The Political Rise Of America's Donald Trump.
In this Tuesday, March 15, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at his primary election night event at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. (Gerald Herbert / AP)
As I watch this presidential election year unfold, I'm beginning to know how Theodore H. White felt covering the 1976 campaign in preparation for his next book in his still classic series "The Making of the President."
He had written of four previous campaigns, and after 20 years felt he didn't understand what had happened in America. "I suddenly realized the politics I had been covering all my life had nothing to do with the real or underlying politics of today."
White went back to the beginning and wrote his classic book, "In Search of History: A Personal Adventure."
I started covering local politics during the rise of President Ronald Reagan. As I watch this campaign unfold, I see a disconnect between the politics of the past and the underlying politics that affects everyday life.
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Of course, I'm talking about the rise of Donald Trump, who last week won the Illinois Republican primary on his steadfast march to be the GOP nominee for president.
I initially speculated that Trump would burn out. I still think he is a buffoon and in the American tradition of the Know-Nothings of the mid-19th century. But the prospect of him being the nominee for president of a major American political party is mind-boggling.
Trump is an empty suit – no policy, no plans and no knowledge. He is neither conservative nor liberal. He has supported policies that would enrich him.
At best he is an empty suit. At worst a blowhard whose main argument is that the game is fixed, the rules that enriched him hurt regular Americans. His solution? Elect him. Both parties should find that familiar.
Why are so many Americans responding to him? The best answer I've found was given by British journalist Tim Stanley writing in the Telegraph.
Trump, he says, is the symptom of a republic in decline, of institutional failure. He is the result of the angry nihilism of the right – think Tea-Party and Congressional obstructionists – and the authoritarianism of the left – think campus mob action to deny speakers with whom they disagree – combined with the corruption of the political class, where politicians do and say anything to get elected.
Trump, Stanley writes, "did not take America to war in Iraq on flimsy evidence, establish Guantanamo in contravention of human rights law, license the torture of enemy combatants, oversee the gargantuan NSA data-gathering operation, launch a dirty war of drone strikes against both terrorists and those unfortunate enough to live near them, undermine the religious freedoms of employers who do not want to subsidize the sex lives of their workers, overrule the states' wishes on marriage, compel citizens to buy healthcare products or deport thousands of illegals through aggressive round-ups."
Who wanted all that? Yet that has been our policy of the last 16 years, backed by the political establishment of both stripes.
Getting back to White ...
History, he said, is the intersection of forces and ideas. It is where one man can take an idea and ride it through to his desire to impose their will on those around them.
Is Trump that man? Are we at the intersection of time in history that makes Trump possible?
It is frightening to ponder the possibilities.
Randy Blaser is a freelance columnist for Pioneer Press.