Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
Menu
June 04th 2016 print

Timothy O'Hare

When the China Shop Needs a Bull

The Republican establishment dismissed Donald Trump as a joke, then reacted to initial victories with confident predictions his salad days would wilt and fade. What didn't resonate in Washington's hermetically sealed echo chamber was disgust, not with the tycoon but with the elites

trump bull IIThe sentiment is familiar: ‘I hope the Republican Party nominates Donald Trump because it will be a bloodbath for them’, or words to  that effect, is a social-media staple among non-Republicans. The seductive notion is that Trump is so unpalatable he will lose November’s presidential election in a landslide to Hillary Clinton. Therefore, or so the logic goes, Republicans would do better with someone less divisive. As a prevailing meme it serves not only as a reminder of the folly in taking advice from political enemies, but also of the punditocracy’s abysmal record of what are, quite frankly, delusional prognostications.

When the primaries season began, the conventional wisdom was ‘Republicans will never nominate Trump’. When the tycoon began to gain traction, it was ‘Trump will crash and burn’ and ‘he’s a temporary fad’. As he continued to gather delegates, wishful thinking coloured the prophecies, as in ‘they’ll wise up and pick Jeb Bush’. Each and every reading of the auguries proved untrue, a reminder that few things can equal the inertial mass of a political elite confronting a contrary reality. Whatever else Trump has achieved, he has certainly eroded the credibility of numerous political commentators.

The pundits’ mistake was to apply the rules of 2012 four years too late. When Trump denounced illegal aliens and the crimes many commit, the media establishment painted him as a racist and, tellingly, neglected to mention that his pledge to build a wall along the Rio Grande was prompted by, to cite but one example, the Mexican thug who had been deported five times before slipping over the border yet again to kill a young woman in San Francisco. Those who voted for Trump knew better. They grasped that there is already a border “wall” of sorts — armed patrols, cyclone wire, movement detectors –  it’s just that it doesn’t work very well. In 2012, the racist tag worked just fine as a handy smear. Today, though, non-pundit Americans have watched the invasion of Europe, seen the erosion of borders and national sovereignty, made note of crimes committed by those with no legal right to be on US soil. In the world they inhabit, the world the elites refuse to acknowledge, what Trump says makes perfect sense.

Likewise, Trump’s pronouncements on Islamic immigration. After every latest Islamist massacre the elites grab the nearest photogenic imam, summon the media and proclaim Islam as the Religion of Peace™. Voters, however, recall 9/11 and, more recently, the San Bernadino massacre by a Muslim husband and wife who killed the very same workmates who organised a baby shower for them. Once again, Trump emerges as the candidate who best grasps reality.

Likewise, previous orthodoxies also have been called into question. Obama campaigned in 2008 on the implicit pledge that he would restore the world’s love for America by renouncing what he evidently regarded as its arrogant and imperialist hubris. The result? A shrunken global presence, a shameful deal with Iran’s religious fascists and a vacuum where once Pax Americana prevailed.  These factors, compounded and manifested in the rise of the Tea Party, contributed to an overall feeling of disconnect between Main Street and its Washington betters.

The Republican establishment was never weaker than in the 2016 primary, nor its view of the campaign’s ground rules more myopic. Why would the Republican Party nominate Jeb Bush and thereby agree to play out the election according to Hillary Clinton’s terms? Why would they fight for the affections of the minority of voters actively engaged in the political process while turning their backs on the 70%-or-so who, in any normal year, display their disdain for professional politicians by not bothering to vote? All of this would be playing into the hands of Hillary Clinton, who anticipated an orderly transition into the Oval Office, there to continue the work and policies of the Obama administration.

The flawed approach and restricted horizons of the Republican establishment was demonstrated by the dismal primary campaigns of Bush and Chris Christie. Bush, once the front-runner, saw his hopes first dented by Trump and then shattered in their entirety. In GOP debates he appeared bland and uncertain of just why he should be president. Christie’s campaign never really took off and, after the emergence of Trump as a viable contender, he called it quits.

Unlike Christie, who saw the writing on the wall and endorsed Trump, the GOP establishment seems oblivious to what is happening before its very eyes. Some, such as the Speaker  Paul Ryan, held off endorsing Trump. Others, and here I think of Mark Salter, John McCain’s chief-of-staff, are actually and publicly hoping for a Clinton victory.  The very idea of staunch Republicans endorsing a Clinton over their own party’s presumptive nominee would have been fanciful just twelve months ago, but no longer. The GOP establishment despises Trump for tearing up the political rule book, shattering the orthodoxies they have spent their careers trying to legitimise. Professional politicians of an allegedly conservative strike have every reason to detest the liberal media and biased mainstream press, but seldom dare to express those sentiments openly. Trump, by contrast, brands the press gang sleazebags to their faces and average Americans cheer.

The last of the punditocracy’s comforting myths to be dismantled has been the oh-so-confident prediction that Trump would fall short of the delegates required to cement his nomination at the Cleveland convention and be sent packing by a floor vote. Now, with the convention looming, Trump is the last Republican standing and his presidential nomination cannot be denied by the machinations of party elders and operatives scheming in the smoke-filled rooms of legend. They should have known better, if only on the strength of the legions of blue-collar Democrats he brought into the GOP fold during the primaries.

To the Republican establishment Hillary Clinton represents a last ditch effort at vindication — vindication in the sense that, if only the masses had listened to its GOP elites, they will be able to say that the party could have won. To do an injustice to Milton, they would rather rule in the perpetual hell of impotent opposition than serve in Trump’s White House. The naked self-interest is alarming. Rather than accept the political reality of the here-and-now, that voters are fed up with the Washington establishment and will be quite happy to see a bull let loose in its china shop, the Republican establishment holds its nose and remains lukewarm at best in backing the party’s now-inevitable candidate. What they don’t seem to grasp is that the great unwashed notice that same truculence and see their dour appraisals of the elites confirmed.

Trump is by no means a shoe-in for the presidency; he still has a Himalayan range to ascend if he is to defeat the Clinton machine. But he has made it to Base Camp and shows no sign of flagging. As Clinton struggles to put pay to Bernie Sanders while  simultaneously facing the prospect of an angry and fractious convention, such intramural discord does not bother Trump. Indeed, the more the GOP establishment makes faces at the prospect of the outsider carrying its banner in November, the greater Trump’s appeal grows.

We have no way of knowing how Trump will fare in November. What we do know is that there is no reason to believe his critics. After all, they have been wrong about everything else.

Comments [7]

  1. Jody says:

    Today I watched again the brilliant Wyler film from 1946, “The Best Years of Our Lives”. It is, IMO, the most outstanding American film ever made; a big call, I know, but I’ve had decades as a cinephile to make that assessment. I was wondering, during the film, what had happened to that once-great nation and its values, all of them represented in the film; family, work, loyalty to country, sacrifice, bravery, integrity, honour. It’s all there in a realistic film without mawkishness or sentimentality.

    What HAS happened to the USA that they are politically riven and now have Hobson’s Choice between the untrustworthy and shrill Clinton and the barking mad Trump? I wish Niall Ferguson had shed some light on this in his recent lecture in Sydney. It’s debilitating and humiliating for the USA and it gives me no pleasure to see it all unravel.

  2. en passant says:

    Jody,
    The truly ‘barking mad’ are those who think Trump is barking mad

  3. Peter OBrien says:

    The best thing the GOP can do now is to rally behind Trump 100% on the proviso that he accepts a cabinet of the best operators they can recruit. That’s providing they can recognize that the game has changed and they would need to present genuinely talented people not the same old time servers that got them where they are today.

  4. Don A. Veitch says:

    Very good article, fingering the myopic political elite, the deceitful ‘Washington Establishment’ and the mob that make their own ‘reality’.
    The lessons should not be lost on Canberra watchers.
    Trump is more than a headache, he could be a game changer. Why?

    Well, Americans are savvy about their rights and when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide New Guards for their future security.
    That Old Guard has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither, swarms of Officers to harass people and eat out their substance, they have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

    Trump just has to quote the Declaration of Independence and, oh yeah, whist back in that era, he could revisit the real economics that built a real America.
    Trump aint Jefferson, Washington, or Hamilton but then, who knows?

  5. [email protected]optusnet.com.au says:

    Those who say Australia needs a ‘Donald Trump’ to my mind are mistaken. I suspect that Donald actually believes that ‘government power’, albeit augmented by his ‘will power’, will be able to ‘make America Great again’, rather than trusting in the free market which was the main thing which made America ‘great’ in the first place. Because the intent of the American constitution had/has been weakened by ‘activist’ politicians and especially ‘activists’ in the judiciary, to achieve his success in the ‘American dream’ Donald and his businesses had to ‘buy political favours’, usually from those aligned with the Democrats. Now he thinks it’s his turn to cash in. To my mind the free market is the ultimate/only true democracy, and I don’t think that the ‘Donald’ will act in a way to make ‘democracy’ a valid style of governance again by making government smaller and getting it out of the lives of US citizens, even if he says he will refuse to appoint ‘activist’ judges.

  6. Ian MacDougall says:


    The GOP establishment despises Trump for tearing up the political rule book, shattering the orthodoxies they have spent their careers trying to legitimise.

    We know what Trump has said he will do: make America great again, ban Muslim immigration, build the Great Wall of America, etc, etc. And all can be confident that he will stick to that, or at least some of it, right up until he changes his mind. Did someone say nuke Iran? Could be a good idea. .But he will probably wait until the (genuinely) frustrated, grieving, downsizing and gullible punters of the USA have put him into the White House before spinning the chocolate wheel inside his head and thereby coming to a decision on what he really means to do. Until he changes his mind again.
    Can we expect the land that gave the world political great leaders like Jefferson, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, FDR and Martin Luther King to get it right all the time?
    Fair go!

    • Jody says:

      Niall Ferguson seemed to be of the opinion that Trump will certainly do what he promised to do if elected to office.

      I agree that the USA has partially been eroded from within by activists within the judicial system and the polity. They feel free to read anything they like into the Constitution provided it fits a ‘progressive’ narrative. The very fact that squabbling occurs over judicial replacements in the Supreme Court ought to tell us everything we need to know about judicial impartiality.