There are some pretty good Donald Trump parody accounts on Twitter, and there must be a German word somewhere for the strange, queasy feeling you get when you realize that you aren’t looking at one of them.
“Beyond parody” used to be an insult. In the case of Donald Trump, it is simply the fact.
Does that matter? Not to Trump.
That Trump should be a partisan of the “all publicity is good publicity” faction is not surprising. Before Trump became a tabloid celebrity in New York for his tawdry adultery and subsequent divorce(s), there were about 22 people on Earth who gave a damn what a Donald Trump was. There is no denying that he is a kind of idiot savant when it comes to self-promotion: He took an episode that would have made a normal, functional adult human being want to keep his head down for the next 40 years or so and parlayed it into a series of successful licensing agreements, a reality-television program, and, now, the Republican nomination. One cannot fault Trump for that any more than one faults L. monocytogenes for causing literiosis or raccoons for digging through your trash. It’s what they do.
All publicity is good publicity. All followers are good followers, and they’re the only thing that really matters. It doesn’t matter what’s being said — it only matters that people are talking about you. Etc. That those views are childish and borderline insane does not mean that they are not useful. Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian all are rich for the same reason, and Trump is the Republican presidential candidate for the same reason that he’s rich. He is the parasite, and we are the host, because we, as a culture, have agreed to be the host. Maybe we did not set out to do that, but that is what we have done, in much the same way that while nobody ever sets out to become a drug addict, nobody becomes one exactly by accident, either.“Populism” isn’t much more than a polite term for mob rule, but it is the mood of the moment, and Republicans are, to their discredit, embracing it with great energy. They may even make something of it. But they’ll lose something, too. The presence of followers does not, as it turns out, imply the existence of leaders, properly understood. Political liberty under the rule of law is a fragile condition, and it requires us to be better than this.
The polls change, but the final facts do not.
“How many followers does Yuval Levin have?” Joseph Stalin once asked a similar question about the pope. Representative Brat, who is an educated man, must know how that turned out in the end.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.