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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Donald Trump, Superhero Or Supervillain?

Trump Superhero
(Img via the Daily Dot)
by Ralph Benko: Donald Trump, on Super Tuesday, proved he has superpowers. But Superhero or Supervillain? Unless Marco Rubio rises to the occasion and endorses Ted Cruz for president, accepting a vice presidential role for himself, Donald Trump almost assuredly will be the GOP nominee. Meanwhile, the party and conservative elites are reacting in interesting ways to these interesting times.

There are three fascinating dramas simultaneously emerging. First, the Story of Trump. Second, Rubio’s Choice. Third, the narratives that the party (and interlocked conservative movement) thought leaders are devising. Follow along.

First, the Story of Trump. Donald Trump unequivocally demonstrated that he has superpowers. While superpowers are something we all crave in a president there’s a profound … ambiguity.

Donald Trump: Superhero? Or Supervillain?

A plurality of voters see him as a Superhero. That perspective rather brilliantly was summed up by one of the commenters to a recent column of mine, Atom Bruce McKellar:
If you’re an illegal immigrant, Trump is a villain. If you’re heavily invested in China, Trump is a villain. If you’re heavily invested in Mexico, Trump is a villain. If you’re an Islamic supremacist, Trump is a villain. If you’re a left-fascist with politically correct fantasy based narrative of the world, Trump is a villain. If you’re heavily invested in trying to buy influence with GOP candidates (or Democratic ones), Trump is a villain.

But to everyday, regular Americans , Donald Trump is King Kong stomping every dinosaur in sight as he takes back Skull Island for them.
Alternatively, not a few see Trump as a Supervillain. Let’s be clear on what that means. The best definition of “villain” I’ve encountered is by Louis Capizzi in “Is Donald Trump a Villain?” at The Odyssey Online:I use the word villain in the most apolitical way possible.

When I say villain, I’m talking full on Emperor Palpatine / Marvel movie HYDRA agent / James Bond Mastermind / Lex Luthor type figure: the sort of guy that rises to power because he loves power and won’t stop short of world domination. He already has the money and the influence, but in fiction, money and influence never suffice. Villains always have the desire to come out from the shadows and take the true power for themselves.
As for “Super” villain? The most definitive explanation comes from Megamind, in the eponymous movie, during his climactic fight with aspiring villain Tighten.[Suddenly, a giant hologram of Megamind's head appears in the sky]

Giant Megamind head: You dare challenge Megamind?!

Tighten: This town isn’t big enough for two super-villains!

Giant Megamind head: Oh, you’re a villain, all right! Just not a SUPER one!

Tighten: Oh, yeah? What’s the difference?

[Megamind's giant hologram head opens its mouth and from the inside appears Megamind]

Nobody, but nobody, in this election cycle has PRESENTATION down like Donald Trump. Super!

Donald Trump recently said, on Fox News’s Hannity, “I mean, everything’s negotiable.” This perfect ambiguity is entirely consistent with how Donald Trump has lived his entire recorded life. That causes observers to see him, depending on their point of view, as Superhero … or Supervillain.

This situation is more than mildly reminiscent of an observation in Obama’s prologue in his 2006 autobiography The Audacity of Hope: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." Hey. Worked for Obama.

The only way, mathematically speaking, to deny Trump the nomination would be for Cruz and Rubio (and, preferably, Kasich) to unite behind one candidate. Could it happen?

The admirable Marco Rubio, now the designee of National Reviews book smart but not politically street smart Deroy Murdock, is sitting on a powder keg.

Rubio was polling, on average, almost 20 points behind Trump in his home state of Florida. Cruz won his home state of Texas by nearly as much. Rubio, to date, has won one midsize state, Minnesota, thus far having won one early contest to Trump’s 10 and Cruz’s 4. Rubio has 106 delegates to Trump’s 316 and Cruz’s 226. Rubio consistently polls well behind Trump and close behind Cruz. As for “close,” as the old saying goes: “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Moreover, Rubio is not running for re-election to the US Senate. Rubio has no political base to which to repair should the powder keg explode under him. It did.

Cruz maintains his Senate seat, and his great popularity (and thus near certain re-election), in Texas. It would have been unseemly and odd to ask Cruz to endorse Rubio. Cruz leads Rubio in every metric and has secure ground, rather than high explosives, beneath his feet even in the event of defeat. Nobody is going to make the #2 a pariah for not dropping out in favor of the #3.

Rubio, alone, bears the risk of becoming cast as the scapegrace. If Rubio declines to endorse Cruz he runs a great risk of being perceived, by the Powers That Be, as the spoiler who delivered the nomination to Trump. If that very real risk manifests Rubio is likely to be banished to the political wilderness. Perhaps forever. High risk.

Alternatively, this estimable young rising star could gain enormous political cred by endorsing Sen. Cruz. His doing so would be, and be seen as, an act of party statesmanship, endearing him to the party regulars and donors. Taking this course would endow him with political assets.

The calculus for a Rubio endorsement of Cruz for the good of the Republic and of the Republican party, is very clear. Former Cruz arch-critic Sen. Lindsey Graham gets it. Others, too, see the handwriting on the wall. Will the right party elders make the case to Sen. Rubio in a way that he can and will appreciate?

Meanwhile, during the run up to and after Super Tuesday the GOP thought leaders are polarizing into two very different narratives. Respected thought leaders such as William Kristol, Erick Erickson, and Richard Viguerie, among others, see Trump as a Supervillain. Thus they are taking the #NeverTrump stand. (In passing let it be noted that a few conservative pragmatists such as Hugh Hewitt avoid the poles with an equatorial position that we would be better off with Trump than Clinton.)

Another element of thought leadership is advancing a “the realignment is here and Trump is its instrument” narrative. Perhaps the most compelling case for this was made by Ben Domenech at The Federalist in Thunderdome: Gone Savage For Trump:
On Face the Nation this Sunday, I attempted to explain the 2016 cycle in 40 seconds. Pull back from the close ups on Donald J. Trump’s tweets, and the political realignment we are experiencing becomes obvious and impossible to ignore. The post-Cold War left-right politics of the nation have been breaking down in slow motion for two decades. They are now being replaced by a different type of inside-outside politics.

The Trump phenomenon is neither a disease nor a symptom – he is instead the beta-test of a cure that the American people are trying out. It won’t work. But this is where our politics are going: working and middle class Americans are reasserting themselves against a political and cultural establishment that has become completely discredited over time and due to their own actions.

… This is not a temporary adjustment. It is a new reality, as Angelo Codevilla writes. “America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. Its control of access to prestige, power, privilege, and wealth exerts a gravitational pull that has made the Republican Party’s elites into its satellites.

“This class’s fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed. Its increasing self-absorption, its growing contempt for whoever won’t bow to it, its dependence for votes on sectors of society whose grievances it stokes, have led it to break the most basic rule of republican life: deeming its opposition illegitimate.”

Democrats and Republicans who still think that this is a phase – a fever they just need to wait out before a return to normalcy – are utterly delusional.
This is where politics stands today.

Donald Trump has superpowers.

The evidence on the nature of Trump’s character is ambiguous. Superhero? Or Supervillain? Donald Trump alone knows — or might not — the real answer. Nominating him for, and electing him, president would be a high stakes riverboat gamble. Thought leaders mostly are polarizing between narratives of #NeverTrump and “Trump as instrumentality of an inevitable realignment.”

The only chance of producing an alternative nominee is for Marco Rubio to endorse Ted Cruz. Then, preferably, in the wake of that, so would John Kasich and (if has not already done so) Ben Carson. That would be a game changer. But time is short.

Donald Trump by turns, in his inimitably ambiguous, perhaps ambivalent, or perhaps merely utterly pragmatic way, is by turns glowingly admiring and savagely indicting of China. Thus there is a delicious irony that Trump uniquely proves the instrumentality of that ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

We live in interesting times.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Donald Trump, Superhero, Supervillain, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 12:00 PM - Post Link


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