September 20th, 2021


The low vulgarian and his high-minded critics

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published Jan. 27, 2016

The establishment Republicans are having a high old time beating up on the lesser breeds under the tent, if not the law. The establishment Republicans, for whom politics does not come easily, pay their tribute to Ronald Reagan's famous eleventh commandment, that Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Another Republican.

Such a commandment does not come at all to Democrats, for whom scrapping, with lots of sharp elbows, black eyes and bloody noses, is the life of the party. Mr. Dooley, caught with a pair of brass knuckles, explained that he was on his way to a Democratic unity meeting, which sounded about right. Fights between cats and Democrats, with lots of scrapping and making up, only produce more cats and more Democrats.

The Republican elites find that unseemly, indecorous, unbecoming, tasteless and worst of all, inappropriate. The Republican strategy in any year can be summed up as "wait for the Democrats to do their worst, which they invariably will, and voters will turn to us because we're not as bad as they think."

That's the Republican strategy for this year. After eight years of a president determined to do his worst - a big talker out to remake America into something worthy of the respect of community organizers of the far left and the misunderstood worthies of Arabia - voters will return to the good manners, civility and decorous behavior of their betters. It's hardly the strategy of the warrior, but eventually sometimes it works.

Not this time. The disillusioned, the disaffected and the disenchanted are not in the mood to take the scraps from the master's table. They want justice, the rougher the better. Donald Trump saw this first, and tapped into the rage. He has the New Yorker's talent for tough talk (it's one of the New York values), and his idea of helping his fellow man is to kick him when he's down, to give him an incentive to get up.

Most of all he shares the contempt for government that so many Americans are telling the pollsters about. The government has become one of the institutions - like cable television providers, the airlines and Internet service providers --- that the average American loves to hate. A new survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index says so.

The satisfaction level in dealing with federal agencies of the U.S. government, everything from the Treasury Department (the mommy and daddy of the Internal Revenue Service), reports Aimee Picchi of CBS News,"has fallen for the third straight year to an eight-year low. While the comparison with private enterprise isn't apples to apples given the nature of government services, the findings have some implications for bureaucrats."

Forrest Morgeson, director of research at the Index, observes that confidence and trust is crucial to making the political system work. "It's much more difficult to govern if the entire population dislikes you."

No one understands this better than Donald Trump, which explains why he gets away with boorishness and outrageous manners. His polling numbers hold steady, with an increasing lead over the Republican field, which include others, such as Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, who are no slouches themselves at taking the temperature of the battered body politic. They're just not crude, as the Donald can be, when crudities are this season's most popular appetizer.

No one else could, or would want to, be as crude as the Donald going after Megyn Kelly in the first Republican debate, speculating about her menstrual cycle as if that was what inspirea her to ask tough (and perfectly legitimate) questions about his attitudes about women. Nevertheless, his performance in that debate, however, sent his polling numbers soaring on the day after.

The Republican elites, like the elites of the media (as they think of themselves), at first could see only the Donald's rustic vulgarity, not recognizing what it was about his contempt for the politically correct that made unlikely voters flock to him. A new tracking poll by NBC News demonstrates that evangelicals, who you might think would be skeptical (if not contemptuous) of a crude-talking rustic who quotes Scripture but knows no more of evangelical faith than a pig knows about quantum physics, are nevertheless flocking to Mr. Trump. He had a warm and friendly visit to Liberty University last week and on Tuesday, Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of the university, endorsed him.

This infuriates the Episcopal elites who learn at their mama's knee not to take faith too seriously, unless it's faith in their own high-minded piety. But faith can move mountains, as the Bible instructs us, and it's the unlikely faith in Donald Trump that's moving this election cycle like none other.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.