Hang with me here – I’m about attempt the impossible – to connect contemporary politics with a fantastic Warren Zevon song. Don’t try this at home. I am a professional random thinker. It’s too dangerous for amateurs. I’m not a technically a Dark Web Intellectual but the lights were put out last night when I started thinking about this.
The private Donald Trump isn’t a conservative, at least not in the sense Americans came to define conservative politicians after Reagan and the Newt Gingrich led GOP “takeover” of Congress in 1994. He surely isn’t a Goldwater or Reagan conservative – or even a philosophical conservative like a William F. Buckley. His personal political history tells a different, muddled story, one riddled with assignations and donations to rabid Democrat partisans like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer and milquetoast “Republicans” like Michael Bloomberg -all intermixed with dalliances with libertarian figures like Patrick J. Buchanan and the Reform Party of H. Ross Perot, he of the “hand grenade with a bad haircut” fame.
And yet, the public service Donald J. Trump, aka President of the United States Donald J. Trump is advancing a conservative agenda faster and more effectively and against far more rigid progressive Democrat opposition than any GOP president in memory. He is appointing conservative/traditionalist judges based on recommendations from the Federalist Society, he is standing for Israel, he has cut taxes and has overturned Obama era regulations and executive orders that did little other than to advance a progressive agenda and increase the power of the American Deep State.
What gives? How can a political neophyte, a seemingly politically agnostic individual become the president and the putative champion of conservative causes?
It happened, not because Donald J. Trump is an ideologue or a doctrinaire conservative, it is because he is a political mercenary.
For some reason (hopefully other than a brain tumor), when I thought of this possibility, Warren Zevon’s song “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” (from the album Excitable Boy) started playing in my head. Given the Mueller Russia Show Trial, maybe it is the lyrics from the song that “His comrades fought beside him, Van Owen and the rest, But of all the Thompson gunners, Roland was the best, So the CIA decided, They wanted Roland dead..”
A mercenary is an individual hired to take part in an armed conflict but is not part of a regular army or other governmental military force. Trump is that in a political sense. It is my belief that Trump’s “combat pay” will be his standing in history as the president who changed the path of America. I also think this change could have been progressive or conservative, it is that Trump sees the failures of the Obama progressivism and believes the conservative path is right for this country. I have no doubt that he would have taken up the progressive flag if the situation was reversed. This does not change the notion that our President is a narcissist driven by ego (as presidents and politicians often are) – but motivations aside, presidents do come and go every four to eight years as the policies and appointments they leave in their wake can last for generations.
Trump was elected (hired) by a disaffected electorate that had grown tired with going to battle with the same army using the same strategies and tactics under the same old rules of engagement. People were tired of the old bait and switch of acting conservative until the election is over and then “growing in office” (i.e. leaning to the left) – strategies and tactics that have resulted in so many incremental losses and Pyrrhic victories that the war was going to be lost.
Of course, President Trump faced (faces?) dissention within the ranks from those former officers and soldiers (the NeverTrumpers) loyal to past regimes – those who want to keep fighting the contemporaneous war the same way the last war was fought. By some magical thinking and wishcasting, these normally honorable NeverTrump folk came to be allied with the enemy in opposition – an enemy who, to the surprise of no one, also wanted the rules of engagement to remain the same. Who wouldn’t? When you are winning, you want to keep winning.
One thing about Trump, he was clear about what he was going to do and so far, much to the chagrin of the “we’ve never done it that way” status quo crowd, he is building a record of doing just what he said. Sometimes bruised by self-inflicted wounds and political realities, his forward drive shifts from side to side and from now to later but it relentlessly moves forward. Inch by inch, tweet by tweet, he has learned a lesson from progressives in that even a drop added to the bucket fills it over time.
Trump may not be our definition of a conservative but if we want conservativism to even have a chance to win the day, a mercenary may be the only way. The great generals of our past are no more and the progression through the ranks for promising conservatives has been corrupted by usurpers, generals who are willing to accept losses as long as they get to keep their stars, their aides de camp and their chauffeured staff cars.
Perhaps it is a good thing to have the most recent reincarnation of Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner in the Oval Office. Van Owen Mueller and the rest have reason to be nervous. They should beware the muzzle flash of Roland J. Trump’s Thompson gun.