Politics & Policy

Donald Trump Is Not Your Father

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

A historically literate conservative stands on a soapbox, addressing a crowd.

“As Americans, we are born free men and women. Our rights are endowed by our Creator, and our forefathers fought and died to protect that principle,” he pleads. “We do not need a nanny state! We are not children! The state is not our family! The president is not our father!”

To which all the Donald Trump supporters in the audience reply: “Daddy’s going to win! Daddy’s going to win! Hooray!”

It’s not hard to find Trump supporters who describe their preferred candidate in such directly paternal terms.

Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos has, in fact, taken to calling Trump “daddy.” Jamiel Shaw, Sr., the father of a high school student killed by an illegal immigrant, told CNN that he thinks of Trump “as a father figure” even though the two are similar in age. “He’s the kind of man you would want to be your dad,” Shaw said. “He’s the father figure I always wanted,” supporter Catherine Leafe told the Boston Globe. “I feel like he’s protecting me.

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Even Trump’s longtime employees see him as more than a boss: Michael Cohen, Trump’s Special Counsel and Executive Vice President, said, “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, who predicted Trump’s rise early, sums up the probable general-election matchup nicely:

So when we have Trump versus Clinton, assuming they get to the final match, it’s going to look like mom versus dad. Now, they’re not going to say that, but in our minds we’re going to start seeing them that way. And the thing about dad is that dad is kind of an a-hole, but if you need dad to take care of some trouble, he’s going to be the one you call.

Is there a worse way to choose a president? If you’re hoping Trump will be that strong, protective father figure you always wanted, you’re going to be deeply disappointed. You’re also going to be disappointed by Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or Bernie Sanders. This isn’t a matter of their character; it’s a categorizing error. The job of the president is not to be your dad. If you want a mentor — an older, wise voice of experience in your life, go ahead and go find one. The world is full of good people who can perform that role. But the folks busy competing to be the next commander-in-chief aren’t among them.

#share#There’s something a little unnerving about an eagerness to see a famous person you don’t know as a father figure. Maybe it’s not quite as bad as the people who talk to their televisions as if the characters can hear them, or the horror-movie-watcher who yells out, ‘Don’t go in there!’ as if the person on the screen can heed the warning. But it certainly suggests the same blurred line between daily life and the faraway world of famous figures on the screen.

If you feel like you know Hillary Clinton personally, then that “Hillary Clinton: 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” feature in Us Weekly must actually have worked. You may know that she loves hot sauce, relaxes by reading mystery novels, and considers chocolate her weakness, but you don’t actually know her, even if you think you do. And she certainly doesn’t know you.

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A president can change policies, but the basic, fundamental quality of your life is up to you and the decisions you make. No president can dispel hardship. A tax cut might put a few more dollars in your pocket, but only you can control your spending habits. Fewer regulations are likely to help the economy grow faster, but only you can apply for a job. School choice gives you more options as a parent, but the federal government can’t help your son understand his homework.

#related#There was a time when Republicans laughed at those who saw presidents as messiah figures destined to deliver instant relief from all of life’s problems. Obama supporter Peggy Joseph may be obscure nationally, but many conservatives remember her words from a 2008 rally, which perfectly encapsulated the ludicrous expectations for Obama’s presidency: “I never thought this day would ever happen! I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car! I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage! If I help him, he’s going to help me!”

To her credit, by the time she appeared in a 2014 documentary, Joseph had shed any naïve beliefs she once held about a president’s ability to relieve her of her problems. She now compares Obama to the Wizard of Oz — a man behind the curtain, “not who we thought or expected him to be.”

“What I learned was, never trust the wizard. It’s within ourselves,” she said. If Trump supporters somehow get their way, how long will it take them to learn the same lesson?

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.


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