Not surprisingly, the two most — what is the word I am looking for? Objective? Serene? Pragmatic? — observers of the strife within the Republican Party are foreigners. This must have some sort of pertinence in an election year when immigration is a hot issue, but I am not sure what sort exactly. As TAS reported several weeks ago, Conrad Black made the case for Mr. Donald Trump, non-politician insider extraordinaire, on essentially prudential grounds: Trump, Mr. Black argued, would quickly learn to go-along-and-get-along and therefore would get things done in Washington, though what he wants to get done remains a known unknown. Moreover, his quality, real or smoked-and-mirrors, as a can-do chappie represents the best chance our side has to beat the formidable Clinton machine, which took over the Democrats over 20 years ago and bids for another shot at central command while the young princess is groomed for the hand-off a few years hence.
Now Mr. John O’Sullivan, the shrewdest, but also the most sensible, British observer of the American scene since Lord Bryce, follows Black (who relinquished his peerage for Canadian citizenship, the naughty small r republican), joins the fray by saying that, if you look at the matter calmly, Mr. Trump may be a rascal but he’s our rascal by George and it takes one to beat one. Too, he is the candidate who is not the globalist wide-open-borders man favored by the big-government globalist anti-sovereignists whom O’Sullivan fears have brought low the I-pledge-to-thee-my-country legacies of Lady Margaret Thatcher, whom he served, and President Ronald Reagan, whom he admired.
A note on sources: This debate has been taking place in the august pages of the National Review, fountainhead of modern American conservatism and, in this season, dismayed at the Republican field. It has been running a staunchly anti-Trump series of editorials, as have the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal, while this paper has thus far stuck to an editorial policy of vigorous debate. To take but one example, the passionate Quin Hillyer, our Southern Editor (this is a quip, not a title), marshaled evidence a week or two ago as to how Mr. Trump has made it a lifelong practice of despising and taking advantage of the little guy, a proverbial American Type firmly anchored in historical reality. Perhaps unwittingly, Esther Goldberg, a leading pro-Trump TAS writer, then appeared to reinforce this point by describing the superior taste and fashion-sense of the Trump women.
Observe that this little-guys vs. hoity-toity rich guys argument is no small matter this time around. The Republican Party, notwithstanding its long and varied history, is a party with roots in the pioneer working class, the yeoman farmer, the modest landowner, the independent, church-going, self-reliant, family-oriented, National Guard-serving patriot. This is the reason there once was a political coalition based on a solid sociological majority, somewhat less solid electoral majority, led by Ronald Reagan. The Democratic machines of yore, which had done much to shape 20th century politics, were losing their appeal to the many who had for generations felt well-represented by them; on the contrary, the machines, rusty versions of their former selves, were themselves convulsed by internal strife that foreshadowed what we are seeing in the GOP.
Many voters see in the Republican field would-be champions who are articulate spokesmen, but whose connections are less to their own constituents than to Washington governmental and para-governmental networks. Without quite saying so, Mr. O’Sullivan suggests that the senator from Florida is the embodiment of this group’s ideal candidate; the Clinton’s represent the left side of this group because, though allegedly rooted in the ordinary folk of the Ozarks, they are in fact a rootless clan whose loyalties, such as they are, are to the international political and financial sets, much like Britain’s ex-PM, the regrettable Tony Blair who, remember, removed Clause 4 from the Labour Party, cutting it off from its roots and, perversely, paving the way for the mess it is now in, led by Jeremy Corbyn, a vegetarian enema-taking flat-earther, George Galloway (actually, he was expelled), and “Red Ken” Livingstone (who supports Galloway’s reinstatement). Sorry, I did not mean to get off point.
To get back on point, as the WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel acutely notes, Mr. Trump is the polar opposite of what, if voting research is to be believed, his supporters in the primaries represent, and he would not, she believes, give them the time of day. If this is so, he represents a mutation of Franklin Roosevelt, an earlier Gilded Rich who appealed to the Working Man, speaking to him in a language he understood and reassuring him that fear was no longer in season. As mutations go, and this is a purely objective observation, we’ve certainly come a long way: FDR’s rhetoric was based on a persuasiveness built on reason and compassion, whatever you may think of its merits, DT’s is more akin to a charge of TNT.
Me personally, I am packing my tennis racquet and am on my way to foreign climes even as citizens in the swathe of Southern and Middle Western states simultaneously participate in the “super Tuesday” primaries. The party primary is an absurd institution. It may at one time have had a democratic intention, but as practiced in our time it perverts representative government because control over who can vote in it is not firmly regulated, as it ought to be, by the party organizations. These should also be able to say who may stand for a party’s nomination, and the fact neither major party does, allowing flat-brains, mountebanks, and worse — much worse — to compete for public office endorsements tells you something deep — how deep, I don’t know — about the arthritic conditions of the so-called party establishments.
I expect to read the results of this week’s magnificent exercise in democratic politics in foreign languages, and my inclination is to think it will somehow seem less foreign than it would in American English, given the prevailing hysteria in our media, a hysteria which, of course, is both feeding and benefiting from the ruins of our party system.
However, and precisely due to the sensible observations of Miss Strassel and Mr. O’Sullivan, and because rather than despite the differences in their conclusions, I remain convinced that we shall see brokered conventions in both parties. Among other advantages, this would go some way toward restoring their credibility and their value to our society.
The argument for brokered conventions is that we have had a run of four failed presidencies. They all lived off the astonishing capital — political, moral, economic — accumulated in only eight years by Ronald Reagan, who, mind you, had to first clean up the mess of the failed presidencies that preceded his. Most American presidencies are failures; but our Republic is such, thanks to the blessings of Providence and the genius of the Founders, that it always has rebounded, rebuilt. No one in this season has demonstrated a capacity to rebuild, or even to frankly acknowledge the waste of the past quarter century. Dr. Ben Carson seems to be most aware of the rot, but he has, perhaps to his credit, shown little political savvy.
Our country remains free and extraordinary. We have made fantastic strides — medicine, technology, small-business restaurant start-ups, home construction (also as seen on TV, though this is not a placement ad, in shows like “property guys” and “fixer-uppers,” far more interesting I might note than casino development), sports (notably in the crisis and revival of baseball), much besides. The past quarter century has been anything but a bust.
But this progress has been almost largely despite, not due to, government. By contrast, government brought us our string of foreign policy reverses. The failure to understand the meaning and consequences of the Soviet collapse and the meaning and consequences of the Islamic expansion, are simply breathtaking and embarrassing when you consider the resources we have, allegedly. Our military saved us from disaster. But they cannot save us forever, due to civilian supremacy.
My position is known, if inconsequential at this point. I think brokered conventions, wherein both parties nominate military-civilian tickets (e.g., Petraeus-Bolton vs. Webb-Carson) is the way to calm down after a hysterical primary season. The country can then go into the general election on the premise that serious men, after thoughtful debate and civil discussion of all issues, will be in charge in January 2017.
Tell it to — oh, never mind. Maybe in September I’ll have some support. Adios, amigos, it’s the clay court season and I’m busy.