The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Camile and Donald and Me

It's extremely rare when I quote pieces published in Salon, a far-left publication and website that often publishes unhinged articles that demonize virtually anyone and everything that conflicts with its hyper-politically correct narrative. But Camille Paglia is worth quoting. A regular contributor to Salon, she brings a hard-nosed, common-sense feminist perspective to a variety of topics. She has no trouble attacking conventional progressive and conservative wisdom and calls out the abject idiocy that emanates from both the left and the right.

Like Paglia, I had and have considerable reservations about Donald Trump. Yet deep down, there is something refreshing about the way he blows-up politically correct wisdom on the left and dismisses some of the tenuous and deeply held ideologies of the right. As much as I don't like his style; as much as I continue to believe that he does not have a deep grasp of the issues; as much as his shoot-from-the-hip approach could be problematic, his neo-centrist approach is worth another look. Trump upsets political and media elitists (on both the left and the right), and they're working very hard to demonize him.

For decades, the elites have controlled political discourse and public policy—and they've made a hot mess of just about everything. When they tell us, for example, that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, their weak grasp on reality is obvious. When they proclaim that open borders are a good thing, the non-elites begin the question their judgement and their sanity. When they suggest that income inequality can be solved by higher taxes, coercive minimum wage laws, and bigger government, their ability to think clearly comes into question. And when other elites suggest that government should be less intrusive, yet demand that government become deeply involved in reproductive and/or marriage rights, their consistency comes into question. And when they all talk the talk, but don't walk the walk, their hypocrisy becomes very obvious.

In a weird way, Donald Trump is a member of the elites, but he is also their worst nightmare. Millions are coalescing around his anti-PC, blunt talk, aggressive style—no nuance there!

Paglia was on the record as opposing a Trump run for president. But when asked by a reader whether her attitude toward the man had changed given his successes over the past 3 months, she writes:
... Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude. He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal. He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra. But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women. As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices.

Primary voters nationwide are clearly responding to Trump’s brand of classic can-do American moxie. There has been a sense of weary paralysis in our increasingly Byzantine and monstrously wasteful government bureaucracies. Putting a bottom-line businessman with executive experience into the White House has probably been long overdue. If Mitt Romney had boldly talked business more (and chosen a woman VP), he would have won the last election. Although the rampant Hitler and Mussolini analogies to Trump are wildly exaggerated–he has no organized fascist brigades at his beck and call—there is reason for worry about his impatient authoritarian tendencies. We have had more than enough of Obama’s constitutionally questionable executive orders. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s mastery of a hyper-personalized art of the deal will work in the sluggish, murky, incestuously intertwined power realms of Washington.

From my perspective as a fervent supporter of the ruggedly honest and principled Bernie Sanders, Trump with his pragmatic real-life record is a far more palatable national figure than Ted Cruz, whose unctuous, vainglorious professions of Christian piety don’t pass the smell test. Trump is a blunt, no-crap mensch, while Cruz is a ham actor, doling out fake compassion like chopped liver. Cruz’s lugubrious, weirdly womanish face, with its prim, tight smile and mawkishly appealing puppy-dog eyebrows, is like a waxen mask, always on the verge of melting. This guy doesn’t know who the hell he is—and the White House is no place for him and us to find out.
Trump may yet be vanquished by one of his opponents. The elites may yet succeed in toppling him. But at the moment, I'm in just about the same place as Camille Paglia (except for her support of Bernie:).