I've been waiting for a Republican who would say, bluntly, the Iraq War was a disaster. I've been waiting for a Republican candidate to say that the trade deals and legal frameworks that drive globalism have been bad deals for America's workers. I've been waiting for a candidate who would question the elite consensus on mass immigration, not tweak it. And I've been waiting for a candidate to deliver a shock to the conservative movement and the Republican Party, something that would force them to reconnect to the actual material interests of their voters, to make them realize that the market was made for man, and not man for the market.
Unfortunately, the candidate espousing these views is Donald Trump. And the few good causes which he espouses — the ones which could stand on their own, apart from the crutches of noxious racism and populism he uses to prop them up — are too important to be entrusted to him.
I can see clearly why Trumpism is having such a romp. Trump doesn't just talk about change, he is the change. Barack Obama was better at giving a politician's speech than most politicians. But Trump doesn't give speeches the way most politicians do. He doesn't form policy or take positions in the way modern politicians do, with the advice of the professional and permanent political class. Of course Trump's very style would appeal to people who are weakly attached to the political system, the people who are worst-served by it.
Donald Trump makes it seem as if the American people can elect a single, strong personality — him — and immediately get a better deal from the federal government and the process of globalization. Although this is partly the conceit of any presidential campaign — every candidate talks about themselves as if they are about to be made dictator — Trump takes it to new levels, touting his personal strength, his energy, and his fitness. It's the sort of lie that is dangerous to tell, and more dangerous to believe. The fantasy of a strong man is a more advanced symptom of the American republic's corruption, not a cure for it.
And is it enough to say I simply don't trust him? Trump promises to put on a new personality once he is elected. I suspect he would. Trump's voters are just the latest set of marks. Like the graduates of Trump University, or those who dined on Trump's steaks.
Trump brags that he is free of special interests. But the hard truth about special interests is that they at least tie candidates in our system to real, organized groups within the country. Not all of them good, or loyal, or deserving of the public's solicitousness. But they are only as corrupt as the nation itself is. Trump is free of the Chamber of Commerce, sure, but that doesn't make him loyal to anyone else. The fact that the next president will almost certainly move the Supreme Court from its days as a body that deals out victories to one faction or another, to one that is reliably re-shaping the country in either a conservative or progressive direction is another reason not to go with a wild card.
Trump is vain, vulgar, self-obsessed. He is everything that I dislike about America. I do not believe his candidacy is moving the Overton Window away from global market fundamentalism and toward a healthy American nationalism. He is instead making the causes of a pro-American trade policy and foreign policy more stupid, ugly, and repulsive to many who would benefit from them. He is basically hated by Independents and Democrats, many of whom could be attracted to a Republican Party that recognized that the economy is for man, and not the reverse.
I have wanted a nationalist course-correction for the Republican Party for a long time. America needs at least one political party that is working to create a political economy in which any family that has one hard-worker in it will surely live a decent and secure life. And further, that any family that lacks this through no fault of their own will not be reduced to circumstances that disgrace their nation.
Really, America should have two parties working for this ideal, even as they try to preserve the existing system that richly rewards some superstars and entrepreneurs. Trump will not effect this change in the Republican Party. Rather his political career is already entrenching the already-alarming and corrupting dynamic where the natural political antagonism of the two major parties is exacerbating and heightening racial and ethnic antagonism in American society generally. My best hope is that the scare Trump is delivering to the GOP and the conservative movement will allow steadier men to advance. Men who are less ideological and more attuned to the actual economic and spiritual needs of the party and the nation.
I expect Trump's biggest fans to find these objections prissy. This is a mass democracy, not a mannerly Republic, they'll say. So what, if he's the way he is. A vulgarian supported by a mob is the only way to break through.
And I will thank them for reminding me, that besides being a nationalist, I'm still a conservative too.