“We will have so much winning, if I get elected, you may get bored with winning.” – Donald Trump, via Fox News.
In 2015, Donald Trump ran for President. His slogan was “Make America Great Again”, and he was derided by some for stealing Reagan’s phrase. That slogan wasn’t stolen, however. It was modified. In 1980, Reagan ran with the tagline, “Let’s Make America Great Again”. The “Let’s” matters. It’s a contraction for “Let Us”.
Reagan was promising the opportunity for everyone to revitalize a country dogged by “malaise”. Trump promised that he, and only he, could fix things.
Words matter. Mindful of that, it’s worth taking a serious look at Trump’s promise of “winning”.
It is unarguable that Trump is getting his way in most things. Whether due to fecklessness or sycophantic agreement, the majority of the Congress acquiesces to what he demands.
It is not that they pass the legislation he requests, but rather that they act toward him in precisely the way they condemned the Democrats for acting under Obama. When there is no political will to pass legislation, they instead encourage President Trump to act imperially. They then feign outrage when the administration’s actions receive negative responses from their base or claim solidarity when the reactions are positive.
This mechanism has played into Trump’s effort to frame himself as operating outside of the normal political arena. Despite having the power to enact virtually all of his decisions, he is portrayed as a victim. When he wishes to claim success for the wall, he points to the revitalization efforts on some of the existing fencing. When he wishes to avoid responsibility for its absence, the wall is portrayed as waiting on Congress.
This is not to say that his actions are unstoppable. Very often, they have been halted by judges. The very fact that judges are stepping in to stop actions, however, are proof that the actions are being initiated. Trump is being stymied not by his efforts to circumvent a willing Congress, but by his efforts to bypass the Constitution.
By alternating his position as victim to juggernaut and back, and with the active aid of the self-described conservative punditry, he has ingratiated himself with a large segment of the Republican base.
They see Trump as an extension of their desires and their fears. Every one of them who has said to their friends, “If you made me dictator for just a day, I could fix what’s wrong with this country” is seeing in Trump the culmination of that fantasy. And because they know they still love the country and their view of the Constitution and God, then of course Trump must still love those things and share their views of them.
In this way, Trump has become an idol.
Trump’s desires don’t mesh with what their desires always were, though. A look back at the Republican platform going back prior to Coolidge shows a radical departure from the Trump platform. And, forced to choose between the reality of Reagan conservatism and the fantasy of Trump dream fulfillment, they have opted for Trump.
Winning is happening, but the definition has changed.
Both the budget deficit and national debt have skyrocketed under Trump. The spending under Obama was so high that it started a grassroots movement – the TEA party – in an attempt to curb it. Under Trump there are few complaints. The 2017 Republicans are winning. The 2015 Republicans are losing.
The complaints about our status in the world under Obama, who was seen as kowtowing to foreign enemies, have dissipated. Instead we have a President who consults without preconditions, gives North Korea the end to Peninsula military operations they have demanded for years, challenges G7 nations on Putin’s behalf, and people at Trump rallies wear “I’d rather be Russian than Democrat” T-shirts. The 2017 Republicans are winning. The 2015 Republicans are losing.
The neo-Nazis and white supremacists have been empowered under Trump, to where a Nazi is openly running for Congress as a Republican and other supremacists have run strong primary campaigns. The 2017 Republicans are winning. The 2015 Republicans are losing.
The party that once stood on morals and demanded Clinton step down because of his lack of them now cheers on a professional pimp for a Nevada state seat and collectively shrugs at a President who engaged in multiple affairs while his wife was pregnant.
It’s not just the party of fiscal restraint, Western culture, color blindness, and personal morality that have lost. It’s also the party of free markets, the party that valued alliances, and the party that valued the law, the party that encouraged legal immigration and the party that valued the Constitution.
They claim to still support every one of these things. But Trump’s actions – and often his words – say otherwise, and given the choice between their principles and Trump, they choose Trump every time.
Individuality has also been driven from the party. Individuals are no longer praised under Trump; instead they must get in line with the agenda or be destroyed. And the agenda is whatever Trump says. The party that once called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire because of its destruction of the individual now shares its collective soul with the Soviet philosophy.
Nowhere has this been made more evident than in the elections on Tuesday. Celebrations were available throughout the Republican party: all five of the candidates Trump endorsed won!
In no quarter was the merit of those people or their policies considered. There was no joy that five people won who were hawks on foreign policy, or who were free marketers, or were Christians. No, they were endorsed by Trump. That is all that matters anymore.
Trump is, in fact, winning. That does not in any way extend to America or the historic Republican party.