Commentary: Is Trump unifying force our nation needs?
I wrote a column last spring on the need to find a president who could bring our divided county back together. I gave historical examples: Roman Emperor Trajan and President James Monroe — unifiers who reconciled critical social, military and political elements long thought to be irreconcilable. I concluded that neither Democrats nor Republicans had yet found such a candidate and urged them to look harder.
Since then, the Trump candidacy has emerged, big-time. Might Trump be the unifying force our country needs? He has relevant qualities to make him so. Here are just two of them.
First, he appears more formidable than the barriers seen standing in the way of American progress and exceptionalism. Such barriers would include the two political parties whose entrenched leaderships are in popular free-fall, whether because they have long presided over America’s economic and foreign policy decline, or have failed to carry out the changes they promised when taking over the Congress in 2014. Trump struts above them all, offering “to make America great again.” He promises tough leadership, brutal efficiency, and the smarts and experience< to ensure that America always gets a job-creating quid pro quo when dealing with the likes of China, Japan and Mexico. He would knock out ISIS, an attainment widely viewed to be well beyond present powers in Washington. No Republican or Democrat argues leadership/efficiency/smarts and experience nearly as well as Trump. And as he argues, he stands on its head the progressive Democrat obsession with “Big Money” and “Income Inequality.” Rather, Trump seems to be admired increasingly for his great success in accumulating wealth and creating jobs, seems to be seen by the less wealthy as a solver of national and individual economic difficulties, not as a class enemy.
Second, he is well on the way to developing into a successful “all things to all people” politician– a quality often viewed with cynicism, but one which is a must for unifiers. I mean that Trump appears as a hybrid with at least two political parties within the same body. He’s a conservative-appealing GOP candidate with a past of supporting freedom of choice and some form of healthcare. He has made big contributions to the Democratic likes of the Clintons and Harry Reid. And right now he is not following the conservative mainstream on the nuclear deal with Iran (as president he would not repudiate, but improve it) nor on the jailed Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. He even calls for more taxes on the super rich!
Mark Shields suggested on this page that Trump is really a double agent, a Democrat mole sent to bring down the Grand Old Party! How much of Shields was in earnest and how much was playful sarcasm, I cannot tell. The larger point, however, is that Trump’s bifurcated political record may turn into vast advantage, may enable him to expand powerfully in all political directions, to dip liberally, for example, into the Democrat Party for voter support. The process may have begun. The latest national polling has Trump leading head-to-head with Mrs. Clinton, 45 to 40 points! Surely there is Democratic crossover here! (see SurveyUSA, released Sept. 4)
Right now, Trump is the man. No declared candidate for the Democratic nomination has his potential to draw support from such a broad spectrum of the population, to unite a divided America. They are too far left. Even were a Democrat to win, national divisions would worsen. And, whatever Trump’s Republican opponents have offered to date seems overtaken by his initiative and bold rhetoric.
Candidate Trump’s dominance, however, may not endure. Opponents are digging hard to come up with his undoing. Scandals that even he can’t dismiss may lie ahead. Nevertheless, the act of expanding powerfully in all directions, of becoming all things to all people is a rare, convention-defying phenomenon! Therefore, let’s enjoy fascinating historic spectacle while it lasts and ponder this small example of it: recent reports have it that Trump has received the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. Wow! And that for the man who, during the South Carolina Confederate Flag controversy, emphatically stated: “Take it down!”
Richard Hoover, a retired Foreign Service officer, resides in southern Warren County. He is also a Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District candidate in the fall election.