Is Donald Trump the Common Sense Candidate?

Update: Welcome, JAG readers! And my readers: I am being refuted. For the record, I didn't consider this post to be an attack -- just an engagement. Truth is, I sort of want to be persuaded by this particular brand of pro-Trumpism. It's just that so far, no matter how hard I try, I can't be. A response to the response will be forthcoming, but not right away as paying jobs call. Meanwhile, read my post below and the response linked above and stay tuned.  

Are you aware of the Journal of American Greatness?  You should check it out, as it's making waves among political theorists sorting through our weird presidential cycle. Though it's a bit difficult to describe what it is.  Call it a blog not of Trump supporters, but of anti-anti-Trumpists, writing to call the Republic to itself -- starting with whichever members of the Conservative movement might be listening. Its writers want a politics that is unapologetically pro-American:
immigration, trade and war are the issues that really matter right now
Particularly take a look at its recent post, On the Convergence of Left & Right, from which that phrase was taken.

The post makes two points with which I agree whole-heartedly.

1. A lot of folks in the #NeverTrump camp  --including folks I usually admire-- come over awfully prissy this cycle: unable to distinguish a colossal jerk (Trump) from an existential menace (all the fascist villains to whom he's been compared).

In this mistake they've actually strengthened Trump with his voters, I suspect. I haven't listened to any talk radio in years, but for some reason for the last two months I've found myself in the car for Bill Bennett's (now defunct) morning show and had taken to listening to the first half hour of Hugh Hewitt's (now moved to mornings) afternoon show while making dinner.

You know what Trump supporters who call into those shows say?  Or rather, what they do NOT say? They do not say they admire his crass ways. They do not say they hate immigrants.  What they say is (paraphrasing here an actual caller to Bennett's show): "I know he says a lot of things that are out of line, and they sort of make me cringe. But in the end he just reminds me of the fellas that work on the line with me. They don't mean any harm with their remarks, and they are loyal and will stick up for you. And I think he loves his country and will stick up for America."

Many variations on that thought.

Or: (paraphrasing a highly successful, devoutly Catholic, investment broker in New Hampshire who was a guest w/ Hewitt one evening): "I hate the way he talks about people. But I look at the direction our economy is going and I think we are headed for a collapse it may already be too late to avert, and I think, well, maybe this guy who is a businessman might actually address this instead of fleeing from it once he's in office."

"Real" people, outside the pundit bubble, aren't all that afraid of Trump. Or they might be, but in that case they're not afraid he's a malicious person likely to impose fascism on us so much as that they don't have a clue what his real policies are.

2. Secondly, the folks who make the mistake above are being played.
...leftists came to realize that praising Buckley’s act [purging anti-Semitism] is an effective way to concern-troll conservatives into purging more—and more and more. Keep at it! The more people you read out of your ranks, the more conservatives you denounce as racist, the closer you are to hearing us say you’re worthy heirs to Buckley! In this, as in so many other ways, the left is Lucy and the “right” is Charlie Brown.
Right on! I level a parallel criticism of certain Catholic apologists on the internet who are more ashamed of some random young hothead orthodox blogger somewhere who says something a little mean than of people who actively teach and practice error.  I don't presume to know they actually do that to be praised as "the reasonable ones." I only know that almost everyone I read these days on any subject sounds in my head like the most god-awful scold.

This JAG piece, alas, very much included, for it exaggerates the positions of its opponents (especially the folks at National Review, who come in for withering mockery) and makes claims I can't take seriously.

For example, the author claims he can no longer remember why he supported Romney over Obama.  I wonder how the Trump supporters, with their vaunted common sense and pro-America instincts might answer these questions:

  1. The author is anti- wars to spread democracy and wants a pro-America foreign policy Great. But does he imagine that it was in the interests of the United States, in the face of a terrorist enemy that only understands force, to precipitously draw down troops in Iraq such that a war (whatever you think of its having been started) that was won was deliberately lost -- at the forfeit not only of American and allied lives, but of the meaning of those sacrifices? Would Romney have done that?
  2. Would Romney have given us Justices Sotomayor and Kagan? Are they pro-America?
  3. Would Romney have used the IRS for political purposes?
  4. Would Romney have turned the Department of Justice into an office of political vendetta?
  5. Would Romney have imposed the HHS mandate? Would he have used the might of the American justice system against the Little Sisters of the Poor?
  6. Would Romney have behaved so fecklessly in Egypt and Libya? Would Romney have abandoned his own ambassador to torture and murder?
  7. Would Romney have been so feckless and incompetent as to call ISIS the junior varsity and be surprised by its strength?  
  8. Would Romney have turned the State Department into an LGBT rights organization, actively seeking out gay and trans diplomats -- no matter how much they offend our allies? 
  9. Would Romney have hired as CIA director a man who doesn't believe in spying
  10. Would he have allowed the humiliation of the U.S. being driven from a NATO country?
  11. You seriously going to suggest Romney would have given us the Iran deal -- or the national humiliation of our sailors on their knees, apologizing to the Mullahs?
  12. Would he have treated Ft. Hood and Boston and San Bernadino as matters for the police?
  13. Would he have heightened racial tensions by jumping into "beer-gate" and the Trayvon Martin case? 
  14. Would Romney refuse to call Islamic extremism what it is?
  15. Would he be threatening North Carolina over its sensible protection of women and girls in bathrooms? 
  16. If he had been President, would we still have Obamacare, or would a Republican congress have been able to act? 
  17. What changes might Paul Ryan and a GOP Congress have been able to make to the budget and spending if there had been a President Romney to support them and sign their bill? 

Does it seem pro-American to fantasize no difference between Romney & Obama to you?

Every cycle there are pointy-headed theorists on the GOP side who fantasize about losing an election so that things will get so bad that people will be forced to turn to them for salvation -- and the GOP will be saved!

What about those of us who don't give a fig for the GOP? What if I only care about the people -- myself, my kids, my neighbors, the poor-- who have to live under the policies that result RIGHT NOW from the actions of those currently in office?

What if my objection to Trump is emphatically NOT that I fear him as a neo-Nazi, but that I can't think of a single policy he's advocated that doesn't seem colossally stupid?

I'm for robust border control. But I'm not for Trump's plan to effect it by blocking remittances to Mexico.

I'm for an American foreign policy that is unapologetically pro-American and avoids foreign entanglements. But I fail to see how Trump's promise to seize Middle East oil, be neutral as between Israel and Hezbollah,  kill women and children, and send 30,000 ground troops to defeat ISIS constitutes such a foreign policy. Seems like a recipe for inciting additional hatred for Americans and getting us embroiled in all kinds of skirmishes.

Let me say a word, too, about the JAG folks' (or at least one of them's) contempt for the so-called social issues. Just as Lincoln knew that the Union had to be preserved in order for slavery to be destroyed, I am willing to concede that sometimes --even though there are no rights at all without the right to life-- the life of the nation itself has to take precedence over specific policies, no matter how fundamental or of what moral significance.  And I agree with the linked post that the Trump voters are more interested in their own personal futures and the future of the nation as a whole than in abstract considerations about marriage and abortion.

However: the GOP in my lifetime has always been filled with people who think they can purge their way to electoral majority. And those people aren't all pro-lifers and purity conservatives. They are equally the folks who find themselves  (a la John Kasich) -- and apparently a la JAG-- embarrassed by pro-lifers and pro-marriage people and wish those topics would just drop.  The same argument that the JAG author makes about Conservatives being played over the race question and political correctness can be made over Conservatives who want to drop the social issues. You are never going to win an election by dropping your pro-family voters, no matter how much they embarrass you in front of the media.

More importantly, though, the JAG authors are looking for robust American resistance to political correctness, and I'd like to know where they find it more than in the pro-life and pro-marriage movements? Grass-roots people passed 51 pro-life laws in 2015. Should their victories be allowed to be taken from them by SCOTUS?  You want to fight the power? That fight is happening right now in Mississippi and Georgia, as the sovereign people take a common sense stand -- and the Cronyists in business and politics are aligning to force them to back down.  And where is JAG? And where is Mr. Trump?

The same is happening in the case against the Little Sisters of the Poor, which is not a Catholic contraception issue. It's a government (and its cronies in Planned Parenthood and Big Pharma) stomping on a mediating institution that has gotten in its way. Just today Americans who believe in self-government and liberty were able to persuade a court to dismiss an ACLU/ Planned Parenthood effort to COMPEL health care workers to participate in abortion. These are just as much battles for self-government as border questions. And where is Mr. Trump? On the wrong side -- defending Planned Parenthood, which is the crony-est institution of them all.

I'm for the great unwashed rising up against Washington.  I'm also for the renewal of the American character, especially the capacity for self-government. But it doesn't make me "establishment" to doubt seriously that Mr. Trump --a man who once fantasized publicly about the eventual size of his infant daughter's breasts and doesn't recognize these fights when he sees them-- is a good vehicle for such.

That is just common sense.