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March 12th 2016 print

James C. Bennett

Preferring the Pirate

A Trump administration may well see needed reforms left undone and unneeded populist measures promoted. As this most unlikely of candidates draws closer to the GOP's nomination, one thing is certain: Whatever the mogul's flaws, and they are many, he is less dangerous than Hillary

ships riggedBeing a great aficionado of Patrick O’Brien’s tales of the Georgian Royal Navy, I beg the reader’s indulgence of my using a metaphor from that era.  Imagine the American Right to be in the position of a Royal Navy captain of the Napoleonic Wars era, who has found himself trapped in a narrow strait of water blocked at one end by a strong French fleet, and at the other by a large ship which he recognizes as belonging to an infamous and eccentric buccaneer.  Escape might still be possible by skirting past the pirate, but is growing more improbable by the moment.  The crew, so loyal and steadfast in the past, is becoming spooked.  Some are even jumping overboard and swimming toward the pirate vessel, hoping to join him, and the corpulent purser has absconded with a ship’s boat, rowing in the pirate’s direction.

The choices are grim. To surrender to the French is an appalling prospect, meaning four or even eight years in a prison hulk.  However, the pirate is so eccentric and unpredictable that he might just kill you for surrendering to him.  You call a council of war with your remaining officers and hear their opinions.  One counsels that you take to the remaining boats and set the ship on fire, rather than surrender her to either.  That would deny the ship to your enemies but leave you adrift and helpless.  You might indeed make your way to shore and slowly, painfully use salvaged supplies to build a new ship, but that is uncertain, and would certainly leave you stranded for a long time.

Some counsel that you yield the ship to the French.  They are, after all, civilized people who more or less observe the rules of war. And there is no dishonor in surrendering the ship in wartime to a foe with overwhelming power.  The war will eventually be over, and you will return home and get a new ship. Others object: the pirate is, after all, so unpredictable that a decent deal might be struck with him.  Your ship still represents a valuable asset with which to trade.  You might convince him that you know of a hidden French treasure, and propose that you join forces with him to capture it and split the loot — the sort of deal that appeals to him.

You contemplate, quickly because time is running out, and finally conclude: you must deal with the pirate.  You cannot deal with the French.  Surrender is not just a personal tragedy; it hands a valuable ship to an enemy whose war goals are the conquest of your country and the eradication of your way of life.  A guillotine in Piccadilly; your children growing up singing the Marseillaise.  Distasteful as it may be, you must prefer the pirate.

That may be the choice facing the American right.  I do not like Trump’s populist nationalism, and I like even less the probable outcome of an actual Trump presidency.  (You don’t imagine he’s actually going to enact his stated platform, do you?)  Never the less, if I am faced with a choice of Trump versus Hillary Clinton, or Trump versus Sanders, I will, however reluctantly, prefer the pirate and vote for Trump.  I will decline any offered virtue-signaling exercise of voting for some third-party option.  I would urge everybody else, whether social-conservative, libertarian, or fusionist, to do the same.

However, at the same time, I would regard the situation as a tactical retreat, not the end of the world.  It would become critical to fight with all available might for the down-ticket races.  We would have to take stock of remaining assets, avoid circular firing squads and recriminations, and prepare an agenda for the sizable remnant of committed rightists in the House and Senate.

Trump, after all, has no party.  He has no demonstrated skill in creating and leading a principled movement.  He must govern with the cooperation, however negotiated, with the leadership the houses of Congress choose.  We must decide what to ask for and what to give in return.  A critical part of any administration is the several hundred high-level appointees the new President  can make; not just the Cabinet secretaries, but the undersecretaries and assistants and Federal prosecutors, and eventually, the judges.  Most presidents come to power with a list of sympathetic potential office-holders they have collected over the years and vetted for loyalty and (hopefully) competence. Trump has none such.  He will likely draw many of them from the ranks of the Right.  Opportunists will offer themselves, of course, but their loyalty is only skin-deep, and as quickly as they attach themselves, so quickly can they be bought off with the right offers.

As for the other option, do not believe it is necessarily survivable.  A Clinton Restoration will be very much like the Bourbon Restoration in France, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  Hillary will use both the legal and illegal powers of the Presidency to systematically dismember the American Right, seeking to use her term(s) in office to permanently cripple its ability to block the social-justice warriors’ agenda.  She undoubtedly looks on Obama’s weak and easily distracted measures with contempt.  The use of the IRS to attack right-wing institutions was fully uncovered during the Obama administration without effective consequence.  Therefore we can expect it to be used much more consistently and systematically under the Clinton Restoration. A number of measures will be used to permanently handicap the Republican Party, such as Puerto Rican statehood and, possibly, the abolition of the Electoral College, allowing corrupt urban machines to flood the ballot boxes with the votes of the Deceased-American demographic. The FCC will be used to muzzle conservative media and  a progressive majority on the Supreme Court will erode all ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights.

A Trump administration may represent a substantial opportunity cost to America as needed reforms remain undone and unneeded populist measures are done.  But it will be unlikely to actually constitute the war on the American right that a Clinton Restoration will represent.  Meanwhile, American conservatism will be put to the test. It might ask itself why, with all the potential advantages it should have had in the 2016 election, did it go off the rails so badly?  It will have four years to find some answers to that question.

But only if the pirate is chosen over the French, if it should come to that.

Comments [19]

  1. Colin S says:

    As an avid follower of Jack Aubrey’s adventures, I like Mr Bennett’s metaphor. However, I think he misses the point. I have carried out business in the USA for many years and come across both left and right executives. While I have much in common with the thinking of the US business right, much of my disquiet has become illuminated with the current GOP nomination process. A “born-to-rule” and a distinctly members only attitude shows them up in a very poor light.
    He is correct in saying that Trump has no party associates but wrong to assume his choices will include those “Opportunists” that offer themselves. Let’s face it, the “club” has no great record in that department. Fortunately, he suggests that the club get over it and beat the horrid Clinton.
    The point he is missing, is than many ordinary Americans are sick of being taken for patsies and are prepared to follow anyone who, at least, acknowledges their genuine grievances. We have much in common in Australia.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    Congratulations to James C. Bennett fox this excellent depiction of the state of affairs in the American presidential contest. He has me convinced. Alas, he also has me dismayed. Having to choose between your mortal enemy and an entity of highly questionable character is about as dire as a situation can get. The dilemma reflects not only on the American political class but also on the American public. Not very flattering, is it?

    • Jody says:

      Unfortunately, the American people elected a President of Political Correctness rather than an American President – one who has sat on his hands for nearly 6 years. He spends his days sitting in comfort in the White House phoning the women of America to thank them for being mothers on Mother’s Day, entertaining black centenarians, riding in the sports cars of TV personalities. In short, he’s a narcissist just like Rudd was and there for the photo opportunities. During his presidency we’ve seen “shutdowns”, reduced standards of living, floods of illegal immigrants, censorship through political correctness and the US Supreme Court overturn the legislation of Californians who voted against SS marriage!! I’d say that’s all contributed to the Donald and what we now have. Things will turn a whole lot uglier yet, IMO.

  3. Keith Kennelly says:

    What bloody arrogance.

    It appears the Pirate actually has support from many Republican voters. At just less than 50% that’s much more than any of the ‘old exclusive club’ candidates.

    So why do you think the GOP their Party and that their minority view is the view that all the dumb as American voters must expect and adhere to.

    Don’t you see support for Trump and Cruz is a clear rejection by the majority of those of the ‘old exclusive club?

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      My thoughts too. Too often have the experts told us that Trump will be a disaster and that those voting for him are in some way deficient but democracy is about what the common folk want and that is seldom the same as what the elite want. Trump realised that salient fact and the people have found a saviour. Abbott won in 2010/13 for the same reasons but failed to deliver when in government. That is not to belittle his big achievements but to highlight the small achievements which would have seen him still the PM. 18C was a turning point but also the appointments of Despoya and Combet undermined our belief that we had a conservative as PM.

  4. Ian MacDougall says:

    “Less dangerous than Hilary”???

    This is ugly, but it is coherent. What Trump is offering is an explanation and a solution; an argument and an ideology. It is dangerous, and it is violent, but it is not confusing, and it is not unclear.
    And this is why Trump is something different and more dangerous in American life. He is a man with an evident appetite for suppressing dissent with violence, a man who believes America’s problem is that it’s too gentle to its dissidents. Trump is making an argument for a politics backed by force, for a security service unleashed from “political correctness,” for a country where protesting has consequences. The results are playing out before us, night after night, on our televisions.

    Thanks to Trump and his campaign to “make America great again”, the US scene is starting to look like a replay of Germany in the 1920s.

    • ianl says:

      Trump cancelled his Chicago rally to *avoid* violence from leftoid PC protesters who had deliberately gathered there to provoke violence

      And you’re doing a 180 on it ? … golly and gee, pathos reigns

      Political correctness is not a cute phrase – it’s a virulent leprositic disease

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        ianl: Did you go to the link? Try the updated one: http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/3/12/11211898/donald-trumps-ideology-of-violence

        On February 1st, Trump made a promise to an angry crowd. You protect me, he said, and I’ll protect you. “If you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Knock the hell out of them. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.”

        Someone can be perceived as “getting ready to throw a tomato” in a heap of subjective ways. It is as good as “if in your opinion someone is getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Knock the hell out of them. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.”
        That is a serious offer from a seriously wealthy real estate speculator – sorry, not speculator, tycoon.
        Now I am not familiar with the law in Illinois. But if that was uttered in Australia, I’d say it would be incitement to violence, and dead set against the law in every jurisdiction.

        • ianl says:

          > Did you go to the link?

          Of course I read your vox link. Getting ready to throw tomatoes is a threatened violence, despite your moral vanity

          Now, address the *reason* the Chicago Trump rally was cancelled, please, without the “Oh look over there – a squirrel” tactic. Doing a 180 is silly

          And we see the “seriously wealthy real estate speculator” ploy – standard leftoid envy. When called on that, they generally leave the field

          I’m not necessarily a Trump advocate. I do appreciate the metaphorical (note: metaphorical) punch in the nose he’s giving the leftoid MSM and parasitical “elites”. They really deserve it, and have for quite a while

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            I’m not necessarily a Trump advocate. I do appreciate the metaphorical (note: metaphorical) punch in the nose he’s giving the leftoid MSM and parasitical “elites”.

            Ah yes: the leftoid ‘elites’. They have neither the right sort of money, nor an acceptable attitude. And yes also, Trump’s violence is personally metaphorical. I think he is sensible enough not to start the punch-up he has urged others to start, perhaps because he is not 100% confident of winning. Down in the mud flat on his face would not be a good look.
            And you are “not necessarily a Trump advocate.” That’s an each-way bet if ever I saw one.
            Trump’s problem is that he is making promises on which he can’t deliver, the principle one being that he’ll “make America great again.” (Like all demagogues, he plays to the egos of his followers: not to their empathetic sides, and certainly not to their intelligence.) The subtext here is that under his presidency, America will once again take its place as the hi-tech workshop of the world, and be able to buy cheap and sell dear on the world market: as in the good old days of yore: before all those winged pigs took to the air.

  5. Jody says:

    Yes, the Left has a habit of violent protests and we’ve seen that here often enough ourselves. The Reclaim Australia group has the right to peaceful protest/gatherings/rallies and the left has consistently hijacked these and resorted to violence. It’s the ‘militia’ arm of the general tendency towards censorship which is so much a part of PC ‘enlightenment’, I’m sorry to day. “Everybody shut up! Only I’m allowed to speak, and my views are morally superior”. That’s precisely why we have ‘shock jocks’ – people feel disenfranchised and demonized by the bien pensant who look down on them – all the while not intelligent enough to understand the principle of ‘one vote/one value’ democracy.

  6. Ian MacDougall says:


    It is incorrect to try and pin violence against homosexuals on the Right.

    So can I take it that you see it as part of the historic legacy of the Left?
    Homosexuals were persecuted by the police in all states, who have nowhere qualified themselves except in the most deluded heads as being part of the Left. They were upholding laws passed by state parliaments, whose politicians of whatever party have likewise never been part of what anyone might call The Left. They have always been pillars of The Establishment, with very few exceptions. And the real decisions on who and how many to grab off the street were made more often than not in those casual meetings between a premier, a police minister and a police commissioner.
    In NSW, the police commissioner before ordering his force to raid some gambling establishment would always clear it beforehand with the Minister, in case it was deemed for political reasons to be untouchable. For example, there might be a danger that some of the state’s more prominent Proper People could be (unintentionally of course) caught in the net.

  7. Bernard Tola says:

    Please don’t make me say what I haven’t said. What seems to me specious is your dismissal of Left wing violence against Trump rallies now, in the U.S., on the grounds that the Right, once upon a time, was violent against homosexuals in NSW. Violence against homosexuals came from many and no direction at all. It is a dishonest exercise of the Left to try and pin it on the Right in order to proclaim its own fictitious righteousness.

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    Any people of the American left who go along to Trump rallies (and I am sure they do) and disrupt them in the belief that they are hindering his cause are severely deluded. In fact it would not surprise me to learn that more than a few of them are provocateurs on Trump’s own payroll. That sort of thing has been known.

    • Bernard Tola says:

      I can smell a conspiracy theory coming along. It may need more evidence than just a dislike for Trump.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Sorry. I am not into conspiracy theories: with the ONE exception of the Kennedy assassination. But anyone can go along to a political rally and heckle: beats just staying home and watching TV.