The TRiUMPh of American Democracy

When I first started out following politics back in the 2000s, I always felt the system was rigged. Even the election of Obama, the most successful anti-establishment candidate of our time, turned out to be an illusory dream (one which I never really believed). Instead of fulfilling even a single aspect of a genuine progressive agenda that works for all the people of the world, Obama re-created ISIS. Yes, he did use it to bring Iran to the heel, but that was hardly how the restoration of improved relations with Iran should have happened. And, yes, he did accomplish an opening with Cuba. Props to him for that. But that hardly excuses the destruction of Libya, the complete failure to disengage from Iraq and Afghanistan in a spirit of victory, the financing of militant Islam across the world, the encouragement of Black Lives Matter rioting at the expense of the livelihoods of the working class, the refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act contrary to long-standing precedent, and the promotion of anti-meritocratic affirmative action at the expense of a true post-racial American executive promised to us in 2008.

Then came Mitt.

Mitt Romney was everything I despised about the functioning of the American political system. He was a hack; a phony, a man who could never seriously contemplate repealing Obamacare given that he invented it, a man so disgustingly hypocritical and anti-American in action that nobody could believe his claim to be a better Presidential candidate than Obama. The fact that he was elected left in me a deep discouragement in the vitality of the American republic.

Then, we got Trump.

If we got similar anti-Americanism in action, we certainly didn’t get it in rhetoric. And Trump is far more American than Romney. He is a famous actor, a celebrity, a developer, not a financier. Did Trump keep his money in Bermuda and Switzerland? And, best of all, Trump is a winner. A winner who came from the bottom, denounced by every lackey of the establishment, the man who got fewest endorsement points of the three remaining candidates of his party from the professional politicos at the beginning of this month, yet, ended up getting the most votes! He is the man every Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan in the making could once have only dreamed about.

Trump is a genuine inspiration to anybody who believes the American system of government is capable of accomplishing genuine democratic change. If you don’t like Trump, fine. But, please, do not pretend that he is not everything that democracy is supposed to be for. Instead, as in Russia, of simply selecting the establishment candidate and running him against only the least credible opposition, the American primary system is supposed to be one of voters selecting the candidate the majority of them want best without manipulation by party leaders or media hacks. The democratic system is presented by its so-called proponents as good precisely because of its ability to maneuver to change- and change, mostly for the better, is what Trump offers.

And, yes, Trump won’t repeal affirmative action. But he doesn’t like the people I don’t like. And he ticks them off. That’s enough for one anti-establishment presidency, which should prevent him from accomplishing those aspects of his program his core supporters find most unsavory.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

8 thoughts on “The TRiUMPh of American Democracy”

  1. Howdy. Longtime reader here, first time commenter.

    I appreciate your points about the establishment and Trump, and I think you and I probably see eye to eye on most political topics, and where we might differ I probably don’t find many of your views objectionable. Like you I enjoy seeing certain people squirm at the sound of Trump’s name, because they are people who’ve been too comfortable for too long and have pushed or helped push a lot of awful things on this country. However, this isn’t enough to make me a Trump supporter. I’ll explain why:

    I’m in a small minority since I am neither excited about nor appalled by the prospect of a Trump presidency. Instead, I’m just sort of worried that Trump is a guy who’s figured out what to say to whom in order to be able to move ahead and do what he wants, while what he wants is anybody’s guess (but probably a lot like what Obama or Romney want). In fact, I’m positive this is an accurate description of Trump because he basically describes himself this way in his “Art of the Deal” book; these are the qualities needed to get to where Trump got in real estate development.

    Trump saw the $100 bill lying on the ground–i.e. the Sailer Strategy–and combined that with what Scott Adams has been describing as expert-level “master persuader” techniques to re-brand himself as an outsider (he really isn’t one), an everyman (he’s a New York City billionaire who was born rich–though of course I acknowledge he did a lot of work to go from minor league wealth to major league wealth), and a tough-talking conservative (his record is rather moderate and fickle, politically), while his hit TV show helped with name recognition.

    Those things combine to explain Trump’s success, which is a model of democracy in that he’s the real popular choice of the people and got that way by saying what’s on the people’s minds, but it looks less good for democracy if Trump was able to do all that as a phony act–the same way he might say whatever a zoning board or bank or architecture firm wanted to hear in order to get them to let him move forward.

    Forget policy, though: I’m not even confident Trump will “shake up the establishment” in any lasting way. Sure, he makes people grimace and whine and hold their noses, but that’s just emoting. I’ll be more interested to see the GOP actually change its tone and approach, or to see conservative thinktanks, pundits, and congressmen stand up to immigration and global inteventionism as a result of Trump’s election. But why would they? Trump’s success doesn’t bring them any new information except that they don’t have as firm a grip on the office of the presidency as they thought. They still have everything else.

    Trump might surprise me and follow through, and I’d be really happy to see that happen, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t think he’ll be disastrous, just disappointing. The big question for me is how core Americans (i.e. Republican voters) will respond to a disappointment of that magnitude.

    1. “Instead, I’m just sort of worried that Trump is a guy who’s figured out what to say to whom in order to be able to move ahead and do what he wants, while what he wants is anybody’s guess (but probably a lot like what Obama or Romney want).”

      -I think Trump wants to build a wall on the southern border, create new trade barriers, preserve farmers’ subsidies (though he has given contradictory positions on this, I think this is his instinct), remove the Confederate flag from government property, preserve and expand the NSA, preserve affirmative action, kill terrorists’ families, restore the Bush-era torture program, expand protections for homosexuals and transsexuals against discrimination, and decentralize education. Except for the wall, not exactly my cup of tea, and I’m not too enthusiastic about the wall. I’m fine with guest worker programs as long as those don’t lead to mass legalization or welfare spending. Trump clearly has no problem with same-sex marriage, despite his recent statements to the contrary. Trump has a rather expansive view of Federal government responsibilities and powers -he’s not a strict constructionist- and he clearly has no budget plan- in fact, he looked laughably uninformed on the budget during the Detroit debate. His Supreme Court justices are probably going to come from the conservative side of the judicial spectrum, but his views overall suggest his justices would be more like Nixon appointees than Reagan/Cruz ones. In any case, I have no doubt his SC picks would be superior to Merrick Garland.

      Yes, I know Trump is deceptive- that’s in his very nature- but I haven’t seen a position where he’s clearly more liberal than Hillary (though there are some positions, e.g., torture, where Hillary is preferable to Trump -I’m not a fan of torture).

      “Forget policy, though: I’m not even confident Trump will “shake up the establishment” in any lasting way.”

      -Did Barry Goldwater shake up the establishment in any lasting way? Not immediately, certainly. The Johnson landslide was followed two elections later by Nixon’s 49-state landslide, and Nixon was no Goldwater. Instead, Goldwater contributed to helping re-align the GOP base to becoming more conservative, which affected the establishment only indirectly. By 1984, one could clearly see the Republican establishment was more conservative than that in 1964, and that in 1994 was definitely more conservative than the 1964 one.

      And Trump might directly “shake up the establishment” in a lasting way if he wins, just like Reagan did. Yes, Reagan might not have accomplished much of his program at the legislative level, but his first-choice Supreme Court picks (like Scalia) were really solid. The election of 1984 had a direct impact on that of 1994. If financing the old think tanks and pundits becomes politically fruitless, those think tanks and pundits will change their tune.

      “Trump might surprise me and follow through, and I’d be really happy to see that happen, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t think he’ll be disastrous, just disappointing.”

      -There’s a chance of that. But I think Trump wants to be re-elected, so I doubt he will betray his core supporters for fear of a primary challenge.

      1. Apparently you’re more liberal than I am on a lot of issues. That’s fine, it just somehow didn’t come across from your other posts. (Could be reader error.) However, this means from a policy perspective I have more to lose from a Trump presidency than you do, so my level of apprehension relative to yours makes sense. For example, I’d be a lot more excited about Trump if I thought he was actually going to try to build the wall and greatly trim down guest worker programs.

        I am certain that even if Trump disappoints, he will do so without disappointing. Meaning for example, I think he will avoid building the wall but do so in a way that retains his base of support. Maybe he’ll find a way to blame congress for stopping him (even when he obviously could have done more) but one of the advantages of the identity plays and pissing off the establishment that he’s doing now is that it cements people as being either on his side or against him, no matter what. His supporters will find themselves excusing and apologizing for him, maybe even only because they see themselves in opposition to the people calling him a racist and a bigot and so on. (Those people will never like Trump–and for the same reasons–even if he does the same things as Hillary would have.) Emotional investment and shame are powerful factors: you don’t want to change your mind about someone you’ve put so much hope and optimism in, and to do so is a way of saying “I was wrong” or “I was duped,” which hurts a lot.

        1. Didn’t I say I disagree with most of Trump’s liberal positions? Which issues am I more liberal on than you (other than immigration)? Here’s my isidewith:
          http://www.isidewith.com/elections/2016-presidential/2288150125

          I am, after all, an immigrant from Europe, and I don’t see much evidence Mexican labor has harmed the country in and of itself. It’s the political implications I’m much more concerned about. If there’s too many illegal immigrants, the Democrats will someday find some way to give them amnesty, thus transforming Texas into New Mexico.

          Trump’s going to build the wall, I have no doubt about that. IDK what he’ll do about guest workers.

          You may have a point on emotional investment, but I think Trump’s biggest fans now will be his biggest critics if he betrays his core promises. Trump has been a huge opponent of illegal immigration ever since his 2000 campaign.

          I’m a supporter of the wall, even though I’m not all that enthusiastic about it. Legal immigration is more important to the future of this country than illegal, in general.

          1. “Which issues am I more liberal on than you (other than immigration)?”

            If I’m understanding that iSideWith website right, abortion for one. And maybe I misunderstood your previous comment: you listed a bunch of stuff you thought Trump would do, some of which were conservative things and some that weren’t, and it was hard to tell which things you liked or didn’t.

            1. Don’t like any of them except the wall. I don’t like farmers’ subsidies, trade barriers, torture, removal of the Confederate flag if it’s just to appease liberals, or decentralization of education. I definitely don’t like the NSA; it gives the government too much power.

            2. My point was this: there is a mix of “conservative” and “liberal” things Trump is pledging to do. I believe Trump will end up doing fewer of the conservative things than you do. Since you dislike more of the things Trump is pledging to do than I do, if he fails to do them that is better for you than it is for me, even though my prediction would turn out to be more accurate. Though maybe it’s a wash because I also think Trump WILL do more of the liberal things, some of which you also don’t like.

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