Trump: A Moderately Respectful and Contempt-free Defense of His Candidacy and Supporters

trump and supporters

As seemingly the only man standing at BD willing to offer a defense of the Donald Trump candidacy, and his supporters (you can call me the designated punching bag), allow me to respond to the full frontal assault on the bombastic billionaire and his supporters by my colleague Shaun Kenney.

First, let me be clear.  Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have their attributes, one a great communicator and the other a true rock-ribbed conservative.  If either can actually beat Hillary Clinton, more power to them, and I would enthusiastically support either in the general election.

But unlike Shaun and many others here, I will certainly support Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee.

Donald Trump does not fit the mold of a movement conservative, a paleo-conservative or a neoconservative.  And yet, he has received substantial support from those who describe themselves as conservative.  And many who don’t.

In fact, as I learned in attending a Trump rally last Thanksgiving weekend, Trump has attracted a rogue’s gallery of passionate supporters from across the political and socioeconomic spectrum.  And as he has built his own brand in politics as he has in business, he has become the unquestioned frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination by speaking unvarnished truth to entrenched power about issues of greatest concern to conservatives circa 2016: the economy, jobs, trade, national security, immigration, gun rights and the military.  And the corrupting influence of money in politics.

He has convinced a critical mass of primary and caucus voters that his crude puncturing of political correctness, independence from the political class and unquestionable business acumen is just what the country needs right now.  Maybe not four or eight years ago, maybe not ever before.  But right now.

These people want raw strength, caring far more about the attitude evinced in his over-the-top rhetoric than his specific policies and vagueness on the details.  This has made him wide open to the charge of being an authoritarian and dangerous person to entrust with the nuclear codes.  

However, his call for a significantly strengthened military balanced with his clear denunciation of the Iraq War and other nation-building ventures seems to have hit the nail of the public mood on the head.

Much like a mirror image of Obama circa 2008, his support is passionate not because of who he is, but for what he represents.  In fact, many of his supporters will openly admit they don’t like him, but that the country needs him.

His campaign is not about ideology.  It is about the more transcendent and resurgent concept of restoring American greatness and American exceptionalism, as is well articulated here.

At the same time, it has generated such violent opposition that it has spawned a new affliction, TDS – Trump Derangement Syndrome, a variant of Bush Derangement Syndrome.  

But my friend Shaun’s point by point charge that he is an anti-conservative deserves some unpacking, so here goes.

Conservatives oppose protectionism; Trump embraces it.

If opposition to protectionism means we should simply accept all deals wrapping themselves in the mantle of “free trade,” which in fact enable the strengthening of the Chinese economy, among others, at the expense of our economy, jobs and wages, count me out.  Most of these trade deals – including NAFTA – have delivered far less than they promised.  And I say this as someone who strongly supported the passage of NAFTA.  

Conservatives are pro-life; Trump supports Planned Parenthood.

Trump does indeed support the mission and work of PP…except for abortion, a position he has repeated on numerous occasions.

So here is the question: Do conservatives really care much, if at all, about the actual women’s health services offered by PP (other than perhaps contraceptive services which are opposed by conservative Catholics)?

Would federal funding for PP even be an issue were it not for abortion?

Those who decry Trump’s change of position, or flip-flop, on abortion are the same ones who gave Romney a pass for a similar conversion – not to mention the 2012 nominee’s suddenly acquired outrage about illegal immigration.

Additionally, as Ronald Reagan proved, even a strong conservative president can do little to limit the tragedy of abortion.

Conservatives embrace family; Trump will do nothing to overturn Obergefell.

So Trump is anti-family.  I see.  And exactly what can a president do to “overturn” a Supreme Court decision?  There is this little matter of the separation of powers.  And what other candidate, pray tell, has said he would do anything to “overturn” this decision?  

In fact, the seemingly irreconcilable fact that Trump has attracted so much support from evangelicals demonstrates how even the faithful see this as an election of rendering unto Caesar.

Conservatives support the 2nd Amendment; Trump’s best friends are people who oppose the 2A.

This is an inexplicable charge.  Trump is not just nominally pro-2nd amendment.  He has campaigned on the issue.  

To condemn Trump because he has thrived in one of the most liberal cities in the country, and has built his empire amidst many, including “best friends,” who are undoubtedly not second amendment supporters, is nothing less than a proclamation of guilt by association, not to mention parochial.

Why not just say that because he’s from NYC, he can’t be trusted.  At least that can not be disproved.

Conservatives believe tax cuts bolster the economy; Trump seeks to increase tariffs.

Tax cuts and tariffs are entirely different issues.  But here is what Forbes has concluded: Trump would cut taxes by $9.5 trillion over the next decade, followed closely by Cruz, who is proposing an $8.6 trillion tax cut. By contrast, Rubio and Bush would each cut taxes by about $6.8 trillion.


Conservatives tear walls down; Trump wants to build one.

I have no idea what this really means, other than as some sort of campaign slogan.   

Here’s the problem: if building a wall on our southern border is not a conservative position, how come the most conservative candidate of all, Ted Cruz, suddenly supported such a project after Trump made it an issue?

Fact is, Republicans were the ones who pushed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, with more than one billion dollars of federal funding, though construction has long since stalled.

To build the public’s confidence level in our immigration policies above the current zero percent requires something far more than Republicans who speak in one breath about the rule of law (in this instance citing the 14th amendment and birthright citizenship) and in the next label everyone who opposes a blanket acceptance of millions of illegals as “nativists.”  

This ideological inconsistency sets the cause back much further than Democrats, who at least admit they favor a virtual blanket amnesty.  

Tell me of one other nation in the world that does not enforce its sovereign borders, and allows millions of people there illegally to stay.  

Right.  I thought you couldn’t.

Calling all those opposed to enforcing immigration laws nativists is akin to calling all people who oppose affirmative action racists. It is usually the left which employs these kind of tactics.

Apart from all his bluster, Trump’s policy would actually, ultimately offer dignity to those millions in the shadows who have come here to live productive lives, while weeding out those who are gaming and crashing the system, sucking up jobs, healthcare and the many other public benefits designed for those who live here and have obeyed the law.

Republicans have far less credibility on this issue than the Democrats, who are at least honest in openly embracing open or fluid borders.  The GOP, on the other hand, blasts out their outrage, while at every turn bowing to the Chamber of Commerce and its thirst for cheap labor.  GOP sound and fury has signified nothing.  Because for all their bluster, that is exactly what they have done about illegal immigration. Nothing.  

And you wonder why Trump has gotten so much traction with his consistent screeds about politicians who are all talk and no action.

Conservatives believe immigrants make America stronger; Trump wants to turn them away.

Failing to distinguish between the immigrants who arrived in waves before and after the turn of the 20th century and those who have crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas is a rank insult to those who emigrated legally then and now.

Let’s be honest here.  The question on the minds of most people when they see a person of Hispanic heritage is: I wonder if he’s an illegal?  This demeans the dignity of all Hispanics.  Only rebuilding confidence in our disgraceful immigration system by enforcing the laws already on the books can restore the dignity of those who can prove they have been productive members of society and played by the rules.

On the matter of a temporary suspension of admittance to Muslims from the heart of the middle east cesspool, are we supposed to acknowledge we are at war with Islamo-fascism on one hand, and make no modifications to our refugee policy on the other?  Tell me how that makes sense.  Once again, Donald Trump is the only one willing to make this an issue.

Conservatives believe in actual foreign policy; Trump believes in an imposition of American power…..Conservatives believe the liberation of Iraq was justified; Trump believes the sacrifice of American blood and treasure was a mistake.

So, let me get this straight. Conservatives oppose the imposition of American power, but favored the Iraq war, which – news flash – was apparently not an imposition of American power?

Furthermore, to advance a blanket statement that conservatives believed this “liberation” was justified is to ignore the many conservatives who opposed it.  Is William F. Buckley sufficient to make the point?  If not, there were many others.

If this statement was modified to say neoconservatives believe the war was justified, you would be correct.  And they led us right over the cliff and into the waiting arms of Barack Obama.  And now we should double down on their disastrous leadership?

Whether he actively opposed the Iraq War or not at the time, Trump is again the only candidate willing to admit a truth that is obvious to all who are not Republican apologists: The Iraq war was an utter disaster and is directly responsible for the ascension of Iran and the rise of ISIS to fill the power vacuum left by the deposing of Saddam.

Trump is absolutely right in saying we invested $2,000,000,000,000 in a war from which we derived nothing and actually made us less safe. Incredible but true.

How many times must we lead or support the toppling of secular dictators, only to see them replaced by broader movements far more threatening to American interests?  We did it in Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, and have done the same in the Obama years in Egypt and Libya, and are still actively debating the same in Syria.

Will we never learn?

Conservatives question the need for the security state; Trump desires to employ it against America’s “enemies.”

This is a beaut.  Nobody in American history expanded the security state more than George W. Bush.  Where was the conservative uprising against that?  

In a more contemporary context, most conservatives defended the bulk collection of data by the NSA.  Allowing access to the data of every single American is not a gross expansion of the security state?

Conservatives back property rights; Trump backs eminent domain against little old ladies.

Another appealing slogan, and while Trump’s outspoken support of eminent domain is decidedly unfortunate, Presidents have no more effect on eminent domain than they do on abortion.

Conservatives see humanity as basically good; Trump sees humanity as basically useful.

The last person I would expect to proclaim that humanity is basically good is a prominent Catholic.  

It is actually quite the opposite.  Original sin is the animating belief of all Christians who understand and accept the consequent need for a savior.

It is the secular left that believes in the goodness and perfectibility of man.  Conservatives believe the opposite and support a Constitution that is explicit in its most fundamental proposition: power must be divided, checked and enumerated…precisely because of the fallen nature of man.

Trump supporters only

Our problem is that we got lazy, fat, and under educated…..We decided at some point that society owed us a living, and if society didn’t create the conditions for giving us a living, then society was to blame…..Entitled parents raised a bunch of entitled kids…..Maybe the reason the world sucks is because of YOU?

Don’t know who the “we” is, Kimosabe, but I certainly hope this is not the happy-clappy conservative platform certain to send us to a Goldwater-level defeat.  While much of this is true, I’m wondering how working class Americans (the Trump base) seeking decent jobs at a decent wage represents an entitlement mentality.  These people want work, not handouts.

Most interesting is, for all its itemization of how Trump is not conservative, Shaun’s piece failed to point out the area where Trump is actually least conservative: entitlement reform.  He has ruled out any reforms to an unsustainable system overrun with unfunded liabilities of (depending on your source) at least $100,000,000,000,000.  Of course, none of the other candidates have even touched this issue.

He is not right or conservative on every single issue to be sure.  For example, I believe he is wrong to call for a boycott of Apple, which he did on the fly following an attempt by the FBI to secure Apple’s assistance in breaking the encryption in the phone of one of the San Bernardino perpetrators.  He was wrong to angrily repeat the extreme-left fantasy that Bush deliberately lied about WMD’s, even if he later somewhat walked it back.  And he is, in my opinion, wrong in saying the problem with our leaders is their incompetence, when it is really their ideology and cowardice.

His unrelentingly bombastic tone – not to mention the occasional strong arm tactics of his most, uh, rabid backers – frequently makes it difficult to defend the substance of his policies.

But being plain spoken and outrageous has its benefits beyond rallying his supporters.

In addition to being the only GOP candidate willing to boldly blast down the walls of political correctness, call for revisions in our refugee policies and drastic change in the battle against illegal immigration, and call the Iraq war the disaster it was, he is, for example, the only one willing to call out Chief Justice John Roberts for his betrayal on Obamacare.  That was a most satisfying moment.  

He is also where the vast majority of Americans are on healthcare: despite a few careless words in a recent interview on CNN that were pounced on by his opponents, Trump has repeatedly said he is vigorously opposed to Obamacare but in favor of a path to universal availability of healthcare (but without a mandate) through the private sector.

And again, most importantly, he is the only one who will not be controlled by monied constituencies, lobbyists and special interest pleaders.  Which of course is exactly why he has gained more traction than anyone imagined, and why he is so threatening to an established order that has been drained of most all credibility.  

But the startling success of both Trump and Bernie Sanders serve as Exhibits A & B in this popu-nationalist uprising/revolution.

There is no question that professional conservatives and the Republican establishment are threatened by Trump because they stand to lose so much of their hard-won power.  However, in talking to and informally polling my many and varied conservative friends, there is great support for the Trump candidacy if not fondness for Trump himself.

But of course, it’s hardly just conservatives.  I mean, how many people have been attacked by the two most powerful people in the world…in the same week?  First the President of the United States called out he who, until now, must not be named, and then the Pope weighed in by declaring him to be a non-Christian without having ever met the man.  Don’t get me started on the politics of Pope Francis.

Trump is popular because he will overturn the tables of the money changers.  Because he will call things as he sees them and thus criticize both Democrats and Republicans.  And because he is the only one who has actually functioned in the real world, achieved spectacular success, and actually created jobs – thousands of them, many held by Mexicans and the other minorities he is accused of hating – and because they actually believe he represents the best hope – and the first since Reagan – for reversing our national decay and decline.

You may think his supporters misguided or wrong, but their position is honestly held…and entirely understandable.

Of course, one key question is strictly in the eye of the beholder: whether Trump’s conversion to the right of center on key issues is genuine, fake or simply, as one colleague has termed it, schtick (which I well understand after living in New York for several years).  Conspiracy theorists have gone as far as claiming he is a stalking horse for his one-time friend Hillary Clinton.

But it is equally valid to consider Trump’s assertion that his standing atop the real estate world required him to make friends and contribute to power brokers of all stripes in a city where the Republican party is little more than a rumor (except when someone like gun grabber extraordinaire Michael Bloomberg joins it to avoid those nasty Democratic primaries).

Another thing to understand is that Trump the politician is very much a work in progress.  I would certainly expect his tone to moderate the deeper he gets into this process.  And he has grasped this political game awfully fast, which should not be surprising for a man who has always reached for the stars, often grasped them, and in the part he has yet to discuss, misfire, lose, yet live to fight many other days.  

In fact, for a guy who is all about winning, it is losing his empire and then regaining it that is a vastly underrated element of the Trump story and character.   

Indeed, in one deal after another, successful or not, that one word which has come to define him truly hits the bullseye: Yuuuge.

And in another testament to how Trump has come to dominate the American political scene, that Y-word has become such a meme that even Bernie Sanders used it to describe his victory in New Hampshire.

I am beginning to understand Trump’s apparent long term strategy: roll the dice and steal the spotlight immediately with explosive bombast, exploit and crowd out an enormous field sure to carve up support into small pieces, and then, in the part that has just begun to play out, act increasingly presidential as the process advances.  Speak in broad themes, not specifics.  Use sentences, not paragraphs.  Emphasize the big issues of concern to what calls itself the (new) silent majority.

There is no denying that his strategy, whether as described above or not, has worked itself out better than even the Donald could have imagined.

Look, conservatives of all stripes adored Ronald Reagan, and yearn for his second coming.  But in the 27 years since he left office, no one has risen to the challenge.

Our grandfather’s Republican party is no more.  The coalition that put Reagan in the White House for eight memorable years has aged, and has become insufficient to win national elections because we have not added to it.  Republicans have won the popular vote in presidential elections just one time in the last 24 years, and then just barely. This election represents the best opportunity since Reagan to actually expand the Republican base (Rubio might also be able to do so).

But I fear that diatribes against Trump, but even more so his supporters – all of which will be exploited by the Democrats leading up to November – will turn these new voters away forever.

Do we want to apply a strict conservative litmus test, turn our noses up, vote for someone else and lose?  Do we really want to hang out a shingle saying Trump supporters need not apply?

Or do we want to embrace the big tent we claim to be and win, even with an imperfect candidate, as they all are?

Perhaps the perfect really is the enemy of the good.

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