Politics & Policy

Anti-Trump, Pro-Trumpster?

Trump with supporters in Norfolk, Va., October 31, 2015. (Sarah D. Davis/Getty)
A rule to obey, and disobey

This is the rule: You’re supposed to knock Donald Trump, if you want to. But you must respect and honor his supporters. You must understand them. In fact, you should celebrate them!

Do they ever tire of this condescension? This suggestion that they are children or halfwits who know not what they do?

If I supported a demagogue and charlatan for president — a man wholly unfit for the office — no one would excuse me. No one would coddle me. People wouldn’t pat me on the head and say, “There, there, Jay-Jay. We understand you. We love you.” They’d laugh me to scorn.

I can understand why politicians tread softly around the Trump army, and even smooch their backsides. But I’m not running for office. Given my “paper trail,” I guess, I couldn’t be elected dogcatcher.

And I’m free to say, “Why am I supposed to honor people who want Donald J. Trump to be president?”

They’re angry, I’m told. We must respect and honor their anger. Well, I’m angry too — I’ll out-anger a Trumpster on his angriest day. But no one coddles me or cajoles me or says, “There, there.” They tell me to grow the hell up (and rightly so).

EDITORIAL: Against Trump

I have no doubt that there are lovely people among Trump supporters. I also have no doubt that there are lovely people among Hillary Clinton supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters. Do right-wing politicians and pundits ever say that? Not that I hear. Why don’t they?

I don’t worship The People. I don’t think The People are holy. I think they are good and bad. And in between. I think people often make lousy choices: in music, in movies, in morals.

And in politics. The great, holy People elected Obama president. Twice. I think that was most unfortunate. And I think Trump supporters are misguided, at best. Do I understand them? Sure. But remember: Understanding doesn’t necessarily equal admiration, or even approval.

RELATED: Conservatives Against Trump

I oppose Trump for president. Why? Well, there are “traditional” reasons, you might say. Trump has no political or governmental experience. I know this is a plus for his supporters, and others on the right. But, as my colleague Rick Brookhiser says, the presidency is not an entry-level political job, unless you’ve won a world war, or a civil war.

Also, Trump is not a conservative (and I’m a conservative — a Reagan conservative — who wants such a person to be president). Frankly, I’m not sure what Trump believes. He’s all over the place.

Now, though, I’m getting to what really bothers me about his candidacy and the support it has attracted: character. The candidate’s. I’m supposed to respect the people who want him to be president. That’s the rule. But I find the rule hard to abide by, sometimes.

Trump has praised Putin. He said, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin.” Forgetting international law, it was pointed out to him that Putin kills journalists he disagrees with. Trump answered, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

This is the kind of moral equivalence — a false equivalence — that the Left has specialized in for years.

Trump further said of Putin, “It has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.” Huh. Maybe Trump can team with Putin and O.J. to hunt for the real killers?

Trump blasted John McCain, saying he was not a war hero because he had been captured by the enemy. McCain was captured, all right — on his 23rd bombing raid over North Vietnam. He then endured five and a half years of torture.

How many years, or minutes, could Trump have endured (or could I have endured)? Trump took four student deferments. Fine. I don’t knock him for that. Plenty of people took deferments.

But if you did it, do you knock John McCain for his service? Really?

#share#Conservatism has always included a dose of chivalry. Trump attacks women, verbally, in vile ways. After a debate in which Megyn Kelly asked tough questions, Trump said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

He knocked Carly Fiorina for her looks.

Are these your values?

Trump criticized Ben Carson for his religion, and likened him — really — to a child molester. He also questioned Ted Cruz for his religious bona fides. (My traditional disclosure: I’m a Cruzer.)

Do Americans do that? Knock their fellow citizens for their religion? Trump does.

He mocked — physically mocked — a physically handicapped person. A nasty kid on the playground does that. Then he turns about twelve. He knows better. Trump is almost 70, and running for president.

That’s okay? His “people” like that?

He watches TV news and commentary, and if someone says something he doesn’t like, he sends out a childish tweet about that person.

To say it again: The rule is, Knock Trump, if you have to, but honor his supporters. Why? Why must I? Why must I think that people who want such a man to be president of the United States are the salt of the earth?

Some of them are, for sure. Do they know about Trump’s statements and antics? Or do they merely have a vague sense that he’s against illegal immigration and will make America great again?

Immigration! That’s the answer the Trumpsters will usually give you, in explanation or defense of their support. “Immigration! He will stop illegal immigration!”

Actually, he supports “a poorly disguised amnesty,” as we at National Review said in an editorial. Trump favors what is known as “touchback”: You deport ’em and then let ’em back in (certainly the “good ones,” or “when someone’s terrific”). They’ve touched back, you see. Voilà. (Or, more aptly, Voici.)

Here is something that I resent mightily about the 2016 election cycle: I like Donald Trump. Not for the offenses I have cited, of course, but for other things. And the election has forced me to be anti-Trump. Because he wants to be president, and I must shout Stop.

I get a kick out of Trump. He’s a marvelous performer. No one’s more natural on television. He’s a star. He’s a marvelous talker.

He’s an American type, and a New York type: braggadocious, brazen, self-promoting, often charming. I’d love to play golf with him. I’d love to know him. He’s roguish. I tend to like them, some of them.

Moreover, I agree with Trump, on much! And I get stirred up by what he says (in a positive way). During some debates, I’m going, “Yeah, yeah!” My fist is nearly pumping. I’ll tweet out, “I’m a Trumpkin, so help me. A partial Trumpkin.”

On Friday, I was leaving an office, and there was a TV on the wall. Trump was on, talking about political correctness and how it’s almost verboten to say “Merry Christmas.” I felt a surge of pleasure. Trump was singing my song. I’ve been singing it for years (in this 2003 essay, for example).

#related#If I had been a candidate in the final GOP debate before Christmas? I’d have ended my closing statement with “Merry Christmas.” Viewers — Republican primary voters — would have liked that, I think.

Someone did say “Merry Christmas” that night. You know who it was? The moderator, Wolf Blitzer. I’m not surprised. Honestly, I’m not surprised.

Okay, I’m done now. I know the rule: Knock Trump but not his supporters. Trump bad, supporters good. Good, good, good. Great. Terrific.

Actually, I think Trump’s good too in some respects.

In any event, the man and his supporters can know this (not that I argue they should care): I at least respect them enough to take them seriously. I respect them enough to hold them responsible for their views, words, and actions (and votes). I don’t regard them as dopey children who know not what they do. I pay them the compliment of non-condescension.

Which is worth something, I hope.


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