Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

They Said It:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, 1932.



Historically – which is to say for most of the last 12 years – The Political Forum has not published a newsletter during the week of/after Independence Day.  Vacations – ours and yours – tend to make the mid-summer update a little less important than most, and thus, usually induce us to make this one of the two weeks we take off every year.

But not this year.  This year, we wanted to make a brief comment on one of the most intriguing, surprising, and yet entirely predictable political phenomena in quite a while.  And we wanted to do so before the intrigue and surprise wore off or, more to the point, were overpowered by the mainstream media’s analysis, which we expect will be as blinkered as most mainstream analyses these days.  This phenomenon, paradoxically ridiculous and critical at the same time, will occupy the media’s attention only briefly before it disappears.  Nevertheless, its lessons should be remembered beyond this brief interval, especially by those in charge of both political parties.

The political spectacle to which we allude here is, of course, Donald Trump, the most improbable candidate in a presidential contest in at least two decades and the most fascinating early primary “frontrunner” in as long as anyone can remember.

Now, before get to the good stuff here, the reason that Trump and his candidacy matter, we’d like to dispense with a few qualifications.

For starters, we don’t think that Donald Trump will be president.  We don’t think Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.  We don’t think that Donald Trump will win a single state or have any influence at the GOP convention next summer.  In the end, we think that Donald Trump will be an electoral non-factor.  He may have an impact on the race – about which more in a minute – but he will not win a great many votes, current polling notwithstanding.

Truth be told, we don’t think that Trump is in it for the votes anyway.  Best we can tell, the guy is running for president for the same reason he does everything he does, to raise his public profile, to increase his Q Score.  He is, first and foremost, a showman.  Billionaires are like everyone else.  They have “needs.”  Some need more money.  Others collect women, or even wives.  Some love boats, cars, jewelry, or other celebrities.  Trump likes the roar of greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, as the saying goes.  He is a snake oil salesman.  His new and improved elixir won’t just cure warts, sore feet, incontinence, and “female problems.”  It will cure all the country’s even more substantial woes: too many Mexicans, too much debt, too much government, too much crime, too much corruption.   Don’t ask what’s in the bottle.  Trust him, it will work.  “Step right up, folks.”

Like of all of his successful predecessors in the snake oil business, he has his finger on the pulse of his audience.  He is keenly in tune with the times.  He recognizes that the American public today is obsessed with celebrity.  Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, et al. are “famous for being famous.”  You have to have a shtick, of course.   His is being fabulously wealthy, having a goofy haircut, and having opinions on everything.   He’s Geraldo Rivera, Woopie Goldberg, and the fat mechanic who won $400 million dollars in the “Pick Six,” all rolled into one.  Or, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson recently put it:

Donald Trump may be the man America needs.  Having been through four bankruptcies, the ridiculous buffoon with the worst taste since Caligula is uniquely positioned to lead the most indebted organization in the history of the human race.

The Trump conglomerate is the Argentina of limited-liability companies, having been in bankruptcy as recently as 2009.  To be sure, a lot of companies went bankrupt around then.  The Trump gang went bankrupt in 2004, too, and in 2001.  Before that, Trump was in bankruptcy court back in 1991 when his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City — the nation’s first casino-cum-strip-club, an aesthetic crime against humanity that is tacky by the standards of Atlantic City — turned out to be such a loser that Trump could not make his debt payments.

The closing of that casino has been announced at least twice — it was supposed to shut its doors in December, but it limps on.

Donald Trump, being Donald Trump, announced his candidacy at Trump Plaza, making a weird grand entrance via escalator — going down, of course, the symbolism of which is lost on that witless ape.  But who could witness that scene — the self-made man who started with nothing but a modest portfolio of 27,000 New York City properties acquired by his millionaire slumlord father, barely out of his latest bankruptcy and possibly headed for another one as the casino/jiggle-joint bearing his name sinks into the filthy mire of the one U.S. city that makes Las Vegas look respectable, a reality-television grotesque with his plastic-surgery-disaster wife, grunting like a baboon about our country’s “brand” and his own vast wealth — and not see the peerless sign of our times?

In the substance, Trump is — how to put it gently? Oh, why bother! — an ass. Not just an ass, but an ass of exceptionally intense asininity.  China?  “China’s leaders are like Tom Brady, and the U.S. is like a high-school football team,” Trump says.  And so, we should do what?

Let us say it again:  Donald Trump will not be president.  And that’s a good thing, because Donald Trump isn’t even a good capitalist, much less a good politician.  Moreover, he is running as a Republican.   And the cold hard fact of the matter is that Republicans don’t run totally unqualified narcissists who have some unfathomable appeal to the terminally obtuse.  Indeed, with his haircut, he might have a better chance if he put on a Che Guevara tea shirt and ran against Hillary.

Yes, we know.  He is on the rise.  In recent CNN and Fox News polls, he placed second, behind the guy whose father and brother were the 41st and 43rd Presidents of the United States, respectively.   But it’s early and the press is bored.  Additionally, and more to the point, neither the press nor the political establishment really understands the populist forces at work in the electorate today.  They’re both convinced that no serious candidate would ever say the things Trump says, and so they’re shocked that what he says has made him a serious candidate.

Those of you who read James Taranto’s “Best of the Web Today” column published by the Wall Street Journal may recognize this as “the Butterfield Effect,” which was described over a decade ago by the columnist and talk-radio host Michael Graham:

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

Mr. Butterfield is truly perplexed at what he calls the “paradox” of more criminals in prison coinciding with less crime in neighborhoods.  An observation that might appear obvious to an 8th grader (crooks + jail = fewer crimes) is simply beyond his grasp.  Butterfield of the Times is the poster boy for the greatest conundrum facing the American Left today: How do you explain to people who just don’t get it that the problem is they just don’t get it?

As we said, in this case, the Butterfield Effect dictates that Trump has made himself a serious candidate specifically because he’s saying things that the media and the political establishment think that no serious candidate would say.  Or to put it another way, because Trump wants to be seen and heard and talked about and feted more than he wants to be president, he will say other candidates would NEVER, EVER say for fear of begin sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.  And what he is saying is resonating with a large segment of the population that feels disenfranchised by the political establishment, turning his supposed “political suicide” into the very issue that has lifted his poll numbers.

Now, for a variety of reasons we DO NOT think that Trump’s statements about immigration are helpful, either to the Republican Party or to the nation.  For starters, it is important that the nation elect a Republican president next year, and this will be exceedingly difficult without considerable support from the Hispanic population.  The risk, obviously, is that Trump will so besmirch the GOP “brand” he so enjoys prattling on about that he makes it impossible for any Republican to win the necessary chunk of Hispanic votes.

Second, it makes no sense whatsoever to tar all immigrants with the same brush, when it is obvious that the problem is simply one of instituting a better selection process.

Third, for the good of nation, one of the most important tasks that the new president will face will be to mend the wounds that the current, racially incendiary president has inflicted on it.  And there is no need to make that task more difficult by deliberately insulting the second largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the country.

We have no favorite within the Republican ranks.  But we sincerely believe that the old cliché about this being “the most important presidential election in history,” is true this time around, and not just because the Democratic candidates appear to be running the Left of the most Leftist president in the history of the republic.  The electorate’s current enemy is, of course, the ruling class, which is deeply corrupt morally, economically and spiritually, and is growing more so every day.  And the electorate therefore needs someone who is willing to stand up to and challenge the ruling class.

In a recent piece published by National Review, our old friend and the initiator of the “Ruling Class vs. he Country Class” meme, the inimitable Angelo Codevilla, expressed our frustration with the state of politics in this country much better than we could ourselves.

The ruling class’s component groups jointly dismiss America’s traditional liberties because they aim to replace them with their own primacy.  Having seized the power to redefine liberty, our rulers tighten their definitions around their opponents’ necks like nooses.  Since their desire for primacy has no limit, they can’t stop tightening.  The norms that they demand that we honor help sustain each constituency by letting its members feel good about themselves while looking down on others.  Their “dignitary interests” (to use Justice Kennedy’s term for who must be honored vs. those who must submit to being vilified) simply trump those of others.  This is why the ruling class demonizes any questioning of its demands’ substance by imposing modern equivalents of the slave-era “gag rule.”  They wage identity politics as war.

As President Obama commented on (and commended) how the Indiana legislature had been quashed, he left no doubt about that war’s aims: “[W]e’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks.”  Hillary Clinton similarly asserted the desire for mastery over society beyond any law:  “[D]eep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” The point is to squeeze out the wiggle room. . . .

Peaceable behavior will not protect you from being hounded as a “hater.”  A whiff of “offensive” attitudes is enough for the ruling class to make you as untouchable as the lepers of old.  Nor is silence a refuge.

Just as you must honor homosexuality, so you must affirm that certain Americans are “racists” addicted to “white privilege.”  Do you demur?  Then, Racist that you are, you must be shunned and should be fired.  Do you support governmental efforts to reverse “anthropogenic global warming”?  If you demur, you are a Denier who endangers our national security, and must be treated as a kook.  Should you refuse to pledge your fealty to the proposition that life and the universe are the meaningless result of chance, you reveal yourself to be a Religious Zealot, an “American Taliban,” ineligible for public and private trust.  Do you have reservations about the constitutionality or beneficence of administrative government?  Then you are an Extremist, a proper target for Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, etc.   Do you refuse to celebrate “terminating a pregnancy” as women’s fundamental right?  Then you are a Warrior against Women, possibly a terrorist.  Do you own guns? Ipso facto, you are a Violent Extremist.

The pretexts differ.  But the reality is the same: Bow or be persecuted.

This is the fight that will consume the next several years in American politics, including the next presidency.  Donald Trump, for all his faults, understands this.  And he is attracting voters specifically because he does understand this and is therefore willing to upset the ruling class keepers of decorum.  Trump is, very publicly, refusing to bow.  And – God help us – there really is something to be said for that.

We hope that Donald Trump’s political legacy will be one of influence rather than alienation.  We hope, in other words, that his candidacy will be remembered not for the wedge it drove between the GOP and Hispanic voters, but for the impact that it had on the other, more politically viable candidates.  Several of the candidates in this race – Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, to name just three – owe their careers to their willingness to challenge the ruling class.  If Trump can compel any of them to make the ruling class and its oppressiveness the central theme of his campaign, then he will have done both the GOP and the nation a great deal of good.  If he can’t, then…well…we’re doomed.

Trump will still be a billionaire celebrity, of course.  But the rest of us will be in trouble.

Copyright 2015. The Political Forum. 8563 Senedo Road, Mt. Jackson, Virginia 22842, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.