The clownish foray of Donald Trump into presidential politics reveals some things to us. First, as with so many other things, giraffes, for example, it teaches us that God has a sense of humor. Second, it illustrates the dearth of real leadership available to the Republican party. Third, it shows us how respectability squelches don’t really work. Each one in turn then.
On the sense of humor thing, not much needs to be said. In the grand parade of human politics, with the marching band, and the military units, and the cheerleading squads, we still find ourselves longing to see those guys on the little motorcycles.
The second point is more serious. If the Republican field were crowded shoulder to shoulder with statesmen, this kind of thing couldn’t happen. A buffoon can only be taken seriously when all the serious people are not being taken seriously. Charles Krauthammer has called Trump the Al Sharpton of the right, and there is something to this. But I think the effect is actually more like what it would be if Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert were to run for office, with the schtick going. Comedians can say things, and raise issues, that other candidates cannot. And although Trump is not a comedian, I think being a parody of oneself comes pretty close.
And I begin my last point with a qualification. I say nothing here about the advisability or truthfulness of any particular position, but rather just pointing out how, when the respectability police shut down intelligent discussion of hot issues, they only succeed in getting fruitcake discussion of them. Take a page from the gun rights advocates. When controversial opinions are outlawed, only outlaws will have controversial opinions. Simply tag it as risible, and you don’t have to talk about it — truther, birther, etc.
I am talking here about Trump’s stated desire to take all Iraq’s oil, and I believe he has now added Libya to the list. I am also pointing to his robust embrace of the birther question. When this kind of thing happens, and the unapologetic person concerned shoots up in the polls, this should be an indication to everyone that he is tapping into a sentiment that everybody thought was successfully driven away . . . when it wasn’t. Horace once said you can drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back. The same thing goes for questions settled by fiat instead of answers. Like I said, I am not saying anything about the answers to such questions. I am just pointing out how ludicrous questions can get traction.