Many will no doubt disagree, but I see strong similarities between Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama.
In spite of having a radical background both politically and religiously, strong ties to the progressive radicalism of academia and certain revolutionary bombers (Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn) coupled with the most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2007, he was still able to be cunningly vague about his true ideology, himself using the “blank screen’ analogy. “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views,” he famously said. Even though his history indicated otherwise, his base in the Democrat Party, Beltway pundits and the mass media called him a “new kind of politician.” Obama himself echoed that notion in March of 2008 saying, “We need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents, and Republicans together to get things done.”
In that same month, New York Times asked the relevant question – “Can such a majority be built and led by Mr. Obama, whose record was, by one ranking, the most liberal in the Senate last year ?
I think most of us knew the answer to that question before it was asked – but if the Times still thinks the jury is out on that one, I would submit the seven and a half year rolling fiasco we have just gone through. Obama was fooling no progressive or conservative, we all knew what he represented – but he did fool enough of the mushy middle to get elected. I won’t go so far as to call these folks “low information” because I do know many of them and many are quite intelligent. What they lack is any set of strong principles – I guess they could be called “low principled” voters.
Trump is offering up the same cold dish of porridge. He has a background totally inconsistent with the “conservative” he professes to be (as evidenced by his Democrat ties and his willingness to engage in pay for play), he has little evidence of true religious belief (he has never asked God for forgiveness “I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.”). Trump is also cunningly vague about any sort of ideological bent he has (he often come out hard against or for a thing only to sand off the sharp edges a few days later) and in an opinion piece today at National Review, the estimable Victor Davis Hanson says he “He is an empty slate onto which millions write their hopes and dreams, as ‘Make America great again’ channels the empty ‘Hope and Change.’” Even though his history indicates otherwise, his base in the Republican Party, Beltway pundits and the mass media are also calling him a “new kind of politician” who is “changing the rules.” Trump himself echoed that notion in March of 2016 saying, “I mean, I get along with people. I’m a unifier. I’m very much a unifier. And maybe people don’t see that. But they will see that.”
There is nothing new here. It’s the same song, just a different verse. Where Obama went after “low principled” voters who only knew envy in 2008, Trump is going after the same “low principled” voters who only know wrath in 2016.
This kind of contest between two of the capital vices (cardinal sins) – envy and wrath – will promote a future of never ending playground “am to, are not” battles between the left and right with catastrophic results. Just as centrifugal force will sling an unbalanced rotating object apart, so will these whipsaw polar opposites tear America apart. If we have to spend four or eight years repairing the damage done in the prior four or eight, America can never progress. Having principled leadership consistent with the Constitution is equivalent to centripetal force – the force that keeps an object moving with uniform speed along a prescribed path.
That is what America needs, not more blank screens or empty slates.