Monday, October 23, 2017

Definitions Of Winning

     The above is probably Donald Trump’s most famous campaign moment. The people at his rallies loved it – and they loved him for it. He had proclaimed a standard by which to judge whether America was advancing that they could understand. It was one that included them, their families, their communities, and the futures of their children.

     Yes, it was extravagant. Yes, it was bombastic. It’s Trump’s rhetorical style...and much to the dismay of his opponents in the Democrat and Republican Parties, the public didn’t turn up its collective nose at his “vulgarity.” Rather, it installed him in the White House.

     Trump had accomplished something that had eluded a great many career politicians: he had tapped the national spirit and embraced it. He had told the voters, “I see winning the way you do, and I’m committed to it.”

     The political class’s media handmaidens were massively unwilling to show the public the excitement Trump had generated:

     Those rallies were a refutation of all their political masters held dear. They could not bear it. More, they could not understand it.

     Trump didn’t have a record of failure for his opponents to run against. He had a record of doing what he said he’d do. He had scored repeated successes in one of the most difficult real-estate markets in the world. Yes, he had suffered losses, but he’d always recovered from them. He was able to make big promises and be believed. That, coupled with his embrace of what the voters hold to be winning, was the fuel that propelled him to the Oval Office. Since he got there, he’s been doing just about exactly as he promised, despite the contrary prognostications of the Establishment.

     In reflecting on the above, please remember that I was dubious about Trump.

     As everyone has his own values, goals, and priorities, everyone has his own definition of winning. Each of us knows pretty well:

  • What matters to him,
  • What he wants that he doesn’t yet have,
  • What he has that he wants to be rid of,
  • And what he’s willing to do, to pay, and to sacrifice to advance toward those goals.

     That’s the nature of individuality. Regardless of what Most People might say, we really are individually motivated and actuated. Yet our commonalities are pretty common.

     For decades Smith has listened to politicians’ promises, and then has watched them fail at best, go back on their words at worst. He’s grown thick calluses over his credulity. His neighbor Jones feels much the same, even though Smith calls himself a liberal and Jones calls himself a conservative. “You can’t trust ‘em” is their shared conviction about the political class.

     One of the consequences has been the diminution of the fraction of the electorate that bothers to vote:

Year % Voter Participation
1900 73.2
1912 58.8
1920 49.2
1932 56.9
1940 62.5
1952 63.3
1960 64.0
1972 55.1
1980 52.8
1992 55.2
2000 61.6
2012 53.8

     The voter unenthused about either of the presidential candidates has a strong chance of staying home. The syndrome is even more pronounced in non-presidential election years, which suggests that the conviction that "they're all thieves" is even stronger at the state, county, and municipal levels.

     What the careerists who make up our political Establishment have banked on is the belief that party alignment matters more than anything – "If you don't elect me, you'll get him." While it does matter somewhat, the perception that the candidate can be trusted to keep his promises and to achieve the results he's promised is far more potent.

     The careerists have come up against a man with a habit of keeping his promises and making good on them, and it dismays and disgusts them. Who does this upstart think he is, anyway?

     For at least a century, the political careerist's definition of winning has been:

  • Get elected.
  • Get re-elected.

     As long as "everyone plays by the same rules," it kept the careerists in power. When an outsider with a track record of success entered the game and defeated them, the Establishment went to its fallback definition of winning: Thwart Trump and his agenda, so that his "trick" would never be used against them again. When you read something mealy-mouthed about how "senior staff" ought to "control" Trump, that's the key to it.

     The elections of 2018 and 2020 are likely to turn on how well Trump resists the attempts to control, block, and defeat him. The careerists, with their quite different definition of winning, have a lot more to lose than he does. They'll play hard. They'll cheat. Some of them are already doing so. But they're fighting uphill. The electorate likes what it's seen so far from the 45th President.

     They're not yet tired of winning. Not at all.

1 comment:

BB-Idaho said...

The electorate that 'likes what it sees' is about 35%. But it's early.