Small World: A word or two for Donald Trump


Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

Uninformed and incurious, arrogant and scornful, untruthful and unapologetic, ill-advised and declining advice, wealthy and uncharitable, disrespectful of religion, nationalities and other vulnerable groups — let’s put aside for a moment Mr. Trump’s “personal flaws and political shortcomings that would have once derailed would-be presidents.” (NY Times)

Just for a moment, however, so that we can look for those qualities that brought out Republican voters and may help propel him into the White House.

First, he is not one of those established folk — one of those who — with or without an electoral mandate — make decisions for us. Albeit a billionaire, Trump rises up from down below. His lingo and ideas are found in bars and barbershops. His enemy, the establishment, back in the 19th century decided that presidents should be drawn from the ranks of Army generals. Then as the Civil War faded in memory, the candidates were picked by men in smoke-filled rooms from among politicians with favorable name recognition or skilled ways to gather funds to fuel a campaign or, ideally, both. But, definitely, no outsiders, please.

The anointed insider would understand that he/she must not behave badly (see paragraph one above) and would know not to ruffle the foliage or feathers of financial or important minority groups. He/she would respect the unwritten rules and, depending on which party, not upset Wall Street, Hispanics, religious conservatives, fans of Israel or the gun lobby — to cite the most prominent names on the do not offend list.

Accustomed to having their way, the leading politicos could not at first take Trump seriously for two reasons: first and most importantly, the establishment had lost touch with the non- or anti-establishment, that is the ordinary citizenry. Secure in their New York or Washington digs stacking up the campaign donations, they had no sense of the anxiety that so many Americans feel about the future of their jobs, health care or education systems. The bosses, counting on patriotism, couldn’t imagine how frustrated the average guy was by our nation’s inability to prevail in its unending Middle Eastern wars.

Second, they, the mind manipulators, thought a healthy dose of anti-abortion, anti-gay, semi-racist rhetoric would put the public into a snooze in which a “sensible” candidate might be fostered upon them. Social issues, and fear of terrorism would trump the need to do something about the truly serious problems challenging our country. Better to keep taxes low than to spend money on infrastructure or such.

But Trump trumped that old technique even though (who knows?) he is unlikely to perform like a super liberal Bernie Sanders should he reach the White House. (He may surprise you, however.) His common touch and readiness to stand up to the masters of the universe gave hope to those down on the bottom rungs that he might well prove to be on their side when it comes to immigration, job flight and trade pacts (to start with). In the meantime, he offered a good show — something the others on debate platforms couldn’t manage. They pushed piety and past records, which weren’t selling this season.

The second (almost) redeeming quality I find in Mr. Trump is his readiness to examine the tenets of nationally accepted wisdom. I suspect that is precisely the reason he is so fearsome to the comfortable. Take NATO, for example. Its original reason for being was the Soviet threat. That disappeared — or has been greatly diminished — yet our troops remain still on alert for dangers. We pay a big chunk and we get some small help in Afghanistan and the sound of rattling sabers in Ukraine. Trump wants to examine the financing and perhaps alter our commitment.

Another example of Trump thinking outside the box is to do something — not just talking — about trade with China. One more idea: blocking drugs and aliens from Mexico. Terribly difficult problems, perhaps without solution. But the establishment folks don’t even seem to try very hard. In consequence, much of the public doubts Washington’s capacity to lead change of any variety.

When you enter the voting booth in November, if it is to be Trump vs. Hillary, you will carry in with you the memories of his attention-grabbing and outrageous words and comportment (paragraph one). And you will weigh all that nonpresidential stuff against Hillary’s paid-up membership in the Old Guard, her adherence to the old ways. Hard choice.

Where are you, Bernie?

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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