by Eric Oppen
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
When Donald Trump announced that he would run for the Presidency in 2016, I paid little heed. He’d done it before, and come in so far back among the “also-rans” that he was, at best, a footnote in the election. I figured that he was doing another of his attention-grabbing stunts. Like they said about Theodore Roosevelt, Trump always “wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.”
Being an Iowan, and voting with the Republicans more often than not (the Libertarian Party here in Iowa is all but nonexistent, and does not have an affiliate in my county) I attended my local precinct’s Republican Party caucus. At Iowa’s Republican caucuses, unlike the Democrats who have an arcane system I have never understood, we go by straight majority vote. We gather together, people speak up in favor of every candidate, and then we vote. He with the most votes gets the caucus.
I spoke up in favor of Rand Paul, but my precinct, and my county, went with Ted Cruz. Donald Trump did better than I had expected him to, but did not grab the lead. Once again, I dismissed Trump’s chances. While the Iowa caucuses are not an infallible predictor of the nominees, they’re often useful harbingers. In 1980, Teddy Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination, and was soundly trounced in Iowa, which set the tone for his doomed run for the nomination. Even in 1980, with the Iran albatross around his neck, Jimmy Carter was more popular with Democrats than the heroic night-swimmer of Martha’s Vineyard.
However, after Iowa, Donald Trump started gaining traction, much to my surprise. I noticed that this happened after he started talking about building a “big, beautiful wall” along the US-Mexico border, to cut off illegal immigration. Even here in north-central Iowa, we’ve had a lot of Mexican and Central American newcomers, and I would cheerfully bet that many of them did not come here legally.
(As an aside: I will stipulate freely that, if this were Libertopia, I would not particularly oppose immigration. However, this is not Libertopia, nor is it the 1880s, with a wide-open frontier and rapidly-expanding factory economy with a sateless appetite for unskilled or semi-skilled labor. This is twenty-first-century America, which is, for worse or for worse, a welfare state. You can have a welfare state, or you can have open or nearly-open borders. But not both. And since I see no prospect anytime in the foreseeable future of Americans abandoning their government goodies, there is no way we can have open borders.)
I have friends who live in Arizona and New Mexico, and they tell me that the people who already live there (“Native Americans,” Latinos, and whites alike) are getting increasingly fed up with the hordes pouring over our borders. Many of them would love to have a wall built—a wall so big and tall that the one separating the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the wild men of the north would look pretty puny. (“George R.R. Martin, I have surpassed thee!”)
The news media screamed so loudly at the mention of a wall, you’d think that Trump had stated his support for human sacrifice. And they screamed even louder when Trump started getting serious traction in the caucuses and primaries. They threw every bit of mud at him that they could think of, but nothing worked. Trump went from success to success, until he garnered the Republican nomination.
Over in the Democratic camp, there was much rejoicing. They had nominated Hillary Clinton, after making it very clear to others who might have wanted to try that edging her out of the nomination, the way Barack Obama had done, would be hazardous to their futures in the party. Hillary herself thought she had the election in the bag—it was “her turn,” and the prospect of facing off with a political newcomer merely reinforced her overconfidence. She blew off advice from her in-house experts, did not campaign in traditionally-blue states that were slowly turning red, and underestimated Donald Trump. With results we all now know.
When the results came in, the Democrats exploded with rage. They tried every possible trick, legal and otherwise, to prevent Trump’s inauguration. They screamed. They threw endless tantrums. They rioted in the streets of Washington, DC. With impunity. They howled for Trump’s impeachment before the man had even taken the oath of office. They shouted, endlessly, that Her Inevitability had “won the popular vote.” Even if this is true—and I have serious doubts about the honesty of the vote count, particularly in Democratic strongholds—it makes no never-mind. The Electoral College exists for a reason. Without it, Presidential candidates would only campaign in the major metros—mostly, if not all, on the coasts. We in “flyover country” would be forgotten. And since the Presidency (and Vice-Presidency, for what little that’s worth) are the only nation-wide elected offices, a mechanism that forces candidates to pay attention to the whole country instead of a few metro areas is needed.
For all they could do, even death threats and attempts to bribe electors to cast their ballots for Queen Cersei Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump took the oath and became President. Immediately after, the professional bureaucrats that infest the “deep state” set out to thwart him in every way they could think of.
Trump himself was out of his depth. He almost certainly hadn’t seriously expected to win, and a lot of his political appointments were of people who viscerally opposed all that he was supposed to stand for. He was used to the business world, where compromises are in order, and didn’t understand that many of the people he had to deal with were not interested in compromise. To them, he represented an existential threat, as well as a group of Americans (“flyover country” people) whom they looked down upon as backward hicks.
Trump got little help from Congress. Although his first Congress was Republican-majority, many Republicans were as opposed to him and what he appeared to stand for as much as the most fanatical “It’s-Her-Turn/I’m-With-Her” Democrats. Representing a party that had been institutionally traumatized, first by being blamed for the Depression, then by Watergate when it looked as though they were finally living the Depression down, many Republicans had settled into a role as the “Us too—but not quite so much!” party, or, as I affectionately call them, “the American answer to the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang.”*
Their role as perpetual second bananas was not a bad gig, as gigs go. As long as they remained safely under the Democrats’ thumbs, they did get some things they wanted passed, and they were invited to all the “cool kids” parties. But their constituents, who had thought they were voting for an alternative to the Democrats instead of the Democrats’ running dogs, were increasingly discontented. Hence, Trump’s election. That was the latest in a series of omens that should have told our beloved lords, masters and leaders in Washington and the several statehouses that all was not well.
The election of Jesse Ventura, of all people, as governor of Minnesota was one such omen. Another was the popularity of Sarah Palin, and the rise of the Tea Parties. Jesse Ventura was neutralized, Sarah Palin was defeated, slimed and driven from the political field, and the Tea Parties were checkmated by adroit usage of the IRS’ all but unchecked power. None of this was lost on the people who had supported them, and they were ripe for a candidate not parroting the usual DC drivel.
Trump faced savage attacks from his first day in office. He survived two frivolous attempts to impeach him (possibly as revenge for Bill Clinton?) and endless savaging from the news media. Thanks partly to “newsroom culture,” the news media was more unanimously against Trump than any President I can remember, save maybe Richard Nixon. No matter what he did or didn’t do, they screamed that he was evil, that he was the Antichrist’s black-sheep brother, that he was a fascist, and, of course, that he was “literally Hitler.” Pointing out to these hysterics that if Trump had been literally Hitler, he wouldn’t have left office in 2021 and they’d likely be dead or in concentration camps did no good at all.
About the only part of his program that Trump was able to put through was judicial appointments. Since the other side had long got used to being able to run crying to Uncle Judge to override the expressed will of the people, this did not go over well with them at all. When Trump put Brett Kavanaugh forward for a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the Left exploded in apocalyptic rage. They invaded the Capitol, many of them in idiotic Handmaid’s Tale costumes, and did their utmost to prevent the appointment from going through. This, be it noted, was not called an “insurrection” or a “coup,” even though it did far more to disrupt the workings of Congress than the demonstration of January 6 ever did or could have done.
In a fear-frenzy for their precious abortions, the Left and the Democrats pulled out all the stops. They took ruthless advantage of the Covid-19 virus, whipping up a national panic and ramming through changes in election laws that favored them heavily. Despite repeatedly-corrobrated reports of blatant cheating, they managed to put their favored candidate, the visibly-failing Joseph Biden, over the top. When the other side attempted to protest, they were lured into actions that the hostile media promptly spun as a “coup attempt.”
Even after they had Trump out of office, the other side couldn’t let go. They derided people who doubted the honesty of Biden’s election as “election deniers,” despite having spent four years shrieking about Trump being illegitimately in office. “Not my president!” had been their cry, but the second their man was in office, he was sacrosanct. And they went after Trump with the law in every way they could.
If they keep this nonsense up, not only may they sting their oppostion into real violence, but they run a real risk of making Trump a martyr. I, myself, did not care for him for various reasons, but looking at the people who stood against him, I held my nose and voted for him in 2020.
Martyrs are much harder to fight against than tangible foes. The English and Burgundians’ biggest mistake in the Hundred Years’ War was to burn Joan of Arc at the stake. Immuring her in a nunnery, possibly in the Pale of Dublin in Ireland, would have more than sufficed, and not given the French a rallying cry. After JFK’s assassination, any measure that he was thought to have supported was all but guaranteed a pass, and LBJ was elected in his own right by a landslide, despite very serious questions about his ethics and an unlovable personality.
Trump himself is almost certainly on the way out, but someone will come along who will take up his cause. If that person, unlike The Donald, knows the ways of Washington well enough to deal with the Deep State, he may well make the opposition nostalgic for Trump, just as Trump made them realize how much they missed Reagan.
* The Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang is an offshoot of the Chinese Nationalist Party, and is the second-largest political party in the “People’s” “Republic” of “China.” It’s a real political party, and exists partly for the benefit of people who need to belong to a political party to qualify for employment, but cannot get into the Communist Party because of “unsuitable ancestry”—i.e., having a grandfather or great-grandfather who was an official under Chiang Kai-shek, or an officer in the Nationalist Army. While the RCK does hold some offices, and is represented in the Politboro, it is very, very careful to never oppose the Communist Party on any issue of importance.
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