Sunday, September 30, 2018

Trump's Troubadour Wonders Where the Virtuous Politicians Are

Before the 2016 election, I did not know who Salena Zito was. Through the primary and since, I have come to know her as a sort-of "Jane Goodall" of TrumpAmerica, only in this case, the anthropological case study not only catalogs the society under review but acts as its truth-teller and advocate. Ms. Zito has a new column up at the Washington Examiner entitled "The Politicians We Deserve", and it caught my attention on a quiet Sunday in the late stages of our Republic.

Ms. Zito begins the piece with a paean to former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who virtually every squishy, RINO, establishment, GOPe kind of person (like me) had hoped would someday run from President. The man was as Reagany and George W. Bushy as you could get, and those are great qualifications in my book.  In 2011, he ultimately decided not to, citing among other things, family concerns including the ups and downs of his marriage. Zito recently interviewed him, and he indicated that were he faced with the same decision today, not only would he not run, but the decision would be a no-brainer, the intimation being that the changed political climate including personal destruction was to blame. Zito sums it up thusly: "Daniels’ decision as a possible presidential candidate was a very high-profile example of when good men and women decide not to run for office, not because they aren’t capable, not because they lack leadership qualities, but because of the personal cost to their lives, reputations, and their family’s stability."

Zito's piece continues: "One of the most common complaints heard on the campaign trail in 2016 was this: Of all the inspiring, hardworking, bright men and women in this country, how did it come down to a choice between two people who were not exactly the paragons of virtue?" She goes on to answer her own question: "The answer two years ago was that people in this country had such a low viewpoint of government and institutions, it was hard to get good people to be willing to be involved because they lacked faith to get involved. In retrospect, two years ago may seem like a kinder, gentler time. Today, given that character assassination comes first, and facts come later, why would any good person jump in?" And "But in this age of vicious politics, good people will step back and refuse to upend their personal lives because the other side politically is set on winning at any cost"

I don't even know where to begin to unpack this. This woman who has spent a good part of the past two years attempting to normalize and legitimize not only the vicious and vindictive statements of the President-- but also in soft-pedaling the degree to which his supporters lap it up and internalize it--is all of a sudden lamenting the lack of good people willing to get into politics? Forgive me, but maybe I'm having a memory lapse. Did a former two-term governor of Florida not run in 2016? Did a former tech CEO not run? Did a brain surgeon not run? Did Senators from Florida and Texas not run? Were the sixteen others who ran somehow not virtuous enough? And was not every single one of these others (and at least one wife thereof) not savaged in personal ways by the man who eventually won? Remember-this wasn't "the other side". This was Donald Trump, running as a Republican, burning the crops in the fields as he roamed to the cheering and applause of the people Zito lionizes.

Does Zito REALLY think that if Mitch Daniels threw his hat in the ring in 2016 things would have turned out any differently? I mean--there was no more establishment guy around than Mitch Daniels--and I mean that with esteem and admiration. "Mitch the Knife" was the King of Cutting Entitlements and budget discipline. Trump and his followers want nothing to do with cutting entitlements, and they would have cheered and applauded while Trump turned his carnival act on Daniels, who is I think two or three inches shorter than "Little Marco" Rubio. My problem with Zito here is not that she is wrong in citing this as a problem, it's just that she is the absolute wrong person to point it out, as closely identified as she is with the defense of Trumpism and its adherents. Trump and Trumpkins did not invent the politics of personal destruction, but the degree to which they participate in its practice and defense is fundamental to the movement and its narrative.

1 comment:

Dan D said...

Wow, how un-self-aware can one be? Here is Salina Zito, a marvelous reporter and writer, who has done what journalists are supposed to do. She travels, asks questions, listens, observes, and reports.

Then Mr Decry Tribalism accuses her of pimping for the horrible Trump and making excuses for his enablers. She doesn't smirk and act indignant about how self-evidently horrible and unprecedented the man and his fans must certainly be. She's clearly a tool of the Wrong Tribe!!

Get off your sorry horse, read and think a little bit, try some humility for gaining understanding. I was a never-Trumper who voted Cruz in the primaries, but Trump won all sixty seven counties in Pennsylvania. Instead of throwing a fit, I read Salena Zito, talked to my neighbors, dug into some history, and contemplated the terrible state our country was already in after years of Clinton/Bush/Obama and the increasingly crazy Left. It's clear none of the other candidates stood any chance of overturning the wretched mess.

Seriously, Jeb or Rubio or Cruz or Carly would both care to do the heavy lifting and withstand the vicious attacks of the weaponized Obama/Clinton Washington establishment and their media/popular culture allies? Dream on, they would cave at the onslaught and have no strategy to press on fearlessly.

I still can't stand the guy, but I can't help but love what he has been able to accomplish, domestically and in security and foreign policy. Yes he's coarse and gross, but Anton's Flight 93 election essay was particularly apt. And if a genuinely wise and scholarly Victor Davis Hanson sees the merit of this Presidency, maybe there are some other points of view you should not be so quick to dismiss.

As many wiser than I have observed, Trump did not create his movement, he is somewhat shrewdly observing and adapting to a moment of historical inflection, one that is rippling across the Western world. The elites of Washington, as elsewhere, have failed, and Trump is both a wrecking ball and a seriously underestimated political force reorienting policies to the needs of the time. In a peculiarly messy and high tension fashion, granted; but at least the crazy decline of the West is being re-evaluated.

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