Those who suffer the handicap, like myself, of having a Ph.D and writing for a living—the kind of people who actually sit in bars discussing, for example, Eric Voegelin’s injunction against “immanentizing the eschaton” (there’s a reason Voegelin devotees don’t get dates, and it’s not hard to figure out)—don’t understand that one reason for Trump’s appeal is that to a great many Americans he talks like they do—in sentence fragments, summary emotive thoughts, and imprecise terms. He’s the first prominent political figure in a long time who doesn’t use the certified official vocabulary and public demeanor of the political class. This, as much as anything, makes him anathema to the denizens of the Acela corridor. (Aside: I rode the Acela from Washington to New York not long ago, and had forgotten how precious—as in ludicrous—and utterly unreal are most of the conversations you overhear.)
That’s one theory anyway. Another is to recall the way Mitt Romney in 2012 “spoke conservatism as a second language,” Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg put it (there’s some dispute as to which of them came up with that observation first, but never mind). One of the Juice Voxers, as I call them, pointed out yesterday that Trump gets into the most trouble when he tries to talk conservative:
What the hell is a “Second Amendment person”?
It’s not a phrase gun rights supporters typically use to describe themselves. As often as not, it’s used by gun control advocates to characterize their opponents as wackos. But in the way Donald Trump used it on Tuesday, you might think he intended it as a compliment. . .
Trump still hasn’t really learned how to speak conservative. At best, he just repeats key phrases; at worst, he unleashes some mutated monstrosity, like a conservative talking point that had survived and evolved for generations underground. . .
The problem with treating Donald Trump as the conservative id, though, is that Trump isn’t a conservative. He’s not saying things he believes because he doesn’t know he’s not supposed to say them; he’s saying things he doesn’t believe because he thinks other people do.
This is a rare piece of insight from the Juice Voxers, and worth pondering whether we know exactly what Trump believe. My old mentor M. Stanton Evans liked to joke that “the CDC has determined that conservatism can’t be spread by casual contact.” Trump appears to be the reverse Typhoid Mary of this phenomenon. Or maybe Trump just needs some bi-lingual training?
If you want further evidence, take in this five-minute greatest hits compilation: