From the Jeb Bush Right to the Hillary Clinton Left, all the voices of mediocrity and privilege in a suffering America agree: There is no substance to Donald Trump. He is,they claim, a hatemonger.
The same voices who allowed Pat Buchanan to stay respectable for 40 years while he tried to protect one Nazi war criminal after another from just prosecution threw up their hands in simulated horror at Trump.
Yet while Trump can over-simplify, he is no hater – except of the forces he rightly recognizes have looted America dry through their own relentless stupidity and greed. The argument that Trump is a superficial demagogue who lacks substance does not hold water.
On the contrary, what is most fascinating about this remarkably lively pre-primary, pre-caucus seasonin America is how substantive it has been, thanks entirely to Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
Trump and Sanders are both outliers to their respective parties. They had to be, because both parties and their established leaders have long since become cowardly, empty, corrupt pathetic jokes of the ideals they still pay lip service to.
Listening to the Republican presidential debates this year in particular has been an education. Charles Krauthammer, remorselessly wrong as always in his 400-plus newspaper outlets, proclaimed this group of presidential wannabe’s the most talented the Republicans have fielded since 1980. In other words, it is as simplistic, out of touch, complacent and obsolete as he is.
One after another, more than a dozen Republican “fearless leaders” rose up and in one podium after another pronounced exactly the same solution to all problems. Cut taxes, cut the size of government, cut government regulation. Nothing else will ever be necessary.
State governors woefully out of their depth like Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie solemnly pronounced this nostrum and promised they would use the same wonderful “executive experience” they used to slash education and health resources in their native states on the national scene.
Senators like Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham and Rand Paul, who have never run a 7/11 or a McDonald’s outlet in their lives, passionately assert their ability to run the federal government of 310 million Americans.
Yet none of these “visionary geniuses” ever acknowledges the root cause of America’s economic and social woes — the collapse of its once unmatched industries and manufacturing sector. Not one of them has dared to confront the issue of fair trade as opposed to free trade. Not one of them has dared to confront the issue of regaining control of the immigration process and ending the flood of illegals into the United States.
It is only Donald Trump who raises these substantial issues. And miracle of miracles, even the hard core Republican grassroots constituency recognizes this. His support numbers stay high, despite every verbal gaffe he makes, and despite every “authentic” straight from the shoulder, supposedly outrageous insult he offers.
There are deep, real reasons for this. And we will explore them in future pieces. But for now, we want to make two simple points.
First, Trump is not an empty demagogue. He recognizes real problems that have been destroying America, the problems that have unleashed critical worry and suffering on scores of millions of families. With the exception of Ted Cruz on borders, none of the other Republicans has dared to even mention either problem.
Second, even Trump’s insults boost his tidal wave of popular support. Like Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt before him, the more he is attacked and sneered at, the more popular he becomes. Like Reagan, the key to his success is to insult him and make him mad — his natural wit, honed by 15 years as a national media star, then kicks in with a devastating on-target response.
The old Republican establishment had better learn to let Trump re-divide the vast cake of power and privilege they have held for so long. They might yet deny him the Republican presidential nomination. They might block him from the presidency. But if they do, they will guarantee their own lasting destruction.
Trump is the voice of the future. The issues he raises are, as I predicted in my 2014 book,Gathering Storm: The Seventh Era of American History, & the Coming Crises That Will Lead to It, the crucial challenges to American survival and renewal in the 21st century.
Trump is offering hope and new solutions to a public demoralized and ruined by decades of lies. That sounds pretty substantive to me.
Martin Sieff is a former senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Times and former Managing Editor, International Affairs for United Press International. Mr. Sieff is the author of “That Should Still Be Us: How Thomas Friedman’s Flat World Myths Are Keeping Us Flat on Our Backs” (Wiley 2012) and “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East” (Regnery, 2008). He has received three Pulitzer Prize nominations for international reporting.