As the most high-profile man on the planet, President Donald Trump is also the least understood. Everyone – and I’m talking to the left and the right – needs to take a breath and stop hyperventilating and staging assassination fantasies in Central Park.
We have known Donald Trump for over thirty years. We know that he is obscenely rich, crude, garish, self-centered – and about as ideological as one of the pro-wrestling events on which he has appeared. Note to the left: Trump is not Hitler. Nothing in his past suggests he is seeking to establish a Third Reich.
If you really want to pin him down politically, simply label him a right-leaning independent. His law-and-order tendencies resemble Richard Nixon, who also led America in an unsettled era. As far as immigration, he is simply insisting that we follow the law. To the average American, that is not radical. Presidents Obama and Carter (among others) insisted on immigration moratoriums from hostile nations. In fact, a move just announced by the administration should please the no-borders crowd (it won’t) and will likely anger those clamoring for the wall (Ann Coulter). The so-called dreamers, the children of illegals, will not likely bear the brunt of any new deportation orders. The merits of such a move are certainly debatable. The idea that Trump is an Aryan nationalist is just ridiculous.
Just as ridiculous is the idea the he seeks to put women back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. Trump considers himself pro-life and opposes Planned Parenthood – in keeping with roughly 50% of the nation. Again, his policies are debatable, but the notion that Trumpism subjugates women is utter nonsense. He has employed countless women, including one as a close advisor – daughter Ivanka, who is hardly an anti-feminist crusader.
Conservatives are no less guilty of inciting fear and holding the president to standards he never set for himself. He never claimed to be a conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan. That doesn’t make him any less a patriot. Quite simply, Trump is a man of action, not ideas. Unlike political activists and pundits, he does not see this country or his fellow citizens in terms of conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. He is a child of that great American tradition that believes that spectacular success need not justify itself. He never mulls over the moral tenets of free market economics, he simply lives them. Isn’t it telling that Trump’s books, among them Think Big and, of course, The Art of the Deal are motivational books, as opposed to more somber takes on policy and ideology? Donald Trump is a spectacle, a showman. No one could pin him down politically all these years because his guiding principle, if you want to call it that, is success. Big, gaudy, American-style success that should be accessible to everyone through vision and hard work.
Conservative critics never stop yapping about how he once donated money to Hillary. Trump never denied that and didn’t care who knew it. He was bragging that he knew how to work the system. He was never about advancing Hillary’s worldview. Trump also opposed the Tea Party, according to the Never-Trumpers. Lots of conservatives spoke negatively about the Tea Party, including Ann Coulter. Measuring Trump against strict ideological standards misses the looming character of the man: unrestrained, egotistical, unabashedly all-American, as well as fearless, determined and propelled by a deep affinity for working-class America.
One can argue that we take great risk in abandoning principle for pragmatism. Yes, Trump speaks in hyperbole. His rhetoric is exaggerated and over-the top, which gets him into trouble and escapes the confines of truth. As a Trump supporter, I concede that he will not likely keep all of his promises. That doesn’t make him evil. We elect presidents, not dictators, which is not to say that one leader can’t affect change for better or worse. Luckily, our system of checks and balances tends to nullify the worst impulses of our leaders. Like most presidents, he will not likely be as bad as his detractors claim, nor will he be the saviour that some of his die-hard supporters claim. Trump is unique and represents a sea-change in history, but he is not worth violence or too many sleepless nights. We should be vigilant toward our leaders, but we should not tremble at the mention of his name, unless we’re Rosie O’Donnell.