The official definition of the word, paradox, from dictionary.com:
Paradox: “A statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.”
If that definition has your head spinning, let me illustrate it through example; said example being this past election.
Let’s start with a bunch of angry people in 2008 who feel betrayed by George W. Bush, who operates under the Republican banner. He calls himself a conservative, but he initiates a massive government bail-out of the private sector through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, thereby rejecting free market principles.
Then, Obama is elected in 2009 and pushes through a massive new reform of healthcare. This leads to the rise of a loosely-formed grass roots movement of conservative/libertarian opposition known as, The Tea Party.
The Tea Party proves to be influential in the mid-term elections of 2010 and 2014. This gives them a sense of power, even when they fail to help secure the presidency in 2012 with a so-called, “Establishment candidate,” in the person of Mitt Romney.
However, the movement does give rise to reliably solid conservatives in the form of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Deb Fischer; all of whom prove that conservatism and minorities can go together.
Yet, when a few of these Tea Party favorites try for their shot at the White House in 2015, they are blocked by a man who is demonstrably not conservative.
Donald Trump has been all over the political map. He’s been registered as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent and as the head of the Reform Party. The Tea Party, founded on rock solid constitutional principles, invests in a man who has none. He has given large sums of money to both Republicans and Democrats. When asked about it he says, “I’m a businessman. I make deals. It’s what I do.”
Trump’s remedy for a porous border, a sluggish economy and the terror threat is simple; “I alone can fix it.” This suggests that the powers of the presidency are akin to those of a king. Obama’s opponents resented his abuse of the executive pen, but now, they squeal with delight at the prospect of the former star of The Apprentice, who seems to have no knowledge of how Washington D.C. works, but who is determined to fix it with a snap of his fingers.
“We’re sick of politicians! We want an outsider!” cry the masses of the disaffected.
And why do people dislike politicians? Very simple. Because they promise the moon, then go to D.C. and they don’t deliver. So, Trump, the grand outsider, plays the politician’s game on steroids by making a series of promises without having any inkling of how he will deliver them.
“We’re gonna make America great again!”
This suggests that America isn’t already great. Up to this point, liberals are usually the ones who claim that America is inherently flawed and that we are not, nor have we ever been a great nation. Conservatives are more likely to champion America as an exceptional experiment in freedom.
Yet, somehow, the two philosophies have flip-flopped. Conservatives claim that Obama has made America not so great, even though we only had two years of total Democrat domination in D.C. Liberals counter Trump’s signature slogan with sudden passion; “America is already great!”
“I’m gonna build a wall and Mexico will pay for it!”
When asked how, Trump bobs and weaves, muttering about tariffs and the confiscation of financial transactions, none of which are rooted in conservative philosophy.
“I’m gonna bring jobs back to this country!”
When pressed on the specifics, he meanders on and on about non sequiturs like China, NAFTA and the evils of free trade in general. Free trade has always been a marketplace principle championed by conservatives.
“I am the law & order candidate.”
All we’re missing is the “duh-duh!” sound from the TV show. He is blatantly pandering to the cops and military who insure our national security, and who comprise a substantial portion of the Republican voting bloc. Another political ploy from the fellow who is not a politician.
Yet, he proposes solutions to threats that would never hold up in a court of law, such as the banning of those who practice Islam from our country. He suggests mass deportations, not only of illegal immigrants, but of their natural born citizen families as well, which is blatantly unconstitutional.
When planted protesters make trouble at his rallies, he eggs on his followers. “Knock the crap out of them. I’ll pay your legal fees, I promise.”
All the while, he sings the praises of Vladimir Putin, leader of an oppressive regime who once fought against the U.S. in the Cold War; a war won by a Republican president.
Despite his obvious shortcomings, his primary supporters remain undeterred.
“He’s a businessman who will get things done.”
Yet, he refuses to release his tax returns that would show us his financial successes and failures. When asked about them he says, “I’m under audit. I will release them when the audit is complete.” An audit does not prevent him from disclosing his tax records, but no one cares.
“Trump will pick the best people!”
Oh, really? His first campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, is arrested for assaulting a female journalist at a Trump rally. They lie about it and smear her, even though the assault is irrefutably caught on video. Trump claims he will stand by Lewandowski on grounds of loyalty, but quietly fires him later.
His second manager, Paul Manafort, steps down when his suspicious business ties to Russia threaten to become an embarrassment to the campaign.
His third manager, Steve Bannon, is the executive editor of the website, Breitbart.com; a site that was once a bastion of mainstream conservatism, but which has drifted toward the extreme Alt-Right in the wake of the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart.
“The Donald is a fighter. We need a fighter in Washington.”
And oh, the fights he wages.
He calls Jeb Bush, “Low energy.” He makes fun of Marco Rubio’s penis size. He ridicules Carly Fiorina’s facial appearance. He questions Ted Cruz’s citizenship and accuses his father of having a hand in the Kennedy assassination. He calls Hillary Clinton, “Crooked Hillary,” and hints that he’d like to see her assassinated by the pro-2nd Amendment crowd.
Trump’s propensity for personal attacks over policy differences leads us to another grand paradox. For decades, Republicans have fended off spurious charges of racism, sexism, homophobia and nativism from the Democrats and the mainstream media. Genuinely decent candidates such as George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney have been unfairly tarred and feathered by the liberal establishment. So the GOP counters it by nominating a man who embodies the very worst Republican stereotypes in grandiose fashion.
Trump launches his campaign by painting all illegal immigrants with a broad brush by calling them drug dealers and rapists. He maligns a female journalist after she asks him a question in a debate that he doesn’t like by targeting her menstrual cycle. He mocks a disabled reporter at a rally. He picks a fight with a Gold Star family of Arabic descent. He questions the objectivity of the judge in the lawsuit against Trump University by targeting his Mexican heritage. He puts out a campaign video with anti-Semitic overtones just days before the general election. And worst of all, a hot mic video surfaces in which he openly brags about grabbing and kissing women without their express consent and getting away with it because of his celebrity status.
There’s only one claim Trump makes during the course of his campaign that seems to hold water.
“We’re gonna win! We’re gonna win big! We’re gonna win so much, you’ll be sick of winning.”
This is certainly true in my case. I was sick of Trump before he won a single primary. And yet, he keeps winning state after state, knocking down his opponents like bowling pins. He goes on to win the Republican nomination in Cleveland with the help of the GOP machine, who intimidates the Free the Delegates movement. He wins the endorsements of most of his enemies, including former hold-out Ted Cruz, after attacking Cruz’s family on social media. And on November 8, he wins the general election, vanquishing Hillary Clinton for a second time.
Why did he win? Despite claims to the contrary, it is not because he was overwhelmingly popular. In fact, it appears that Hillary won the popular vote, while Trump won the Electoral College. After all, Trump has the highest disapproval numbers in presidential memory.
Trump won because Hillary herself was a paradoxical candidate.
It was long assumed in leftist circles that Hillary was entitled to the presidency after Obama vacated the office. Liberals championed her on feminist grounds; the glass ceiling and all that. The fact that she almost certainly enabled her husband, a known sexual predator, was of no consequence. Like the very Trump supporters they disparaged, high-minded liberals bought into the classic political trope; the ends justify the means.
Her years of public service experience would pave the rest of the way. Sure, she had plenty of baggage. Benghazi was troublesome. She wasn’t particularly warm or likeable. Despite an occasional coughing fit, she’s in perfect health.
Never mind that pesky private Email server. Comey cleared her. We love him! No, wait. The investigation’s on again. That bastard Comey is trying to influence the election! Wait…Comey cleared her again. We love him!
No matter. Trump was so boorish that she could easily take him out.
But Hillary did not engender passion among her followers, particularly the millennial crowd. They preferred Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old socialist who looked like he would be more at home at a Starbucks on a Wednesday afternoon than on a debate stage.
Hillary couldn’t deny the impact that Sanders was having on the campaign, so in true Clintonian fashion, she colluded with the DNC (who is supposed to be neutral) to take down Sanders. She didn’t count on WikiLeaks, who exposed the collusion before the Democratic National Convention.
Yet, Hillary seemed predestined for the White House, gaining the nomination and, more significantly, the endorsement of her former rival. But she did not gain an enthusiastic following, as did The Donald. In the end, she couldn’t do what her predecessor had done by turning out the youth vote.
Post election data seems to confirm that voter turn-out was at a 20-year low in the general contest. Did millennials punish Hillary by staying home? If so, they ultimately punished themselves in yet another paradox.
Many pollsters predicted that Democrats would not only win the White House, but they would take back the Senate as well. This strategy of protest by abstinence backfired. By choosing apathy over action, the Bernie crowd insured that the Supreme Court will see at least one more judge in the Scalia mold. Even if President Trump waffles on his list of conservative judges, the Republican-controlled Senate will not confirm a nominee who is overtly leftist, or even moderate.
This is why we have a system with checks and balances; the same system that prevented Republicans from repealing Obamacare and Obama from replacing Scalia with a liberal judge. This is the same system that angered the low information voters that Rush doesn’t talk about, those who thought that shutting down the government was the best way of achieving leverage.
Mention of Rush makes me think of the media, who played no small paradoxical role in this election.
On one hand, you have traditional print medium such as the New York Times, major TV networks such as NBC and CNN, and weighty internet sites such as The Huffington Post and Politico.
All of these media outlets lean leftward, though they make a pretense at objectivity. All of them covered the GOP primaries with feigned shock and outrage at Trump’s bad behavior, but they did it with a glint in their eye. It’s the same type of glint an avid storm-chaser might have as he watches a tornado glide right over his house and demolish his neighbor’s. He seems horrified, but he’s got his cell phone in his clenched fist, capturing the catastrophe on video, which will appear on his Facebook page tomorrow.
The media loved watching Trump take a wrecking ball to the GOP establishment. They all assumed that Hillary would coast to victory in November. Bernie Sanders was a happy distraction for them, but only a distraction.
After the Cleveland convention, they brought out the big guns.
DONALD TRUMP IS A SEXUAL PREDATOR!!!
DONALD TRUMP DIDN’T PAY HIS TAXES IN THE ‘90’S!!!
VLAD PUTIN LOVES THE DONALD TOO MUCH!!!
DONALD TRUMP JUST WON THE PRESIDENCY!!!
This blog proves that I am lousy at predictions, but what the hell. I’ll make another one. The media’s next big push will be:
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE MUST GO!!! EVERY VOTE MUST COUNT!!!
Yet another paradox. If the Electoral College is abolished, people in New York and San Francisco will be happy, but those in Harlan, Kentucky and Fremont, Nebraska will no longer be represented. You think America is divided now? If the Electoral College falls and America becomes a pure Democracy, this year will look like a garden tea by comparison.
On the other side of the equation, you have conservative media.
Fox News is the big E at the top of the chart. Early on in the primaries, Trump went after Megyn Kelly with guns blazing. Roger Ailes defended her and many other staffers came to her defense, but after a while, all of them (sans Megyn and Bret Baier) became Trump defenders, long before the primaries end.
Trump’s biggest cheerleader by far was Sean Hannity, who hosted interviews with The Donald almost nightly. This is unsurprising, since Hannity has always been the dimmest bulb on an otherwise bright tree.
Bill O’Reilly, who proudly hales from his self-proclaimed, “No-spin Zone,” soft-peddles Trump’s own brand of spin whenever he appears on The Factor. O’Reilly’s lowest moment comes when he suggests that Judge Curiel should recuse himself from the Trump University lawsuit, after Trump questions his impartiality due to his Mexican heritage.
Chris Wallace, who questioned Trump sharply in early debates, soon glad-hands The Donald on Fox News Sunday, punctuating interviews with such assurances as, “You’re gonna like this last question, Mr. Trump. I promise.” In fairness, Wallace was far and away the most even-handed of the moderators between Trump and Clinton during the general election debates.
After the dawn of the primaries, FNC and the other networks were quickly flooded by scores of Trump interpreters. These were people who felt compelled to visit the various news/talk programs and explain what Trump (who always tells it like it is) really meant to say. Such apologists included Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson. The most striking interpreter was former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett, who once wrote a tome called, The Book of Virtues.
Sidebar: It won’t be surprising to find many of these interpreters in future cabinet positions.
Then, there was talk radio.
It gives me no pleasure to write this next part, because I was a dittohead up until October of last year when it became clear that Rush Limbaugh was no longer the, “Doctor of Democracy,” or, “America’s Truth Detector.
I appreciate the fact that Rush has never endorsed a Republican candidate. I appreciate the fact that he did not want to alienate a loyal segment of his audience by attacking Trump. I appreciate the fact that he has been honest when he says that his first objective is to part his listeners from their money, which is a clever way of saying that he’s in radio to sell advertising.
I also used to appreciate the fact that Rush was the most vocal national advocate of conservatism for almost three decades. For me (and many other listeners), conservatism and Trump just don’t mix. I believe that Rush would have been perfectly in character if he’d gone after Trump the same way he went after Ross Perot in 1992.
In fairness, I think Rush was a stealth backer of Ted Cruz for a while, but he saw the writing on the wall. Unfortunately, by contorting himself in an attempt not to alienate one segment of his audience, he alienated purists like me.
For me, the death blow came to my inner dittohead when Rush told an angry caller, “I never took him seriously on this!” He was referring to Trump’s stated plan to deport illegal immigrants along with their American-born families.
Thanks for 25 years of informative entertainment, Rush. See ya.
Rush’s imitators such as Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher and Eric Mataxis leapt aboard the Trump Train without a backward glance. Others such as Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager and Mark Levin were more reluctant, but ultimately climbed aboard as well.
The only two hold-outs were Glenn Beck and Michael Medved, though both have understandably pledged their support to President Elect Trump in the last 24 hours.
All of these talkers once stood together with conservative thinkers such as Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg and Andrew McCarthy, forming a last ditch between conservatism and the ever-encroaching movement of liberal populism embodied by President Obama. But the post Trump era saw a fracture that widened until it de-evolved into a budding civil war, the full bloom of which was stayed only by the electoral result.
I don’t even want to address the giant paradox of the pro-Trump Christian movement. It makes my head ache and my heart cry. Sufficed to say, folks like Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham and James Dobson will have a lot of explaining to do to the big man when they get upstairs. But then…won’t we all?
In spite of, or because of, all of these various paradoxes, Trump won. In two months, he will be the 45th president of the United States. Then, all of America will witness the ultimate paradox. The man who promised to, “Drain the swamp,” will become its biggest alligator. Will he be effective, or will he be impeached? We’ll see.
Another irony…the slogan, “Drain the swamp,” was pirated from the Democrats. They used it back in 2006 when they recaptured Congress during George W. Bush’s second term.
As for me, I am now living my own paradox. I was part of the Never Trump movement and I stayed true to my conscience. I voted third-party two days ago. But now, I will support President Trump and the Republican coalition. It is yet another irony that the Republican and Democrat establishment, long derided by Trump supporters, may be what saves our country if Trump proves to be as volatile in the Oval Office as he has been on the campaign trail.
In the meantime, I believe that our country is going to be okay. Right now, reality looks a bit like a Rod Serling morality play, and I’m waiting for the twist ending. Until the eerie music kicks in, all we can do is live and laugh at our imperious leftist coworkers who are still crying two days later.
Sidebar: According to my friend Amy, that comment about imperious coworkers was a jab. Yeah…it kind of was. But there’s more to it.
Over a year ago, two of them sat in the kitchen at my workplace and prayed that Trump would be the Republican nominee. “We want Trump to win so we can keep the White House,” one of them laughed.
How’s that working out for ya, ladies? They wanted Trump to win, but now, he won.
One of them has been out sick all this week. Is she really sick, or is she spending her nights disrupting traffic on I-25? We may never know.
And yet, I can’t enjoy the full irony as much as I should, because I think we’ve all lost something along the way.
Still, when the big picture looks crappy, all we have in life are small pleasures. So, I’ll be out back with a cigar in one hand and a vial of Lisinopril in the other, waiting for America to become great again.