I’ve been waiting for Harvey Mansfield to offer up his considered judgment about Donald Trump, which he does today in the Wall Street Journal. One reason for this curiosity is not just that he’s Harvey-Freakin’-Mansfield, but because I still recall his terrific takedown of Ross Perot in The New Republic back in 1992 (not available online unfortunately), and figured that there might be similiarities. Here’s an excerpt from his Perot article:
Neither a visionary nor a spellbinder, Perot is a matter-of-fact demagogue of the center with contempt for the parties on both wings that create the center. Although he has more political experience behind the scenes than he lets on, he has never held public office of any kind, whether appointed or elected. Other American presidents have come from outside partisan politics–Dwight Eisenhower the most recent–but they at least were generals with experience of public responsibility and public accountability. Perot is a businessman with experience in dodging the government or using it. To him, government is either an obstacle or an instrument, deriving no respect in itself for having been constituted by a free people. He calls it the “Establishment,” a term bequeathed to our political speech by the lovable late ’60’s. And who wants to defend the Establishment or the system that sustains it?
Sounds a little like Trump, doesn’t it? Today’s article, however, considers Trump’s challenge to political correctness, and reflects Mansfield’s interest in the subject of “manliness,” the subject of a book about 10 years back. Here’s the conclusion of “Why Trump Is No Gentleman”:
It isn’t that he cares about a cause, but as a demagogue he loves to be loved, and as a vulgar man he has an affinity for whatever is vulgar. Incapable as he is of appreciating the gentleman, Mr. Trump earns the disdain of the promoters of gender neutrality. Mr. Trump’s resistance to political correctness, however, has the coarseness of a male. Or what used to be the coarseness of a male. Now that women are practicing to swear like sailors, Mr. Trump is a reminder of male superiority in the department of vulgarity. Surely no woman would have run his campaign.
Those of us who hanker for the return for some part at least of the gentleman are in a fix. We are caught between distaste for a man who is not a gentleman and dislike of the political correctness that he so energetically attacks—yet whose effect he illustrates.