Donald Trump is not the problem with democracy; he is the revelation of the problem with democracy. He stands for all to witness as Exhibit A of the tendency of democratic governments to move in a direction toward a kind of populism that elevates nationalistic bromides, identity- and/or envy-politics, and alluring but impossible promises over reason, individual rights, and civil discourse. The rise of Bernie Sanders exhibits this phenomenon also, but Sanders, for all his fallacious and dangerous philosophy of governance, is at least not the boor that Trump is. And in the case of Trump, it seems to be his very boorishness that is winning him the most votes.
Trump has been despicable, insulting and belittling others, denying true accusations, and being boastful. He is an egomaniac (of Obama-like proportions), plainly lacking any discernable core values or driving sense of life other than his own aggrandizement. He is a bigot, an unprincipled opportunist, a buffoon, a serial liar, and generally just an all-around ass. These observations make it difficult for me to understand his success in the primary elections up to this point. I have tried to look at it from different angles, but from every one, Trump seems just as unqualified to be President as ever. Perhaps even more mystifying is that his bad behavior does not appear to affect his support or to influence his supporters. Trump supporters are a stiff-necked people, more determined to vote for him the more distasteful he becomes.
Trump’s success has hit me rather hard, both as an American citizen, and as a registered Republican. As a Republican, I am embarrassed—embarrassed that Trump can be winning so often in the primary election cycle, gaining support from so many other self-identifying Republicans. This tells me that something is wrong with the voter base of the party. Apparently, there is a large swathe of Republican primary voters who don’t identify with the party for the same reasons I do: for a belief in limited, constitutional government, a distrust of executive power, for balanced budgets, private property rights and individualism, etc. Rather, they just want someone to yank the power from the other side, not someone who will try to scale it back. And you see endorsements for Trump coming from every angle as well: from the shock-talking Ann Coulter, to the mild-mannered Ben Carson. Carson’s endorsement was especially surprising to me. (It turns out he has been promised a place in the Trump administration.) Neither of these people, apparently, were as conservative as I thought. For Ann Coulter in particular, endorsing Trump has served to show her true colors: did she really want smaller government or just nationalistic right-wing government (more in line with European conservatism than American classical liberal conservatism). I think Coulter long ago got so caught up in her extreme persona, she lost her roots, such as they were. To me, the Trump endorsement proves it. And Breitbart.com has also drunk the Trump Kool-Aid (not that I have followed Breitbart in years).
As an American citizen, I am beginning to lose my faith in the democratic process. The rise of Donald Trump evinces the idea that any clown can win the highest office in the land if he just riles up enough discontent. Both Sanders and Trump operate by arousing envy and dissatisfaction. For Sanders in particular, mob bloodlust against a pre-picked class of people is his go-to stump speech. For Trump, we see a similar M.O., though, being himself among the group of Sanders’ fall guys, he picks on migrant workers and Muslims instead. Hence his asinine promises to build a giant wall along the southern border (and make Mexico fund it) and to deport all 11 million illegal residents. Who believes this gas? Apparently a lot of people, which is my point. Meanwhile, cooler heads and sensible candidates like Rand Paul and John Kasich get left in the dust.
This upsurge in support of a rascal is disillusioning but probably not a permanent shift in American politics. It will come and go. However, rather than cause depression, it serves as a reminder that my ultimate allegiance is not to a democracy, but to a monarchy, in which an absolute Autocrat reigns with supreme and unquestionable authority over all. I speak of the Kingdom of God. And while God rules sovereignly, he also rules with goodness, kindness, wisdom, and grace. He rules over earthly rulers as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He puts heads of state in office and takes them out. It was the will of God that George W. Bush and Barack Obama be presidents of the United States, and the next President likewise will only have his magisterial authority on loan from God.
God does not promise only to put good people in power. But we can be sure that whoever comes into power is there, in the end, to serve some (often mysterious) purpose of God’s. If I lose sight of this, I have cause to be depressed, but in light of God’s sovereignty, I can press on with those things I do have control over, like trying to live faithfully day in and day out, regardless of the politics of moment.
For further reading on the Donald, try:
In fact, just go to thefederalist.com, search “Trump,” and start reading articles. The Federalist represents, for the most part, exactly the kind of insightful, principled, and engaging conservatism that appeals to me (as opposed to the hot-headed, cringe-inducing variety). It may be the best op-ed news site on the Web.