A Message Will Eventually Find A Messenger
Game of Thrones has ever been an endless fount of quotes on all manner of subjects, such as this one, “You’ve been waiting for him to fail; he’s not going to fail, not without our help”, by Tywin Lannister. This past sentence by the Lannister patriarch can effectively sum up the strategy of the GOP candidates and the party establishment at large ever since Donald Trump announced he was entering the race all those months ago. They would ignore Trump as best they could and wait for him to either lose interest in the race or otherwise self-destruct. No one with any real sense would support the twice-divorced, reality television host with a history of peddling conspiracy theories. Now only two months away from the Iowa caucus, it would appear that strategy has backfired horribly in its originators faces. Trump still leads in the polls, quite commandingly (though first Ben Carson and then Ted Cruz have managed to nip uncomfortably at his heels in the state of Iowa itself, much as Bernie Sanders has done to Hilary Clinton in New Hampshire). More importantly, nearly 70% of Republicans polled recently expressed the belief that the Donald will be the eventual nominee, pouring cold water on any hope that Trump’s supporters are parking their vote with him temporarily to air their grievances with the party itself. The GOP leadership has been waiting for Trump to fail and like the Young Wolf he has stubbornly refused to.
It certainly has been through no lack of trying on the candidate’s own part. Since entering the race Trump has effectively flipped the table as far as the standard rules of primary campaigning go. He has publicly feuded with Fox News, the go to media network of the very voters he’s trying to win over. He’s insulted practically every individual running against him in the race, and a number of party stalwarts who are not. He’s belittled women, the disabled, combat veterans, and immigrants. Indeed it might be easier to recite of list of those he hasn’t disparaged (er….I don’t think he’s said anything nasty about New Zealand?) What has the result been? Poll numbers that move in only one direction and that is up. Following his latest pronouncement, where he pledged to ban all Muslims from the USA (which led to pundits go from comparing Trump to a fascist to openly calling him one), some polls even placed him in the low forties. In general election match-ups he even beats Hillary Clinton on occasion. With only two months till the first caucus, Trump can no longer be dismissed as a flash in the pan or a joke; indisputably he is now the front-runner in the Republican primary
What else can be learned from this? Well, for one thing, we finally have an answer to the question of whether Trump actually is an idiot or merely pretended to be one all these years (spoilers, he was pretending). For the record, I don’t think Donald Trump actually believes what he says. Rather I feel he planned out his campaign like a television producer would plan out the launch of a new show. He studied his audience, learnt what they liked and disliked, and then identified the issue important to the largest number of people that was getting the least attention, i.e. illegal immigration (a “gap in the market” – the holy grail of the business world). When ratings started to get low, he would introduce a new plot twist (“Maybe I’ll run as an independent”…. “No Muslims allowed into the States”). Trump cannily realized that modern politics is basically showmanship with a mirage of substance smeared on top of it, and he has exploited it fully.
The end result has been that the anywhere from the quarter to a third of the Republican electorate who rate illegal immigration as their top issue have decided that Donald Trump is the man who will finally do something to address the matter, and they seem determined to support him no matter what. In a winner-take-all election like the Republican primaries, a thirty percent basement in support is a huge advantage especially when the remainder of the vote is split between a dozen or so other candidates. It would be a stretch to say that the nomination is now Trump’s for the taking. A week is a lifetime in politics. A defeat in Iowa at the hands of Cruz or Carson or Rubio could crown one of them as the de facto anti-Trump candidate or Trump’s lack of traditional campaign infrastructure could lead to an upset in Super Tuesday, but the idea of Trump leading the GOP into the 2016 election or even winning it is no longer the joke it was when he first declared his candidacy in the foyer of Trump Tower all those months ago.
Truthfully, those appalled by this realization need only to look into a mirror to find someone to blame. Trump may be an opportunist, but we created this opportunity. He speaks to a very large segment of society that has largely been ignored for decades now because they stubbornly have failed to fit in with the lovely progressive narrative we have all desperately wanted to believe in. A message will float in a void only so long until finally it will find a messenger. Thus we have seen the rise of figures such as France’s Marine Le Pen, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, and Sweden’s Jimmie Akesson. Like Trump they speak to a constituency that doesn’t like the modern world and like a wounded animal wishes to claw and bite at anything near it to be distracted from the pain.
I have a hard time blaming them in all honesty. Some time ago I came to the realization that somewhere along the way something had gone very wrong with society as the Enlightenment path we have walked among these past centuries took us to a very dark place. These folks don’t need to be told of the flaws of the modern world, they live with them every day. The liberal consensus of multiculturalism, globalization, mass immigration and moral relativism hasn’t translated into the life of cheap housekeepers, trendy ethnic restaurants, libertine gratification enjoyed by liberal elites from their gated communities. To them it has translated to precarious employment, plunging living standards and a constant stream of progressive pundits, commentators and social justice activists who chide them to “check their privilege”. Is it any wonder these folks so fanatically have rallied behind someone – anyone – who is willing take them by the hand and promise that everything will be alright?
For myself, I remain rather ambivalent about Trump. As an advocate of good manners I find him crass and rude. As an advocate of truth, I find his stated positions opportunistic and false. As a man of some intellect I find his proposed solutions shallow and ineffective. For all that, I cannot but grudgingly concede that Trump has at least shown a willingness to put forward solutions to problems that no one else will even acknowledge. As the grandson of legal immigrants I have an intense dislike for que-jumpers who flout the law and spit in the face of those seeking to come to the West legally with respect for the rules. I also cannot but concede that decades of globalization have had the unfortunate result of turning the West from an industrial powerhouse into a nation of fast food workers, Uber drivers, and busboys. Given my family history I will not ever justify the wholesale demonization of an entire ethnic/religious group….but nor will I deny that radical Islam has become a plague upon the world no different than those of international communism or national socialism that have preceded it. Malmo, Sweden, faces a rape epidemic comparable to the Third World, and it is largely because extremist Muslim men have proven to be the embodiment of the fantasy of rape culture projected by feminists onto American frat boys. All is not right in Mudville, the Enlightenment has finally struck out.
So in summary, I do not feel that Trump (or his ilk) really offer much in the way real solutions to the mountain of problems we face….but I cannot but hope that perhaps his presence might finally spark a dialogue that will produce those solutions. However much we might like to deny it, the writing is on the wallpaper and it grows ever more undeniable by the day. Something has gone very wrong, and the sooner we acknowledge that the sooner we can go about setting it right. Unless we do, Donald Trump may prove to be only the latest opportunist to seize upon this to his own advantage.