Falling for the Tough Talk
In the times in which we live, an unfortunate fact of life is that we on the right must battle not only the Democrats, but their biased media as well.
This phenomenon is quite discouraging on many different levels. One of the side effects of the media treatment is that most conservatives don’t speak with any level of righteous indignation in press conferences and interviews, fearing the media criticism that would follow. The result of this is when a Republican speaks with appropriate anger towards Democrats and the media, he or she seems to gain quite a following.
Donald Trump burst on the scene in early 2011 announcing that he was considering running for president as a Republican. The most interesting thing about this prospect was Donald Trump’s past liberalism, his large campaign donations to numerous Democrats, and most recently, his having supported Hillary Clinton in 2008. But despite these should-be debilitating facts, Trump still managed to gain some traction.
The massive news coverage was garnered based on the billionaire’s constant focus on the obscure issue of President Obama’s birth certificate, with few actual rational criticisms. As Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said in jest regarding Trump’s focus on the “birther” issue and liberal history, “I want to see the original long form certificate, with embossed seal, of Donald Trump’s Republican registration.”
Eventually Trump’s charade was up and he admitted he wasn’t going to run for president after all. Trump was getting absolutely slaughtered in polls versus Obama, but that wasn’t the reason he declined to run; he never had any intention to run at any point. The whole event was a massive publicity stunt. So, why did Trump ever get support from a portion of voters on the right? This is likely because of Trump’s directed anger at Obama, China, and OPEC.
It’s no secret that Republican voters love to talk about how great America is and how they believe in American Exceptionalism. When they see foreign powers rising as America falters, its a natural reaction for them to focus their disdain at them. Trump’s tough talk on China gave his supporters a personal sense of patriotism to see a strong figure “stand up” for his country. This is in spite of the economic and diplomatic damage that would’ve been caused by a trade war with China. Americans have also grown tired of Obama’s assault on domestic oil drilling, which has raised oil prices, killed American jobs, and made us even more dependent on the ever hostile Middle East for our energy supply. This issue is another reason why some Republicans supported Trump. Trump wanted to confront OPEC and cuss them out, as he put on display in a speech. It doesn’t matter that the result of this action would’ve at best been no result and at worst, raised oil prices, the reason it got him support was because Americans don’t like OPEC.
Trump’s next idea that some conservatives supported was making foreign nations pay us for our troop presence in their respective countries as well as Iraq paying us back for the war in oil. The silver lining to this idea is that at least some on the right have inadvertently admitted that we can’t afford to have all our troops in so many different countries. It also admits that the Iraq war wasn’t really worth the blood and treasure so we want our money back in the form of a resource, so we can at least financially break even. Republicans liked these ideas because: they generally like an expansive foreign policy with hundreds of bases abroad and cheaper oil prices; and they don’t like excessively large deficits. Now the unfortunate part of the proposals, that apparently didn’t matter to the Trump supporters, were that: 1) Our troops would effectively be international mercenaries instead of being used to uphold their oath to protect and defend the US Constitution. And 2) In the case of the Iraq War, you can’t really force payment for a service that was never requested. Iraq didn’t ask us to attack them and occupy them for 8+ years, thus we can’t just take $2+ trillion worth of their oil reserves. The analogy I like use to describe this idea is: I’m your neighbor and I decide you need some yard work done, despite us not having discussed this. So I go out and mow the lawn, rake and bag the leaves, edge your driveway and etc. My wife and kids are unhappy that I’ve been busy all day and spent money we had planned for other things buying the supplies to do your yard work. So then I decide to take your microwave, toaster, and other household appliances for my efforts.
As you can see, its a pretty good thing that Trump is gone from the presidential scene. Unfortunately, other charlatans parading as conservatives appear to have taken his place. Newt Gingrich for example has been the latest candidate to take his turn surging in the polls. Newt’s sudden popularity is the latest example of the short attention span of the average American voters. Newt is without a doubt a smart guy, I don’t think anyone questions that. But I have to stop myself from committing unspeakable acts every time I hear the platitude that Newt is, “the smartest man in the room”. As Ann Coulter has said, she thinks that Newt is the person who started the rumor that Newt Gingrich is the “smartest man in the room”.
Newt admitted he didn’t see the housing bubble coming (doesn’t have a firm grasp on economics) and has supported an individual healthcare mandate (in his defense he says the Heritage Foundation did as well, which is correct, and this is a chief reason that I don’t blindly take Heritage’s word on issues). Newt has also supported Cap N Trade and he thinks that FDR is one of the nation’s greatest presidents, the New Deal was a success, and that FDR belongs on Mt. Rushmore.
Newt in the past few years has also urged the US to take military action against North Korea. More recently, in the Heritage Foundation’s Foreign Policy debate, Newt came out in favor of conditional amnesty. So how does one with such a terrible record get increasing support among conservatives? The “lack of other alternatives” answer may have some merit, but I think its because of how Newt takes on the media and Obama.
Newt is to debating as what Ronald Reagan was to addressing the American people. Newt’s skill in the debates is that he can offer many simple policy solutions in the 60 seconds he has to answer. Newt possesses quick wit and has bashed the media in interviews/debates, which has contributed to his recent success. Apparently humor and expressing anger at unpopular entities can take you far. So far that they may actually be able to make people who pride themselves on being unemotional on policy issues, unlike their liberal counterparts, and have them forget all of Newt’s storied and terrible past, which is exactly what Newt would like. Newt is quite adept at warding off criticisms of himself in debates by lashing out at the moderators and refocusing criticisms at President Obama instead of at himself or other Republicans. Newt’s strategy of not attacking other candidates has been successful in that he has largely avoided criticism coming from the others in return. The result of this “good-natured” tactic is that the top two Republican front runners are the two with the most political baggage.
Perhaps Newt has genuinely changed and supports none of those ideas currently. But, given that he’s supported a number of terrible ideas in the past, can we trust his first judgment? If President Bush came back and said, “Wow guys, I’m sorry about Iraq, Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, and the $5T in debt I added; I’ve had an epiphany and I’ve seen the error of my ways”. That would be great, but his ability to admit mistakes years out of office isn’t really good for anything. We still have all his policies and their lasting effects as constant reminders to stay vigilant even during Republican administrations. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Can we trust that Newt, even if he no longer supports Cap N Trade + Individual Mandates, won’t have an equally terrible idea that he’ll push and get passed that we’ll be stuck with?” Personally, my answer to the question is no, because I, to quote The Who, “Won’t get fooled again.” Regardless of your own answer to the question, please make sure its not because you fell for the tough talk.