"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
. . .
Sitting in a meeting yesterday. Suddenly, someone looks up and says, "One of the zoo's polar bears escaped."
One minute you're pondering the polar bears. Safely, from afar. The next? You turn and see one blocking your path as you exit the restroom. That's a pants-changing moment if ever there was.
Of course, you could draw the most obvious analogy. Between escaped polar bears and Donald Trump. Because nine months ago, the media watched Trump as if he were a an interesting animal on display.
"Come see The Donald! Living outside his natural habitat. For a short time only. On loan from the Manhattan Zoo."
The media marveled at Trump's wild proclamations. His outrageous style. His inappropriate demeanor. His hair. Knowing all along that he wouldn't be around long. Didn't stand a chance once the primaries began.
Then, the universe interceded.
Thunder clapped overhead. The press, clad in its sterile white lab coat, turned knobs, dials and pulleys. Pulled levers. Looking on as Trump rose ever higher in the polls. Towards the heavens. As the electricity buzzed. And lights flickered. Then, as the press lowered him to have another look, it happened. First, a twitch of the finger. Then, the monster sat upright. Climbed from the gurney. And left the media's laboratory. While the press stood there, mouths agape. This monster of their own doing wondered from the premise. Then, horrifyingly, began to roam freely about the countryside.
Yes, this year's presidential primary has provided more drama than Days of Our Lives. Not the new ones. But the good old days. When Hope and Beau were a thing.
As the mood have turned from one of amusement to sheer horror, Donald Trump - the Monster of Manhattan - has built and held a healthy lead among the GOP field. Baffling the nation's press. Not to mention political professionals throughout the swamplands of the nation's capital.
Last June it was, "How can this bloviating heathen possibly entertain the nomination process?"
Come fall, it was, "How can this idiot expect to win the nomination?"
In November, it was "How can this racist/misogynist/bigot stay in the race?"
And today? "How is this guy so popular?"
An evolution of opinions that illuminates the failure of D.C.'s political class to understand the Trump phenomenon. To grasp that Trump is not a political supernova. In fact, his popularity has little to do with politicians. And everything to do with the political system.
Trump has come to embody the electorate's repudiation of an out-of-touch, self-serving, ineffective and solution-deficient political apparatus. Trump represents a movement. Not a fan base. More a cudgel against, than an agent of, the traditional Washington-based political duopoly.
And like Godzilla drawing energy from the sparking power chords astride the rubble that was once Tokyo, this monster will not soon be put down.
First, the GOP's historical donor base refused to bless his candidacy. Only to find Trump's shrieking shadow passing over the demolished remains of their trite traditions. Trump didn't need them. He'd finance his own campaign. And the electorate - so exhausted with big money donors running elected officials like string puppets in a marionette theater - absolutely loved him for it.
Then, the generals of the establishment fired round their missiles. Round after round. To no avail. As they impacted upon him like rain drops. Doing no damage. Further emboldening him.
Next, the establishment generals opened the gates, releasing the Kraken. Flush with hundred million-dollar war chests. Still, to no avail.
Trump met Bush head on. A clash of titans. Against all odds, Trump vanquished Bush. And Christie. And Pataki. Then Huckabee. Then Graham. And Santorum. Then Paul. Rubio. Until there were few left to oppose him.
The town folk have been energized by the monster's non-traditional machinations. By the seeming independence of this new political beast. Yet, his makers and hecklers have grown fearful. The press. The establishment chieftains. The duopolists Democrats and Republicans themselves. Terrified by their inability to stop him. Corral him. Control him.
Last week, the George Soros-funded MoveOn.org posted about Trump's Saturday rally in Chicago. Enticing those who would stand against him to physically shut down the First Amendment Rights of the huge crowds who awaited Trump's arrival.
And so the protests began. Denigrating Trump with the terms of those unwilling to confront dissent. Labels like fascist. Racist. Misogynist. Xenophobe. And whatever other abjectly empty, meaningless and hateful bit of rhetoric these unthinking jackboots could hurl.
That, my friends, should frighten you.
Is that how those in the world's freest-nation respond to something aside from the traditional two-party duopoly? By labeling him with hateful terms that lack any link to reality? Physically shutting down his rallies? Denying his supporters, and those curious undecided's, the chance to hear him speak?
These are not the railings against fascists, but the weapons used by them.
In the 1980s, opponents railed against another outsider. Ronald Reagan. Saying he was a member of the communist John Birch society. Though the indictments were empty.
Trump's ill manners can be disconcerting. Not reverential. Or even presidential. And while you may not support Trump, you have to consider the facts. If only to better understand his detractors.
Trump's foreign policy would be unlikely to deviate from the conservative playbook. Likely disappointing only those who believe that the U.S. should send Troops into Syria. Or Libya. Or back to Iraq or even Afghanistan. As president, Trump would entertain none of these fruitless excursions. Refusing to send American troops anywhere into the Muslim world where they are as likely to be attacked as they are thanked by those they seek to defend. Precisely what conservative would have us do. That is, to preserve blood and treasure, as opposed to pursing far-flung military ambitions.
Regarding trade? True, Trump has discussed using tariffs against China, South Korea and Mexico. But most economists now support the idea that wage stagnation in the U.S. and other advanced economies has emanated from the imports of China and other newly industrialized nations.
"Alright. So, he has made some economic sense. But I could never support a racist!"
Born and raised in New York, Trump has spent his entire life around those of a non-white Anglo-Saxon Protestant persuasion. He has worked beside, socialized among and employed Hispanics, African Americans and others. He's likely even celebrated some Jewish holidays, seeing as his son-in-law happens to be a Jew.
While Trump began his campaign with some uncouth remarks about the crimes of Mexican immigrants, there is certainly no history evidencing any deep-seeded bigotry towards Mexicans. Or any class of immigrants or minority, for that matter. The man may be a blowhard. But those calling him racist are engaging in the most dangerous type of hyperbole. One that threatens the first amendment, the central pillar upon which this nation was built.
Trump will not likely continue the State Department's forced resettlement programs. Those flying in Iraqis, Syrians and Somalis and integrating them into communities in need of diversity. Even as the inhabitants of those communities believe otherwise. Unless a community asks for such infusions, it is hardly the place of the federal government to force their gates open. For the people, by the people, remember?
While a Trump presidency might involve a bit less environmental activism, it would not entail a curtailment of such policy. But would likely put such activities on a back burner until the economy and the middle class had been tended to.
As we've discussed in previous missives, the American president is a figurehead. But a powerful, and potentially inspiring one. And at a time in which the nation appears so uninspired, can it be so criminal to discuss something beyond the tried-and-not-so-true of the last two decades?
All of which is to say that you need not vote for the Monster from Manhattan. In fact, I did not in Tuesday's primary.
Often crude and obnoxious, I've yet to hear anyone call Trump a liar. Which would represent a significant change in today's politics. While you need not support Trump, you should stand behind his right to freely engage in the political process. Not to be shouted down by those goose-stepping automatons who would take orders from anyone able to finance a disparaging political website. Really, for his opponents to liken him to Hitler and then prevent him from attending his own political rally? That's shameful. Especially considering that he's the only candidate who happens to be funding his own campaign. Which makes him 99 percent cleaner than nearly everyone else joining him on the dais.
Remember, the leading Democrat candidate may be indicted by the FBI before the election is even held. Yet, Trump is painted as the one seeking to harm the nation?
Perhaps Nassim Nicholas Taleb, economist and philosopher, provided the most succinct Facebook summation of the Establishment vs. Trump acrimony:
"The 'establishment' composed of journos, BS-Vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other "well thinking" members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments."
He then appended that statement even further. Stating:
"People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment."
The electorate has not come to love Trump. It's come to detest the establishment political system. Which has brought zero progress over the last 15 years by way of middle class careers, financial security or wealth creation.
As opposed to a meritocracy, we have a plutocracy. Instead of incentives, we give handouts. Instead of growth, we see decline.
The media? The establishment duopoly? The 501(c)(4) organizations financed by billionaire oligarchs? All conspiring to paint Trump as a monster. A Nazi. A fascist. They began disrupting his rallies. Or preventing them outright.
Don't you find that a bit frightening?
On one hand, we've a blowhard candidate who's shaken up the nomination process. Forced us to consider the status quo. With no real history of the hatefulness, misogyny, racism or bigotry of which he's regularly accused. No evidence of any of the detestable traits with which the media and establishment parties are now defining him.
Am I the only one watching our objective and unbiased media literally tar and feather a man for the crime of running for president? For the crime of not begging for the establishment's blessing? The same parties responsible for more hyperbole and empty promises than Trump could ever be responsible for?
You can detest Trump. Refuse to vote for Trump. But in the United States of America, you cannot silence Trump. The alleged freest nation on earth. Built on principles like liberty. Free speech. Free choice. You can detest Trump. But you must stand firmly against anyone attempting to forcibly prevent him from speaking to the third of the country that wants to listen. Trying to silence him with the muzzle of political correctness.
As P.D. James counseled, "I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism."
Shame on us.
Those conspiring against Trump can join in forcibly removing him from the field. As they did to Ross Perot in 1992. Or, they can let him run. Self-finance his candidacy. Which will eventually expose him for that which he is. A joke? An empty blowhard? Or, maybe a dynamic outsider that, for some reason, inspires fear in the two establishment parties. The same parties that have conspired to keep the American electorate running in place for decades.
Regardless of the media, the GOP, the Democrats, or billionaire oligarchs and their non-profit organizations laden with political hacks, the American electorate deserves to watch this movie's conclusion. Even as the legions of tyranny attempt to shut it down.