Luis M. Luque is still struggling to finish his first novel. He served as a U.S. Navy mass communications specialist for 20 years and now works as a writer-editor. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program. He and his wife, Vera, live in Newnan, Georgia.
How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Donald
by Luis M. Luque
Donald Trump is a man, a human being. So we’re told anyway. Whatever he is, Trump is also a myth, a legend, a reality TV star, a corporation, a misogynist, a prognosticator, a Twitter feed, a brand, a bully, a braggart, a boor, a ratings bonanza, a bombastic billionaire buffoon blinded by ego, a bloviating blowhard for the entertainment of the blogosphere, a bumbling big-mouthed businessman blundering back and forth between banks and bankruptcy, and perhaps most surprising of all, a serious presidential candidate—at least in the minds of people fooled by what they think sounds like blunt talk about important issues.
A friend of mine believes Trump is a Democrat masquerading as a conservative Republican, that, in other words, he’s a troll, a living showcase for some of the GOP’s worst excesses—jingoism, racism, arrogance, lack of concern for the most vulnerable—and as such, my friend believes, Trump is herding voters toward the more sensible, or least harmful, political party. How I wish it were so.
I see Trump as an old-style tent revivalist minus religion, a carnival barker who barks only in superlatives, “I’ll build the biggest and wall ….” “I’ll get the best deal from the Chinese ….” “Hillary Clinton is the worst secretary of state ….” Trump uses an old playbook in new ways, all for his personal glorification. It’s a wildly successful playbook, but those taken in by its two basic schemes tend to regret briefly and forgive themselves too soon for being fooled, before they immediately begin falling for the next charlatan (Ben Carson? Ted Cruz? Rand Paul? Mike Huckabee?) to pick up the old dog-eared copy and wrap it in a shiny new cover.
The two basic schemes of these old-style fear mongers are nativism and populism. Nativism is probably one of the oldest effective political tactics we know. It consists of blaming an Other, usually an Outsider, for most of a nation’s problems.
If you jump on a soapbox (or Twitter) and scream that, “Everything is the fault of Those People over there,” and “Everything will be better once we get rid of Those People, because what are they doing here anyway?” then you’re following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler (who blamed mostly the Jews, but also any non-Aryans). Hitler used this tactic to great success, becoming German chancellor for life, or rather, for a moment, before it was all ground to dust.
But lest you conclude that nativism is something reserved for monsters, consider that the John Adams-signed Alien and Sedition Acts limited the ability of immigrants to gain full political rights, a hugely controversial measure at the time (1798). And consider the plight of other groups who have been victims of finger-pointing (and worse) at some point during our history: Native Americans, Catholics, Mormons, communists, anarchists, socialists, union workers, immigrants from Ireland, China, Japan, Italy, Russia, and most recently, Muslims, Arabs, Iranians, and Latin Americans. And of course, we can’t forget the long and tragic saga of African Americans in the United States, well known as it is. The all-too-common battle cry of the nativist is some variation of “Go back to where you came from.” Or, as Donald Trump recently put it to Jorge Ramos, “Go back to Univision.”
Populism, the other scheme, is the mother tongue of every successful politician. If several reputable polling firms revealed tomorrow that 95 percent of Americans strongly favor extremely graphic sex education for preschoolers and kindergarteners, you can bet that even holier-than-thou Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum would be screaming from the mountaintops (or Twitter) that they’d been calling for such measures for decades, regardless of how transparent that lie would be to everyone. But the skill of a great populist is to anticipate or steer public opinion (not merely to respond to it), especially the opinions of Americans who are not outspoken. Richard Nixon’s invoking of the Silent Majority that yearned for law and order during the near revolutionary upheavals of the Sixties is what led to his two electoral victories. While Yippies, hippies, Black Panthers, and antiwar activists rioted, boycotted, bombed, and burned, Nixon knew the radicals didn’t shout on behalf of the majority, that in fact the majority wanted the radicals silenced … and in jail. And, much to the radicals’ disappointment, the Silent Majority voted.
Donald Trump believes today’s Silent Majority is silently raging against illegal immigrants. And maybe they are. But even so, the Republican establishment is embarrassed by Trump’s crass style. They fear that if Trump can manage to unleash the votes of The Great Unwashed he will be impossible to control and he will ruin the Republican brand for a generation. As such, they will do everything they can to stop him. Not yet, though. Today, Trump is a useful idiot, steering the conversation to issues that Republicans can use to throw mud at Democrats. Illegal immigration, China, foreign policy “weakness.” Anything but discussions about income inequality, Citizens United, the outsized influence of wealth on politics, climate change. No, what Americans need is a common enemy, an outsider, an outsider who is “stealing Americans’ jobs.” Someone they can hate.
Let Donald Trump blow that horn for a while longer. Later, when the field is down to about four or five respectable candidates, then it will be time to gang up on The Donald, expose his lack of specificity, his lack of knowledge of complex political issues, his lack of political experience, his excess of braggadocio. Sure, he might be a successful businessman, but Washington is not a business. Sure, the people are in the mood for an outsider, but the establishment wants someone they understand and can control a bit, someone who owes them favors. (Watch out Ben Carson. They don’t like you either.) Besides, Republicans can read a demographic trend line as well as anyone. They know they need Hispanic votes. If not in 2016, for certain in 2018, 2020 and beyond. And they know that if they position themselves as the White People’s Party that every other immigrant group will vote against Republicans en masse.
So, fear not, sooner or later, The Donald will be told, “You’re fired.”
(photo: NYDailyNews.com, zerohedge,com, Google Images)