Postmodern Conservative

Trump, Tocqueville, and Kasich

First off, the good news: It continues to get more likely that Cruz will be the nominee and less likely that Trump will be.
I remain perplexed on the slowness of the Trump fade. His voters just want to stick to the man, apparently. I agree that the man — meaning the selectively libertarian, crony-capitalist, oligarchic Republican establishment — deserves it. But who could vote for Donald after that rambling, lying display of ignorant vanity the news networks (wrongly) covered last Tuesday night?
I admit that I’m semi-entertained by Trump, and I don’t hate the man or have contempt for the millions who will vote for him no matter what. Still, the main reason not to vote for him has nothing to do with his fascist tendencies or his crypto-racism or his anti-gentlemanly manners or his ridiculous hair. It’s his incredibly lazy ignorance of the basics when it comes to foreign and domestic policy.
I have to admit I’m a bit annoyed that Cruz’s only vision of unity is everyone else dropping out and being for him. He was for that before it made all that much sense. Well, now it makes sense. I’m back to thinking that Ted is an “armed prophet,” after all. It’s impossible not to admire the rational and industrious quality of his campaign.
Poor clueless Rubio! He has to make the most of his dramatic withdrawal to salvage anything from his campaign. And of course Cruz will give him nothing for his support. After all, Rubio has no choice and doesn’t have much to offer.
Certainly not Florida! It’s lost to Trump. And the main reason Rubio has to quit now is to avoid humiliating defeat in his home state. 
Kasich can’t withdraw now, if you think about it. He’s about to win Ohio (probably), and his strategy is just starting to kick in. And it’s not as clear as the Cruz people say that he could simply transfer his support to Ted in his home state at this late date.
Will Kasich go on to micro-surge, at least for a bit? Maybe. The Michigan exit polls show that he prevailed among college graduates and those who cast “the other candidates stink” votes.
I’m not for Kasich, mind you. But I also don’t think his continued campaign will keep Trump from being stopped. So you have my permission to vote for Kasich if you want.
Several of my students present and past have facebooked around a good article on what Alexis de Tocqueville would think about the Trump phenomenon. Not much! It’s evidence of the degradation of democratic manners and morals, a new contempt for the forms and formalities of liberty. Because Berry students have both read Tocqueville and are ladies and gentlemen, they would never vote for Trump. You should all follow their lead! 
Let me add two things, though. Tocqueville would probably think of Trump as a wimpy version of Andrew Jackson. No Trump proposals would be as cruel as “the trail of tears” removal of the Cherokees from mostly Georgia to satisfy the greedy, racist desires of southern white males. And the Jacksonians trashed the White House on inauguration day. I don’t think the Trumpites would do that. After all, their leader is basically a country-club guy. Jackson actually was good with guns and his fists, served with distinction in the armed forces, and killed men and got away with it.
And the part of Tocqueville most relevant to understanding Trumpism is his fear that a new kind of industrial aristocracy might emerge in a democracy. Something like that kind of aristocracy is the cognitive elite celebrated by libertarians, techno-enthusiasts, and transhumanists. It’s the kind of cold and irresponsible elite that causes us to have so much selective nostalgia for the virtues of the truer aristocrat Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey. Trump’s opposition to political correctness, for example, resonates with the ordinary Americans who are tired of having their lives scripted by the intellectual labor of “the masters of the universe.” There’s a lot more to say here…


Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...


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