(A chapter from my Kindle book at Amazon..com, Donald Trump, the Common Man and the American Theology of Liberty, covering only his campaign through the election, but a unique analysis of Trump’s relationship with the people, especially those no one else wants to get close to. An undated revision is planned.)
Conservatism and the Sedona Effect
In the 1980s, my brother in Arizona called to warn me about the New Age Movement, that it was taking over religion in America. In truth, the crystal-gazers had taken over most of Sedona, the chic desert getaway in central Arizona where he worked. And that’s about all. I told him to fugettaboutit. Were it not for Shirley MacLaine, no one else in America would have ever heard of New Age outside of the Best Buy music department or that stretch five miles long, four miles wide and about 100,000 strong, depending on the moon cycle, when the moonbeams flittered.
There’s a lesson there.
Do you know how many people watch Fox News nightly? How about all of them combined; Fox, NBC, CBS, CNN, ABC? Try 10% of America’s over-18 adult population. About 25 million. Far fewer listen to Limbaugh (he says 4 million daily), when most people work. Now move down to real political wonks, including the 4-5 people who will read this article; the people who go even deeper by buying books and reading opinion and news online.
Very few indeed, but still large enough to create a separate world, which, like the people who live and work in Sedona, don’t get around very much.
This is perfectly normal behavior for people who voluntarily live inside a bubble.
In our 10% political-bubble we have spectators, where politics is a kind of hobby, as our politics has all the elements of an ever-evolving soap opera. But we also have people for whom this has become a paying business…largely writers, a few genuine scholars…who write for a paycheck. Over the past twenty years or so, thanks to the internet and social media, and general image of the Beltway as a gold-mine where there is money and celebrity to be had, as always happens to Man ever since the Church went corporate in the 4th Century, this inner circle has turned increasingly inward and clubsy. Especially the past 20-30 years, which means there is an entire generation out there that has never known it to be otherwise.
Considering the Constitutional purpose of conservatism, which I’ve droned on about before, this is a dangerous turn in the road, for it indicates modern conservatism has lost sight of its prime objective, which are those 90% who do not frequent the political orbit. As noted in the above article, in five hundred years the Church went from intellectual disputations with scholars who read Christian doctrine differently to burning them at the stake. And what was largely lost in that period was the whole purpose of the Church; those 99% who were not members of management (clergy) and their spiritual freedom. In another 1000 years many of those people would rise up, throw the power of that Church down, and start their own (Such is the power of transcendence.)
Several laws of nature were involved there, and we are seeing a repeat of that process now with the transcendent nature of liberty, all because much of modern conservatism has lost sight of those 90% or why they are even conservative, totally unaware and uninterested in what those other 225 million, (90%) do with their time instead of watching Fox or reading pithy comments.
Just as Hayek always complained about his Church, (the Catholic) because they always treated the Creator as being much smaller than He actually is, modern conservatives have this immense sense of self that just doesn’t comport with out microbial existence, or, out impact on how the earth turns.
How it turns is still largely the result of the 90%.
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that the 90% have much stronger opinions about Evil than do the 10%, in part because they don’t view Evil in shades of grey. This is the kicker that afflicts modern conservatism, that People don’t see Evil in a political context, but rather existentially. The 10% don’t read that many history books (although more do nowadays than they did just ten years ago) or engage in deep philosophical discussions about Evil except at Sunday school and church, where they are taught that Evil is invading their homes, not their government.
The 90% see all these things from the viewpoint of their House, which is their rice bowl. And there’s the rub, isn’t it? Americans’ lust for gathering news is directly related to its impact on their House, defined in their political world as security, jobs and disposable income…the three legs of their existential stool. They are 100% irresolute, not 50%, not painting around the edges with qualifications and equivocations, but 100%, once they perceive those three things threatened.
While underway for a very long time, the final assault on these three legs began only in the past eight years. And the People can finally hear the termites chewing and feel the boards creaking. Yes, there are those of us who heard the termites 30 years ago, even fifty, but remarkably, many conservatives can’t, (or won’t) were entirely indifferent to this threat…because their houses were just fine.
There is a name for this worldview, and it is emblazoned in our national conscience, if you are a conservative, in the words of Thomas Jefferson…”the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.”
Those words define the natural,”native conservatism” of the American people, mockingly referred today as “populism” or “nationalism” – and echoed sadly by many conservatives. On these three points, most Americans are “conservative” without any regard to what policy scholars consider conservatism to be. 1) Many of the young men (mostly) and young women who have lost their private sector jobs in the past six years probably still don’t know that they were replaced by illegals courtesy of Barack Obama, the Democrat Party, the Republican Party, or all of the above. They just know their ability to pursue “life and happiness” in the way they had in mind has been taken away. 2) Likewise for the people who’ve seen 20% of their income, almost all their disposable income, previously used for summer vacation, some really nice Christmas gifts, piano or ballet lessons, or savings, all redirected to a new medical plan that is worse than the medical plan they had to give up. A rip-off. 3) And in the “if it bleeds it leads” world they now live in, they know that Americans are being killed in America while our government is throwing spitballs at the killers in the Middle East where they live. In their black-and-white world of Evil this makes no sense. And now, government has gotten so big, and lethargic and indifferent, they can’t even file the right papers with the right people to insure a convicted criminal can’t go out and buy a gun then kill a bunch or people.
The 90% have a much longer list of existential grudges which has almost stopped their pursuit of life and happiness in its tracks, in part because most of the liberty part of their Constitutional promise has been taken out of it. And the government, instead of protecting that right, has largely been the cause of it, while their conservative protectors have done little to protect them from this onslaught in such a way that they can actually know someone is out here looking out for them.
Conservatives such as myself who’ve bothered to keep a finger on the pulse of the 90% the old-fashioned way, by actually going out and taking it, instead of diddling with our Twitter, have known for some time the day was coming when the People would simply say “enough is enough.” We’re seeing that now. Again, it’s a law, what the Chinese call an ‘inevitability.” We’ve been sounding alarms to Republicans and conservatives since 2008 at least.
Now that day has come. But modern conservatives have allowed the moment to pass (except a couple), having lost sight of their primary reason for being, or of the native conservatism of the American people. As I have said before, Bill Buckley was always aware of that 90%, and he even knew where to find them (in the Boston telephone directory) but the Jonah Goldbergs are trapped in a much smaller orbit of their own making, oblivious to both the existence of the 90%, or their seminal importance in the founding of the Republic.
I won’t belabor it here, but the prime directive, the principal purpose of conservatism, is first to protect the People from the natural enemies of their liberty, and then only, secondarily, attempt to sermonize them into becoming more aware citizens. They, not us, and their pursuit of life, liberty, etc was the primary purpose the Constitution was written. If we are not for them, and that pursuit, then what the hell are we doing here?
The mutual admiration society of modern conservatism has almost rendered this mission impossible.
Enough said. For reasons just stated, the people, now angry and insecure, are genuinely in search of someone to not only have their back, but to help them take back lost ground. They are not looking to be lectured.
In that search, they found Donald Trump.
Donald Trump did not find them, they found him. I can’t emphasize that enough. Conservatives can damn Donald Trump til the cows come home, they can mock him, even the parts that are genuinely mockable, but what conservatives cannot explain is how or why a sizable portion, a majority even, of the 90% who conservatives are forsworn to protect, have picked out a man like Donald Trump. Answer: The conservatives have become so self-involved in their (well-paying) coffee klatches, they don’t know who the People are anymore, and have no idea where or how to find them. Maybe Buckley took that phone book with him to the grave.
So what binds these people to Trump?
It’s more than just rhetoric and bluster. For one, he is just like them. Yes, just like them. In many respects Donald Trump is just a small businessman, albeit among the wealthiest. He answers to no board of directors, no stockholders, takes all the risks and reaps all the benefits of his choices.
Donald Trump represents what almost every American wants their House to be able to achieve, if not in this generation, then the next, or the next…a better life: house, car, a little property, security, educate the kids, and have a little stash left over to pass on. (This is what the Democrats believe they have bred out of certain populations, but apparently not, for Trump is attracting even poorer African-Americans and Latinos as well.) To the 90% he has earned an almost universal respect almost no politician can ever have, that of “Mister”.
It’s in Americans’ DNA to want to be their own boss, to be able to work for oneself, to answer to no one. A hundred thousand, a million, a hundred million, even a billion…it makes no difference to that elemental pride of ownership and of having built something that lasts. That is the elemental chemistry of the United States. It is, in the world of pursuing life and happiness, the ultimate achievement. So, top to bottom, they are all a part of the same class, Donald and the 90%. And all those people at the lower end know what has just been snatched from them, and there doesn’t seem to be anybody other than Donald Trump talking about reopening that highway.
This is the natural advantage Donald Trump has over Ted Cruz, who otherwise is the better man in all the other areas of policy and government, and which is why I have pushed for a collaboration.
I have defined “native conservatism” as Jefferson defined man’s basic desires for life, and expectations of freedom. Until he threw his hat in the ring just a few months ago, Donald Trump was no more involved in world events than the 90%. His political interests would have been closer to home…tax law, eminent domain, building codes, contracts, and the role politics plays in his ability to pursue his business. His oafishness about recent political history has been, just like the 90%, as if he had been watching Law & Order reruns instead of channel surfing to find out what Charles thought about Bush’s Iraq invasion, or Bill Kristol thought about the Bush family in general.
I’d be surprised if Donald Trump ever read a book on European, Church, Muslim, English or even American History, even as recent as the Reagan years, when he was building the Trump Casino in Atlantic City (and when I ran into him on the Boardwalk in 1992. I had just returned from the fallen USSR, and I doubt the state of US-Russian relations, or the ’92 election, was ever on his mind.)
Since having been in the corporate sector, and know how time-consuming and mentally demanding that can be, I’m quite certain that Trump spent little time concerning himself with public affairs, except as a topic of conversation at cocktail parties. At any given time I’d expect that most of his opinions were socially convenient…all based on the circles he socialized with, largely liberal in New York. I doubt many conservatives were among them. But today the People seem not to mind. Right or wrong then, they seem willing to believe in this Donald today, and that he really believes that slogan “Make America Great Again.”.
Still, Donald has been factually wrong about recent history, as when he blamed George W Bush for 9/11, when we (the 10%) all knew at the time it was the Clinton Administration who facilitated that horror. Or that GW Bush invaded Iraq with a lie. Again, not true, but common talk among the cocktail circuit in New York and California. Truth: Bush created a democracy in Iraq in 2004-2005, but then ensured it could never succeed with a top-down type government, and then left 10 years too early, naively leaving Iraq’s future in the hands of a Barack Obama who unzipped his trousers and peed on the 4500 graves, American treasure, given to gain that democracy. (My analysis.) But he steered into another truth imagined by many, and known today, with the campaign of Jeb, the enduring friendship between Bush I and the satyr, Bill Clinton, and the steadfast refusal of GW to condemn Obama’s sacrilege of those 4500 graves, namely that the Bush family simply cannot recognize true Evil when they see it.
And the People can no longer afford that kind of country club blindness,.
What I know about Donald Trump is that he is a quick study. He has the honed executive skills to reduce a lot of history to simple deducements in short order, which he can do by dedicating a few minutes on his aircraft time, to and from events, simply by being briefed. I know a couple of people who could do that, on a variety of subjects, and would be happy to recommend them.
This is an error Trump needs to fix. He can’t fix America in four years. Not even eight. The 90% may not know this, but they instinctively know they need to have a fix that will last generations. A new beginning, a next Great Awakening, so that once again, they can envision their house into the next generation and the next, as had always been the case in America. Optimism.
You’ve heard all this before, but just as Billy Graham said about Christianity, that it would be nice is people would mention Jesus from time to time, we need to mention the real reason for our conservatism from time to time as well.