Tuesday, December 8, 2015

“Outsiders”

     The jabber from our political class over Donald Trump’s announcement that as president he would seek a total ban on Muslim entrance to the United States for any reason has been both copious and hysterical. The wailing has come from both Left and Right, and from both politicians and commentators. For example, on yesterday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer joined the chorus with the plaint that Trump’s decree would ban “a Muslim surgeon from Toronto.” However, several prominent persons have refrained from the chorus of denunciation...and a couple of them are, like Trump, candidates for the presidency.

     As usual, the esteemed Ace has added a pithy observation:

     It's pretty clear that the Establishment, in both of its wings, right and left, has taken the position, without ever actually thinking about it, that we cannot discriminate about who we let into this country based on group characteristics.

     Ace, who is considerably smarter and more thoughtful than the typical political commentator, quite sensibly asks “Why not?” He concludes that there is no good answer. I concur; we’ve done it before, for the good of the nation, and we should do it again.

     These unexamined postulates of the political class are more numerous than one might suspect. The Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch may recall that when it was suggested to President Bush, immediately after his blockbuster September 20, 2001 speech, that one response to the problem of airliner hijacking might be to arm the flight crew, Dubya’s immediate reply was “Oh no, we’re not going to do that.” Why not? many asked themselves and one another...and indeed, the idea was shortly thereafter put into practice.

     In a sense, our political class is defined by such postulates: those persons who, among other qualifications, agree about those things that are “not done” and those that “must be done.” He who dissents from them is marked as an “outsider,” and best kept at a great distance from the levers of power. Such persons are rarely admitted to the councils of the powerful. Yet Trump has deviated rather blatantly, and not on this subject alone, and has flourished.


     We’ve heard a great deal of comment, much of it in tones of bafflement, about the attraction of the political “outsider.” Some of the persons so classified are new, or approximately so, to political involvement: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina. But the more interesting cases are those persons who occupy high offices but are regarded as “outsiders” nonetheless. Two stand out from the crowd: Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

     These men are “outsiders” not because they’re relative newcomers to federal politics, but because they openly dispute the shared postulates of the political class. Cruz in particular has been forthright about defying the rest of the GOP caucus in the Senate, to say nothing of conventional political opinion generally. (Perhaps such deviationism will someday be called “cruzing.”) It’s done him a lot of good in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination – but with the electorate, not the Establishment within his party.

     The Republican Establishment, as dedicated to the Prime Directive of the Political Class – “Thou shalt not rock the boat” – as any Establishment in history, is desperate to fend off the charge of the outsiders – and just now it’s more worried about Cruz than any of the others. Cruz combines his independence from political dogma with high intelligence and a fearless eloquence. He understands that a candidate, like a product, must be distinct from the alternatives to gain a significant following. Yet he’s politically canny enough not to adopt an “in your face” posture like that of Trump; rather, he’s let Trump break the wind – yes, pun intended – and has slipstreamed in behind him.

     At this point Cruz is the candidate most likely to surge to the front of the pack should Trump falter and recede. Were that to happen, the only hope for Establishment favorite Jeb Bush would be for Cruz to commit a major, irreparable gaffe, or for a king-size skeleton to come rattling out of his closet. Given his record to date, neither of those outcomes seems likely.


     The popular response to the Trump candidacy, Cruz’s and Paul’s maverick records in the Senate, and other phenomena such as the Tea Party constitute a raucous challenge to the Establishments of both parties and to the postulates they’ve striven to enforce since World War II. It’s certainly a loud enough trumpet call for them to hear. Not that they like the tune.

     Though we’re still at an early stage in the process, the indications are massing that an “outsider” is substantially more palatable to the electorate than any “insider,” at least among Americans on the Right. The preference for a candidate supposedly untainted by Establishment connections was part of what gave us (unfortunately) Barack Hussein Obama in 2008. If the dynamic operates similarly this coming year, Hillary Clinton, though her grasp on the Democrats’ nomination seems assured, will have no chance in the November elections.

     Thus, the trumpets of 2016 will herald the triumph of an “outsider,” hopefully one who will reverse America’s course toward the abyss rather than merely apply a gentle brake. Whether the fanfare will be loud enough to blow our political kingmakers off their shadowed thrones remains to be seen.

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