Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Waiting for the Donald

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Waiting for Godot, the play by Samuel Beckett, had characters waiting endlessly and fruitlessly for the arrival of someone named "Godot". Spoiler alert:  Godot never shows. Was he real? Was Godot a symbol of something else? God maybe? Unfulfilled aspirations? The genre of "Godot" is sometimes referred to as "theater of the absurd". It is a play in two acts, and it is my understanding that some theater companies perform the second act first and it in no wise detracts from the point of the play, nor can the audience generally tell the difference!

Well, you might ask, "How could this possibly apply to Donald Trump? He is ubiquitous and if anything, the complaint is that he won't go away!" That's the candidate Trump. As a candidate, he is indeed ubiquitous. But on substance? Not so much. Lots of sizzle, not much steak. As a candidate, Trump appeals to the dissatisfaction of conservatives with the mainstream Republican party. Every election it seemed, the Republicans have begged conservatives for their votes, in exchange for promises that they would decrease the size and scope of government and reduce spending, only to  repeatedly break those promises. Trump has tapped into that vein of discontent, much of which has fueled the Tea Party and propelled it to prominence in recent years. He's making promises that he most likely will not be able to keep, but talking a good fight. Personally, I'm waiting for the substantive Trump.

Now I will admit the possibility that my perception of Trump may have been colored in part by selective reporting in the media. Most of what I hear Trump saying is how good his poll numbers were compared to everybody else. (That ship has largely sailed). Now you hear him dismissing the polls as insignificant, now that he no longer leads them. I hear childish, schoolyard insults from him, whining about how Carson was criticizing his religion, followed by a cheap shot at Carson for Carson's Adventist faith. Go figure.

Now, if you're a Trump fan, you've probably only read down this far to try to find a hole in my reasoning that you can use with which to beat me over the head. Fine. But treat Mr. Trump the way you would any other candidate for a moment and ask yourself, "Is he the real deal?"

His plan to build a wall on the southern border and "have Mexico pay for it", do you really believe that? Sending immigrants north is a source of income for Mexico, as immigrants legal and not send cash back to the relatives they left behind. Net benefit. Sending or encouraging criminals, malcontents and the uneducated poor north of the border, acts as a pressure relief valve on their society. Net benefit. Where is the incentive for the Mexican government to cut themselves off from all the benefits of northern migration and then, on top of that, pay for the privilege of doing so?
I don't think so.

In another place last week, (Donald Trump and the Spending Cuts of Doom), we examined whether or not Mr. Trump's suggested slashing of certain cabinet level departments, was realistic or even consistent with the separation of powers available to him as president.

Consider too, Trump's a propensity to take credit where no credit is due. Conservatives have been arguing about and fighting illegal immigration for decades. After Trump got in trouble over a poorly worded statement about illegal immigrants, he repeated said, "We wouldn't be talking about illegal immigration if it wasn't for me". Really? That's borderline delusional.

Recently, he's been claiming credit for the move of a Ford automobile plant from Mexico to Ohio. Only it appears the John Kasich may have negotiated that move with Ford back in 2011. If this is true, and his business career is as fabulous as he says, why would he feel the need to embellish it, taking credit for things he had no control over?

Is it to much to ask him to put forth detailed reasons to elect him based on principle and proposals that don't involve, "Trust me. I may not know what I'm talking about, but I'll surround myself with people who do, because that's what good businessmen do." Or the braggadocio of how much more than his rivals he will know by the time the inauguration rolls around.

Trump's message appeals to the Zeitgeist of the Right, with a little bit of "We're mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore" thrown in for good measure. Although the office of the president is sometimes referred to as America's C.E.O., there's a very different skill set involved. I sometimes hear the argument for Trump (and Carson, too) that George Washington was not a politician before he became president either, implying that therefore he's equally qualified. The analogy might be like those who say if you're going to fail math like Einstein did (he didn't, by the way), that it helps to be Albert Einstein. Mr. Trump: you're no George Washington.

Trump recently said, "I will be a great unifier for our country". So far, it seems like all he has had time to alienate are Hispanics and Seventh Day Adventists. Give him time! In 2008, there was a candidate who said something similar. He said all the right things*. He talked a good fight, 'unifying the nation along racial lines', promising fiscal responsibility, and budget cuts. Senator Obama promised to go through the budget line by line to eliminate waste fraud and corruption. He claimed to be a moderate candidate who believed that marriage was between a man and a woman, professed to be a Christian, and presumably would uphold traditional Christian values. A candidate who promised to bring jobs, heal the economy and heal the divide between America and the world community.
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All hat. No cattle.

How's that working out for you?

*The mask slipped a bit with "Joe the plumber". But there were those of us who saw through the disguise.

Original art by John Cox. More at John Cox Art

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