Trump as the Perfect Front Man
Why the Republican Party richly deserves Donald Trump.
The blue-blooded Republican Party establishment is shocked – very shocked – about the emergence of the brash New York billionaire Donald Trump as the party’s current frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination.
And yet, despite all the embarrassment and hand wringing, having Donald Trump as its standard bearer is exactly what the Republican Party deserves.
Trump’s readiness to flaunt his wealth, his lack of restraint in displaying rather vulgar spirits and his readiness to go for the gutter style of political communications – these are all perfect displays of what the Republican Party has wrought with its turns over the past two decades.
Gone, other than in a purely rhetorical manner, is any sense of serving the common good. In Trump’s and the neo-Republicans’ world, selfishness is not just “in” – it is a fundamental good. It is widely understood as the essence of America today.
The relative speechlessness of candidates such as Jeb Bush – the quintessential Republican establishment representative – speaks volumes.
What else did the Republicans, with their ever more direct embrace of the base instincts of the American people, expect? Did they really believe that there was no cost to all the focus-grouped cynicism that took a firm hold on the party following the end of the George H.W. Bush administration in 1992?
One cannot embrace selfishness so wholeheartedly – and then expect noble men, standing as the party’s presidential candidates, to appeal to a noble electorate that supposedly thinks mainly about the long-term, not just about itself.
And one cannot make constant mincemeat of the aspirations of the country’s Latino immigrants, including the “illegal” ones – and then express dismay and shock about the fact that this anti-immigrant “trumpism” resonates with the party’s base.
“The Donald” is the immediate echo chamber of the callousness of all those Republican politicians who played dangerously on the baser instincts of the American people with regard to immigrants.
Why the anti-foreigner stand?
They did so for a number of reasons. The first one was that they expected this to be a great instrument to “rally” their troops. In that, the anti-foreigner stance was designed to garner political advantages.
They also did so for an even more cynical reason — the antiabortion movement, long a very useful lightning rod for the Republican Party, had lost its momentum in getting voters “excited.” (Repeated Republican governments failed to deliver on their many promises to “overturn” Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion.)
But what about Trump’s so-called “know-nothingism”? A party that widely disputes the existence of climate change – and that heroically trumpets questions about the reality of human evolution – has no standing whatsoever to complain about this.
It is a moment to savor when the Republican Party finds itself in a position to confess being shocked about the raw materialism of anyone. That, after all, is very much the party’s mantra.
It is what results from the party’s cynical ploy to argue against “death taxes,” which – no matter the official advertising – is an effort to make sure that the already very rich keep their wealth without being taxed.
That this strategy undermines the original premise of America, which was to be a true accelerator of social mobility, has evidently escaped official Republicandom.
Greed is good?
In many ways, all those that express their support for Donald Trump in Republican Party opinion polls demonstrate that they have really, truly understood the party’s broader message.
It all comes back to that famous line from the iconic 1987 movie “Wall Street” about greed being “good.”
To savor the profound irony of it all, it indeed recalls verbatim the entire passage expressed by Michael Douglas (alias Gordon Gekko):
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.
He also speaks these words that, almost three decades later, appear to be very prescient:
The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal.
These two remarks can be seen as perfect expressions of the operating mantra of the Republican Party. In that sense, Donald Trump is Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko running for president in 2016.
In other words, the emergence of Donald Trump has been a long time coming. It is the perfect reversal of the emergence of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Then, a “B” movie actor ultimately managed to get elected as president of the United States. Trump is already very successful but — given the shadiness of many of his deals — still a “B” level entrepreneur.
He now lives the Reagan dream in reverse: A run for the White House is not the path to Trump’s career capstone, as it was for Reagan, but rather something left to do for the man who already has everything else. Greed is good. Why not launch one heck of a run, without worrying about the consequences or outcomes for anyone else?
Under any circumstances, the Republican Party establishment should stop feeling “shocked” by the emergence of Donald Trump. He personifies down to the “t” exactly what they and their highly elitist and utterly materialist philosophy stand for.