There was a time when I practically prided myself upon my ignorance of political activity. Don’t get me wrong, I always – without exception – voted in any election, whether municipal, provincial or federal. But my lead-up interest in the outcome was token at best and it usually predominated the local municipal elections far more than the provincial or federal battles. Years ago when I began practicing law in Almonte in 1976 and assumed the office and swivel chair of the late Raymond A. Jamieson, QC, I was initiated to an admiration for American politics by Mr. Jamieson. At the time I thought it somewhat peculiar that Mr. Jamieson specifically preferred American politics but as I got to know him I learned to attribute the peculiarity to his own general eccentricity. Now – forty years later – after having spent the winter on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and having been submerged in the unfolding fortunes of the Republican nomination caucuses, I can see precisely what I imagine Mr. Jamieson so loved about American politics.
Of course my affection is for neither American politics nor the Republican party; it is for Donald Trump. This evening as I watched Trump speak at his so-called Press Conference following his two further victories in Mississippi and Michigan, I was entranced by his rhetorical skills. He successfully wove his own brand of demonism, arm-wrestling, agenda and bombast into everything he said, skilfully jumping from one subject to the other, lightly touching on them, reinforcing his important points by tempered repetition and imperceptibly moving himself exponentially closer to the centre as he approaches acclamation as the Republican candidate in the upcoming Presidential election.
Although it would be easy to say in this instance that no one has any idea of the ultimate outcome of the Republican race, that is really a slipshod answer to the same question that emphatically plagues any such contest at any time. No one in the political world would ever dare to predict the final result when there are four candidates currently standing (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich being the other three, not necessarily in that order).
Considering that the hierarchy of the Republican party (championed by Mitt Romney) has lately launched an all-out campaign to derail Trump’s bid for the nomination, it would be irresponsible to predict that Trump will win. However, after this evening, the debate is becoming increasingly unpalatable. My own view is that in light of the notoriously pragmatic character of most politicians, even the Old Boys will fall into line as Trump’s fortunes continue to improve. And as I said earlier, Trump is notably moving closer to the centre contemporaneously, which will afford a much needed palliative for the current naysayers in any event.
My personal impression of the Republican party has never been of the highest standard, not especially because I had conducted any close examination of the subject but more because people like Romney (whom I witnessed in operation when he ran for President in 2012) symbolized the duplicity for which the Republicans are so often accused by any I’ve ever heard on the subject (going back for example to my days of visiting Cape Cod at the end of each summer for about twenty years in a row). It therefore has never surprised me that the Republican leadership has remarkably characterized Trump as everything from a bigot to a Nazi. If I were to speak truthfully I don’t for a minute think Trump is either.
For example I think it is no accident that he has beaten the Bible-thumping Ted Cruz for the Evangelical votes; nor that Trump has almost equal appeal to rich and poor, black and white, educated and uneducated people. The fact is that Trump speaks plainly; he has almost single-handedly run a huge financial empire; he is a street-fighter; he is loyal to his supporters (as they are to him); he is obviously vulnerable on some things and wrong on others (but who isn’t?) and he is entertaining to watch and listen to (which is certainly not what can be said about any of the other candidates in either of the parties).
Finally I suspect that there is a good measure of optimism in the public about seeing the man who is so universally maligned by the current power brokers, win. Trump is not technically the underdog by any standard but he is nonetheless perceived as the underdog because he is so put upon by almost everybody who pretends to have any influence upon the outcome, party leaders, media, existing senators and governors and lesser community leaders (who for example make an utter mockery of themselves by pretending not ever to have used a vulgar word).
In a word, everything about Trump is currently believable (even if ever there is proof to the contrary, by which time of course it will be too late). For self-righteous people like Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham or Ted Cruz to accuse Trump of anything is at best an uphill battle and likely not persuasive. Trump is calling in favours from the thousands of people with whom he has done business over the years. He is courageously attacking an enterprise from which even Michael Bloomberg has resiled. Bloomberg is the 6th wealthiest person in the United States and the 8th wealthiest in the world! Being President of the United States is a prize which many in their right mind would never covet. Consider the security threat alone.
Yet it is patently clear that Trump is relishing every moment of the competition. He has even described it as the most exhilarating event of his lifetime. And you know what, it’s just about the same for the rest of us!