Count the reasons to oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. His conservative credentials are thin, recent, and often haphazard. His brash style will likely alienate more voters than it will attract. What he calls being “direct” translates as gratuitously mean-spirited, rude, and even cruel. His knowledge of the issues, at least in traditional terms or compared with that of his Republican rivals, varies from spotty to nonexistent. And Trump often, like Hillary Clinton (e.g., dodging bullets in the Balkans) or Barack Obama (cf. the mythoi of his “memoir”), seems to make up details about his long business career.
All that said, there are two strains of opposition to Trump that seem incoherent. First is the suggestion that the majority of his supporters, the “Trumpsters,” are deluded — the naïve fooled by a buffoon. The second is the suggestion that the Trump candidacy marks a new low in American politics, in terms of decency and competence.
Let us quickly dispense with the second writ. Trump is a reflection of, not a catalyst for, a dishonest age. To illustrate my point, take a few of our contemporary public figures who are running for office on their assumed superior character and ethics. There is no need to dwell on the inveterate dissembler Hillary Clinton, with her labyrinth of e-mail, Benghazi, Clinton Foundation, and Wall Street speaking-fees deceit. Bernie Sanders, the archetypal socialist, calls for the wealthy to pay exorbitant income-tax rates. Yet Sanders himself paid an effective rate of about 13 percent, after taking thousands of dollars of itemized deductions, including a mortgage-interest deduction on a second home — all legal, and all just the sort of self-interested tax planning routinely embraced by Americans in the upper brackets, whose resulting reduced taxes the socialist Sanders is on record as abhorring. In recent interviews, the supposedly cerebral Sanders proved himself a veritable dunce, clueless about the U.S. banking system, current U.S. financial statutes, and the basics of how the U.S. criminal- and civil-justice systems work. I suppose if he were Trump, Sanders would argue that he was too busy making “huge” profits to sweat such details, but what is Sanders’s excuse for being so ill-informed? That he was too occupied as a U.S. senator to learn anything about the nation’s banking and legal systems?
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