He fits the temper of the times.
“What have you been smoking?” said a partner in a New York law firm to me in early January after I asserted in front of a room full of Upper East Side liberals that “Trump would win the nomination.” Others hooted me for holding that “closeted Trump supporters” exist in the disaffected corners of American life and that Trump would enjoy a reverse Bradley effect.
Last Christmas I ran into Newt Gingrich after Mass in Washington, D.C., and for the heck of it said to him, “So what job do you want in the Trump administration?” He looked at me with utter disbelief. Now I see him on TV bemoaning the slowness with which pundits grasped the Trump phenomenon. He was one of them.
Up in New York City I noticed that none of the anti-Trump outrage of the ruling class had trickled down to the peasants. They either didn’t care about Trump’s politically incorrect brashness or kind of liked it. While lavishly paid, “brilliantly perceptive” reporters and editors like David Remnick and James Fallows were saying that Trump had “zero chance” of winning the nomination, anybody who bothered to speak to ordinary folks walking the streets below the suites of The New Yorker could see that Trump had a huge opening. The George Wills, who spend more time tinkering with their cuff links than talking to people, also pronounced Trump an unelectable clown who would soon disappear back into the buffoonery from which he came.
Such inept punditry and incompetent reporting is the journalistic equivalent of a surgeon killing a patient on the operating table. Yet all these reporters and pundits keep working, often failing upwards to six-figure jobs, provided that they attend all the right parties and know all the right people.
The public’s exhaustion with, and at times hatred of, the corrupt ruling class, for which this naysaying anti-Trump media complex served as a constant advertisement, largely explains the rise of Trump. He fit the temper of the times and had the charisma to channel it toward a bust-up of the GOP establishment.
On Tuesday night, he swept primaries in five states — a feat Hillary Clinton couldn’t match, losing Rhode Island and almost Connecticut to Bernie Sanders. Yet the pundits soon resumed the bad habit of prognosticating according to their preferences. They confidently dismiss Trump’s chances in the general election against Hillary. The blah, blah, blah of “he can’t win women, he can’t win minorities” pervades the chattering class, often coming from the same pundits who said that he couldn’t win Republicans. One would think such boneheaded prognosticators might shut up for a while, but of course they don’t, since they suffer no professional penalty for stupidity.
A few liberal talking heads, such as Time’s Joe Klein and MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch, acknowledge the extreme vulnerability of Hillary. “I think he can beat Hillary,” Deutsch said this week. “Trump voters on the right are so sticky. They’re not going anywhere. Everybody who’s voting for Hillary, ‘Well, I guess Hillary.’ Number two, he can go to the left and right of Hillary. He can pretty much put a portfolio of issues together that he’s behind.”
The ambivalence toward Hillary among Democrats is uncanny. Even in New York, where we’re told “educated women” will thrill to her, it is hard to find any. Most of them I’ve met see Hillary as an over-the-hill feminist hag and resent her presumption. Rosario Dawson’s open contempt for Hillary — the actress compared bullied Bernie Sanders supporters to Monica Lewinsky recently — is a foreshadowing of the likely general-election enthusiasm gap between the parties. The feminist card may disintegrate in Hillary’s hand.
According to one national poll, Trump, who hasn’t even started attacking Hillary in earnest yet, only trails her by three points. Joe Klein fears Hillary may lose for the simple reason that she is a stupendously “rote” politician while Trump offers populist freshness.
Hillary’s canned attacks on Trump already look tired and even a bit premature, as she’s still being hounded by a socialist who’s got her number. Her nervous, “I am winning”-style protestations to a pursed-lipped Rachel Maddow on MSNBC this week — Maddow had annoyed Hillary by using the phrase “if you win” when speaking of the Dem nomination — makes her look like a dead candidate walking.
It is hard enough for a party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms with a good candidate, let alone a politically maladroit one. “You guys are underestimating Trump,” I said to those Big Apple liberals in January. They laughed. They are not laughing anymore.