy, future.

The differences between Clinton and Trump couldn’t be more obvious. America cannot believe what Hillary says, just as it seldom hears many of the things that Trump says. The choice here is between mainstream mendacity and a novel variety of brutalist candor. Trump might be a bitter pill, but sick nations, like critical patients, often have to die a little before they get better.

If character matters, there is no comparison between the candidates, especially if the issue is family values. The ongoing Clinton soap opera speaks for itself. Who with a pinch of conscience would vote to give Bill a third run at White House interns? No woman who votes for the Clintons thrice dares call herself a feminist.

Trump, in contrast, is replete with family values. Indeed, he has three families, all of which seem content. Any man who has navigated three wives without major casualties has mastered the art of the deal. Trump doesn’t smoke, drink, or use drugs either. All of his wives and children are well above average – and photogenic. What’s not to like?

Nevertheless, Donald Trump is still somewhat of a pariah, a personification of political shock therapy. America has been hit by a stun gun. Political elites, the media, and a good percentage of the “progressive” populace are apoplectic about Trump’s candor and candidacy. While the left has misgivings about Trump, the American right is contemplating seppuku.

Withal, Donald Trump, warts and all, is not a public enemy. The golems for both parties in 2016 are stasis and apathy. Even Sanders’ Democrats recognize the need for a revolution inside the Beltway. Alas, right-of-center Republican Party drones do not want Trump – or change. In fact, ideological recidivists are especially obstreperous. The Republicans have a winner on the blocks and so-called “conservatives” can’t take yes for answer. Poseurs like George Will would rather see Clinton III, instead taking a flyer on a populist pragmatist like Trump.

If the truth be told, right-of-center demographics, across the board, are in denial. Denial is usually the first stage of grief.

Denial comes in two flavors in 2016. The first tastes like sour grapes, the unwillingness to recognize Trump’s popularity, potential, or success to date. Trump was a winner as a businessman and now he is now a winner as a national candidate. Like it or not, these are inconvenient truths. Trump leads the pack and will probably get the nomination if momentum and votes are probative.

A second form of denial is the ongoing attempt by party insiders to circumvent democracy and the will of voters, the attempt to deny Trump the nomination and deny the wisdom of crowds. Shame! Here we see a pernicious effort, mostly on the far right, to thwart the wishes of a voting majority by machinations large and small. Any successful anti-Trump shenanigans by convention regulars in 2016 amounts to playing Russian roulette with all chambers loaded. 

There are three large stakes in 2016: the American future, the White House, and the Republican Party. The Trump train is about to leave the station. Activists can get on board or be left to grieve over a failed party that became the enemy of new blood and new ideas.

Lincoln was reviled before and after his election only to be redeemed by war and martyrdom. Teddy Roosevelt was literally a bull in a china shop, attacking his own class interests to make his mark. Reagan was mocked as a dunce, yet changed the bipolar world by creating an anti-totalitarian revolution – without firing a shot we might add. The most effective leaders are usually populists. Picture Mount Rushmore.

If Republicans ignore or deny the will of the people in 2016 and dump Trump, the party of Lincoln will surely be the second casualty.

First published in the American Thinker.


G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.


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