TRUMP’S A WILD CARD, BUT
HE TOUCHES PEOPLE’S HEARTS
There’s a scene in “The Godfather II” where Michael Corleone is in Cuba to negotiate a big deal and sees a pro-Castro rebel blow himself up with a hand grenade. He relates the experience to fellow mobster Hyman Roth…
Michael: “I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren’t.”
Hyman: “What does that tell you?”
Michael: “They could win.”
Only deep commitment makes such an act possible. Muslim radicals have that; it accounts for the self-sacrifice we’ve witnessed in terrorist fighters and suicide bombers.
On a somewhat less fatal level, I think it’s what’s behind the stunning political success of Donald Trump.
This “self-absorbed, billionaire reality-TV star” (as I’ve called him) has engaged people’s minds. More importantly, he’s captured their hearts. And barring a surprise deal at the GOP convention, or the artful use of voter fraud (in that great tradition of the Democratic Party — Vote early and often!), or a futile third-party effort, he’s likely to be the next President of the United States.
I know all about the polls that show Mrs. Clinton trouncing The Donald by double digits. But while those surveys may reflect the cadre of special interests Hillary has worked so hard to align, they overlook the most potent force in politics: devotion.
Devotion grows out of many things. Religion and patriotism come to mind most readily.
Much has been noted about Trump’s appeal to those who fear the nation is being destroyed by uncontrolled immigration — not to mention the danger that ISIS agents lurk amid the great human tide flooding into our Southwest.
A religious connection is less obvious, since piety is not the most prominent aspect of The Donald’s life. But it may be that, for all Trump’s human weaknesses, people see in his scrappy nationalism and high-spirited flouting of political correctness the last defense of our Judeo-Christian culture.
Trumpsters exhibit a passion for this candidacy not matched in the Clinton camp. The idea of a woman President my prompt a certain sense of anticipation. But there’s no comparing that with, say, Barack Obama in 2008, when excitement about electing the first black President was paralleled by an assumption that this was a really cool guy.
Does anybody think Hillary’s cool?
Ted Cruz, for all his brilliance and maverick courage, was never able to build a constituency larger than a core circle of doctrinally pure conservatives. The broader public listened and nodded their heads when his points made sense to them. But hearts were never touched, devotion never stirred.
Not so Trump. The more outrageous his declarations — and the more bitterly his critics denounce him — the more his support continues to grow. As he has claimed himself…
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
And I think that’s true.
There is currently much weeping and gnashing of elitist teeth about the possibility of Trumpian Fascism. Hollywood types are threatening relocation to Canada should he win (no doubt a boon to the Canadian film industry; the influx of talent may drive down labor costs).
But while I nurse my own misgivings about Trump’s over-the-top stump rhetoric and possible un-presidential behavior in office, I read a lot of history and I find it comforting. Donald Trump is actually not the first wild-card President.
Andrew Jackson, for all his wealth and military success, was widely seen as a crude backwoodsman. That opinion was seemingly confirmed when his moonshine-swilling partisans invaded the White House for a wild inaugural blowout. Likewise, Theodore Roosevelt may have been the “Hero of San Juan Hill,” but many in his own social circle dismissed him as a blowhard, and a pompous ass.
The passage of time would transform Jackson into an icon of Democrat populism (until the modern Left decided that any historical figure who ever owned slaves was irredeemably wicked). Teddy Roosevelt would become known as the great Trust Buster, beloved of Progressives, his face eventually carved onto Mount Rushmore.
In our own time there’s Ronald Reagan. Called a “washed-up actor,” he was thought shallow and stupid. But his wild-card status frightened the Iranians and freed the embassy hostages. In league with Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II, he brought down the “Evil Empire.”
As for devotion, I once attended a black-tie dinner at which Reagan spoke. You should have seen that sophisticated crowd of conservative activists climbing up onto their chairs, weeping and screaming like teenage girls at a Beatles concert.
A friend with whom I lunched recently at Wendy’s (I go to all the best places) captured our present national dilemma perfectly…
“Sure, Trump’s a wild card and we don’t know what he’d do. But we know what Hillary would do.”
I sense that, after Indiana, most of the Never-Trump hold-outs are coming to that view. The high-minded pronouncements about how no one with principles can possibly vote for this “con artist” will fade. Because — once again, barring dirty tricks in the convention or in the polling places — who else are they going to support?
Oh sure, some will choose the 1964, anti-Goldwater option and just sit the election out — thus giving the Democrats their best chance to take back both houses of Congress and shape the Supreme Court for a generation. That’s an approach they need to reevaluate, carefully.
Like Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan too, Donald Trump — that strange, flawed man — has the unaccounted gift for stirring devotion. All we can do is hope that God has granted him this ability for good purposes; that people’s feelings prove well invested; that ultimately their faith is vindicated.
Pray for the nation.
There are all kinds of devotion. Writing on Salon, lefty commentator/cartoonist/activist Walter Bragman makes what he calls “A Liberal Case for Donald Trump.” Bragman sees a Trump presidency as benefitting the progressive cause, since…
“rightly or wrongly, he represents [the GOP brand as well as] America’s crypto-fascist element. The best way to discredit both of these groups is to let them fail on their own. Trump will not succeed as a president.
“On the flip side, if Hillary Clinton screws up by compromising too much (which is likely) or doing too little (also likely), progressivism will take a big hit in the public eye, which is something we cannot afford.”
Exhibiting a sort of back-handed devotion, rapper Azealia Banks has joined a growing number of celebs who aren’t planning a move to Canada should Trump win. She announced her endorsement of The Donald in a colorful, hip-hop sorta way…
“Trump is an a—hole but he’s not been groomed and programmed on some mkultra tip to DO & SAY what the establishment wants him to,” she’s quoted by the Hollywood Reporter. “Trump just wants the U.S to be lavish … for all of us. I can f— with that.”
Well, an endorsement is an endorsement.
Banks paired her support of Trump with a blast at the presumed opposition, noting that Hillary…
“talks to black people as if we’re children or pets.”