Conservative blogger Keith Koffler (as far as I can tell, he primarily writes for The Washington Times and The Daily Caller) recently wrote a piece for Politico Magazine (I know, I know, the concept of a Politico “magazine” is beyond nauseating) on Donald Trump and why he is resonating with the GOP base. I chose to respond to this article not because Koffler is defending Trump (indeed, he states several times within the article that he disagrees with supporters of Trump), but because of his reasoning as to why he he sympathizes with GOP primary voters support for Trump. Let’s start from the beginning of his defense for Trump-mania:
“And yet I am here to tell you that despite what you’ve read in the media, even some outposts of the conservative media, these Trump acolytes in general are not racist against Latinos and they have not been seized by madness.
They are, however, angry. Very angry. And many are agonizingly fearful about the future of the nation. They believe that vast changes to the country are being wrought in ways that are undemocratic, dishonest and perhaps even illegal.”
I am perfectly willing to take Koffler at his word that these Trump supporters he hears from are not racist against Latinos. However, it is undeniable that Trump’s political stardom began when he made his now infamous comments about undocumented immigrants coming in from Mexico. Trump’s supporters, who even Koffler admits are “[v]ery angry”, are using the contentiousness of Trump’s statements as an excuse to scream and shout from their rooftops about their discontent with immigration. But anger is very good at clouding one’s judgement. And these Trump supporters are taking the wrong path to use that anger in a productive way by thinking that Trump will do anything to solve this problem. Koffler himself notes that the solution to build a wall along the border and make Mexico pay for it is “fantastical”, why don’t these conservative supporters understand that? Why don’t these conservatives understand that the reason they like Trump is not because he actually has a valid solution to the problem of immigration; it is because Trump has managed to convince these GOP primary voters that he actually empathizes with their anger on the issue by making ludicrous (and racist) statements.
Let’s take a look at the next part of the article I take serious umbrage with:
“The climate of Constitutional disorder perpetrated by Obama paves the way for demagogues like Trump to gain traction. With the rules of the game already being violated, there is greater tolerance for a man doesn’t seem temperamentally inclined to obey any rules at all.
In many ways, Trump is the creation of Barack Obama.
Society, many conservatives feel, is simply unraveling.”
By this point in Koffler’s contention, I am beyond confused. Conservatives want Constitutional order, yet they feel the man who is capable of restoring that order is one who is not inclined to obey any rules at all? Furthermore, does Trump’s vision of society bear any similarities to the average GOP primary voter’s vision of society? I hardly think so. Let me remind these GOP primary voters that Trump is a billionaire from New York City who has been divorced four times. Come on.
This next one is really a doozy:
“The institution of marriage—the foundation of society—is collapsing, as the out-of-wedlock birth rate explodes, with what conservatives fear are dire consequences for children and for women who have to raise their kids alone. Even so, the Supreme Court—at Obama’s urging—unilaterally redefines marriage to include members of the same sex instead of allowing people to democratically change the status quo and—if they like, sometime in the future—change it back.
Men can now be women and women can now be men simply if they choose to, no matter what’s actually in their pants. The Court’s notion that personal desires and an individual conception of “dignity” is the basis of the right to marriage surely opens the door to polygamy.”
What does any of this have to do with the reason for Trump’s recent (and likely ephemeral) political success? Let’s put aside the notion that society is NOT collapsing because same-sex marriage is legal and single mothers continue to exist. Let’s also put aside the bogus idea that trans-individuals now being accepted into society and “personal desires” will surely lead to polygamy (which has yet to happen in ANY country that has legalized same-sex marriage). Koffler is just injecting how own dissatisfaction with his losses in the culture war and attributing them to Trump’s success. He is not accurately depicting why Trump is becoming a force in the GOP. Koffler is attempting to justify the consequences of excessive conservative anger with societal changes by connecting them to a guy who doesn’t share in their anger at all. The notion of Trump being upset by same-sex marriage or trans acceptance is beyond laughable, and Koffler knows it.
But here’s my question; why is screaming from the rooftops and using vituperative rhetoric seen as a political solution? Someone like Scott Walker, who may be temperamental but is AN ACTUAL CONSERVATIVE (unlike Trump), is losing to a guy who is simply popular because of his antagonistic relationship with political media. This does not make any sense. In fact, it is exactly the reason why the Tea Party has only had successes with small voting electorates. Most folks are not angry like the Tea Party is. Most Americans do not sympathize with the seething anger of GOP primary voters. Americans want someone who can articulately advocate for change by painting an optimistic vision for the future of the country. Throughout the article, Koffler makes no mention that the only reason Trump is generating sympathy from GOP primary voters is because he has taken on their biggest enemy: the “mainstream media”. But Trump is not belligerent with the mainstream media because the media is attacking conservatism; Trump is belligerent with the mainstream media because media folks are attacking Trump personally.
I was not alive to see President Ronald Reagan speak on TV. However, I have seen both of his debates and all of his speeches on YouTube. Trump is no Ronald Reagan. Reagan had political success not because of his conservatism, his passion for being an “anti-establishment” candidate, or his relationship with the news media. Reagan had political success because he articulated a luminescent future for the country and convinced voters that his policy prescriptions could get them there. Reagan didn’t scream about how undocumented immigrants from Mexico were tearing down the fabric of society. Reagan didn’t boast his wealth or Hollywood career. Reagan succeeded because he convinced voters to stop being angry and start being productive instead. Trump is just a chameleon who successfully ingratiates himself into various sectors of society. For some reason, GOP primary voters think that Trump is actually one of them.