The very interesting but anonymous proprietors of the Journal of American Greatness have replied to my post here last week, “Understanding Trump Better Than He Understands Himself?”
Very much worth taking in the whole thing, but here are a couple of highlights:
The estimable Steve Hayward says of us (and more generally about other pro-, or anti-anti-Trump, writers on the right) that he’s “wondering if these interpretations of the Trump phenomenon aren’t trying to understand Trump better than he understands it himself.” He seems to mean it as a criticism—if more of Trump that of us. We won’t presume to speak for any of the others Hayward names. But speaking for ourselves, we say: that’s absolutely what we’re trying to do! Thanks for noticing!
As I say, there’s a lot more here besides the obvious sagacity of finding me “estimable.” I’m having that added to my business cards today. Anyway, underneath the jaunty banter of the Journal’s reply are some serious arguments about whether Trump represents an inflection point in American politics that we ought not to miss, In other words, the ground of the Journal’s enterprise is looking beyond Trump:
Similarly, the root of Trump’s appeal can’t simply be that he’s taking on the establishment. Plenty of pols have tried that, including many in this cycle. Nor can it be his political inexperience or outsider status. Every cycle now includes as a matter of course at least a handful of candidates who see the presidency as an entry level job; this one was no different. Nor can it only be Trump’s willingness to say allegedly outrageous things.
Surely that has helped, the way that showmanship typically does, but far too little is paid to the content of those allegedly outrageous sayings in comparison to the alleged outrageousness itself. The commentariat and the Republican establishment is so deeply opposed to Trump’s message that they can’t admit, even subliminally, that it might be the primary factor in his rise. So instead of considering the simplest explanation for Trump’s popularity, they grope for alternatives while denying that he has a message at all. The very insistence that things so many voters find so sensible are outrageous is but another factor in Trump’s rise—and goes a long way toward explaining why no pol or pundit saw it coming.
Hence our project is less to understand Trump better than he understands himself than it is to understand the times, the necessary next steps, and the electorate better than the current class of professional political thinkers understands any of the three. This has proven less difficult than we anticipated.
The point—we cannot emphasize this enough—is not ultimately about Trump. He may win, he may lose. He may win and then fail in office. Who knows? We certainly don’t claim to.
What we can repeat with confidence is that Trump—and, for the moment, Trump alone—has shown the way toward renewal or rebirth. Perhaps of the Republican Party. Or perhaps of a new party. Perhaps of America as currently constituted. Or perhaps of something else. However incoherent or unprepared he may be, on the biggest issues facing the nation right now, he is right—or closer to right, when he speaks rightly—and all his enemies and rivals are wrong.
Good stuff. My only follow up for now is: When are you Trans-Trumpers (heh) going to come out of the closet? (Double-heh. Especially since I’m pretty sure I know exactly who you are.) Does someone need to start a self-help support group, Trumpers Anonymous? Do we need to have a code phrase, like “Are you a friend of Dorothy?”