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Trump After Paris

Some Donald Trump supporters—most prominently, the attention-seeking pundit Ann Coulter—are predicting that the slaughter in Paris has clinched the election for their candidate. “They can wait if they like until next November for the actual balloting, but Donald Trump was elected president tonight”, Coulter tweeted on Friday.

Coulter’s overconfidence aside, it is possible to see how the post-Paris political landscape will be favorable to Trump. The political tradition we call Jacksonianism is emerging from its post-Iraq, post-Snowden hibernation. Issues like ISIS, immigration, and crime have been driving the Jacksonian train, and the Paris massacre seems likely to cause it to accelerate.

Trump’s appeal is primarily Jacksonian, as seen in his economic populism, his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and his proverbial middle-finger to the political establishment. But Jacksonians have historically supported at least two kinds of leaders. One is the clown populist (for example, Huey Long and Jesse Ventura), who expresses discontent and crudely validates this school’s code. Trump is a clown of this sort, a man who is transparently uninformed about even the most basic elements of terrorism and Middle East policy. This type of figure has been elected to state office, but never won a major party’s nomination, much less made it to the Oval Office. For the White House, Jacksonians tend to seek out more substantive figures, like Old Hickory himself, or Ronald Reagan. (Liberals thought of Reagan as a clown figure in 1980, but Jacksonians saw him as a successful, two-term governor of California who had restored order to the Golden State and would take on the Evil Empire).

As the Paris attacks put the evil of America’s enemies on full display, the Jacksonian impulse is rising, and many Jacksonians will still support Trump for his ability to flout norms and poke elites in the eye. But the attacks also underscore the fact that the world is a dangerous place, and that politics is a deadly serious business. Therefore, others may be less likely to support a charlatan out of protest at a time when America is confronting a cunning and determined enemy seeking the annihilation of the West.

But who, then, will they turn to? Jacksonianism is back, but where is the real leader who can harness and productively apply it, as opposed to the opportunistic, sputtering clown?

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  • Kevin

    None of the candidates running for nomination really have a Jacksonian biography – Jim Webb did but he’s out and was hopeless in the Dem. Party, Chris Christie (playing up his prosecutor of terrorist and regular Jersey guy image) might be closest, but he’s fatally flawed as a GOP candidate. Rubio, Cruz or even Fioina might get Jacksonian’s votes but themselves lack that sort of bio (war hero, champion of the common man).

    Another sort of candidate has often appealed to Jacksonian voters: the patrician champion of the common man like FDR. Trump is certainly auditioning for this role, but is sort of a farcicical caracature of it. Jeb! lacks his brother’s personality to pull it off at all.

    • Pete

      Christie a Jacksonian?

      No, no, no. The man is a big time interventionist, a neo-con. That’s not Jacksonian, right Mead.

  • WigWag

    “Trump is a clown of this sort, a man who is transparently uninformed about even the most basic elements of terrorism and Middle East policy.” Via Meadia

    Trump a clown; maybe, but what about his opponents? Is Rubio a clown? Well we know he’s never had a real job in his life and he doesn’t know how to balance his own checkbook. Is Bush a clown? Have you seen him in the debates? It’s hard to know whether he’s auditioning for the part of Bozo or Ronald McDonald. His major claim to fame is that his father and brother were president, so why shouldn’t he be?

    Is Christie a clown? If the Republican nominating process were a carnival, Christie might prefer to play the part of the three ton man, but lets face it; clowns are funny. Tens of thousands of motorists sitting at the George Washington Bridge for hours (including me) while his mignons played political games didn’t find the New Jersey Governor very entertaining. I can assure you of that.

    Is Carly Fiorina a clown? The shareholders of Hewlett Packard sure weren’t laughing when her total and complete incompetence tanked both the company and its common stock. She may have thought her disastrous decision to buy Compaq was a brilliant move, but it practically destroyed the company she ran; nope, not funny.

    Is Lindsay Graham a clown? What about Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, George Pataki? Ask me again when any of them gets their poll numbers out of the single digits; until then, who cares?

    Is Ben Carson a clown? I couldn’t stop laughing when he masqueraded as an anthropologist and explained why those Egyptians built those pyramids so many years ago.

    Maybe Trump is a clown compared to all the high priced talent writing for the American Interest.

    But guess what?

    Compared to the rest of the GOP field, he’s a statesman.

    • DennisP

      The last thing anyone could ever call Donald Trump is a statesman. I think the authors description of Trump as a clown is highly accurate, “Trump is a clown of this sort, a man who is transparently uninformed about even the most basic elements of terrorism and Middle East policy.” Heaven help us if we elect this clown as president.

      • Boritz

        When Hillary is president this will be the joke:
        They told me if I voted for Trump the Middle East would explode and they were right. I voted for Trump and……..

    • Pete

      “Compared to the rest of the GOP field, he’s a statesman. ”

      Maybe yes, maybe no. But what is sure is that Trump is no criminal on par with Hillary Clinton’s criminality.

  • lukelea

    Trump is patently uninformed? No doubt about some subjects — who isn’t — but to compare him to Huey Long or Jesse Ventura is to mis-underestimate the man. His bluster and braggadocio are character flaws but hardly disqualifications for office, particularly in his case where they are more of a branding trick than anything else. The man is smart, accomplished, has great stamina, and is a moderate liberal on welfare, social security, national health insurance, unions, and any number of other issues. He hasn’t gotten bogged down in the culture wars — said gay marriage should have been decided by the states but the Supreme Court has rulef so it is time to move on — nor has he threatened to abrogate the Iran deal but only to enforce it to the letter.

    The world will not come to an end, nor will the global world order, if America starts restricting immigration and taxing imports from low-wage countries overseas. It might even make America great again.

    • Andrew Allison

      It’s disappointing to see TAI denigrate the man who has, if nothing else, reshaped the race. Show me a candidate who isn’t and opportunist!

  • Attila_the_hun

    Anti Trumpeters all are out in full force. They don’t have any clue how upset and fed-up The American people are. Comparing The Trumpeter to Ventura is laughable . Say what you, want you can’t a be clown and became a multi billionaire At least use some other adjective to describe The Donald

  • Suzyqpie

    The Political Class of Mexico will be funding the anti-Trump campaign. Mexico exported their Recipient Class to the US. Any effort to return poor Mexicans to Mexico will be met with vigorous opposition. “Mexico counts on these expatriate poor to send back well over $20 billion in remittances annually – currently the third-largest source of foreign exchange for Mexico. Remittances from America fill a void that the Mexican government has created by not extending the sort of housing, education, or welfare help to its own citizens that America provides to foreign residents,” quote Victor Davis Hansen,

  • Atlantic

    The man who brought down Fox News and CNN into his hands in the first weeks of his campaign and rose to 42% in the GOP polls without spending a dollar and refuses to say dangerous things like “repeal Iran deal on day 1” etc. etc. is the real leader. Don’t worry guys, your dinner party hosts secretly like him as well…

  • Pete

    “Trump’s appeal is primarily Jacksonian, as seen in his economic populism, his anti-immigrant rhetoric, ”

    Anti-immigrant rhetoric?

    No, Trump appeal is due to not just to his stand (rhetoric, as you called it) against ILLEGAL immigration but the the belief of millions that The Donald will turn his rhetoric into action unlike the typical gasbags running for higher office.

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