William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Saying “He’s A No-Good, Pandering Populist” In A Democracy Is Funny

This video is an allegory for what Trump is doing to the GOP.

First things first. All you guys who support Donald Trump and believe he is a “true, reliable, ideological conservative”, whatever that means, raise your hands. Don’t be shy, now.

Nobody?

That’s what I thought. That was to demonstrate to my brothers on the right that if they think they can convince Trump supporters to bolt for a “true conservative” like (say) Rubio they’ll find no purchase telling folks what they already know.

Incidentally, isn’t the GOP full of “true conservatives”? Like Mitch “Turtle Face” McConnell, or Paul “Budget Deal” Ryan? Or…take your pick.

Oh, you get the idea. Republicans, like Democrats, are party-first, and only a fraction of the membership in either party are philosophical conservatives or philosophical progressives. Everybody else is in it for themselves and for the party. Politicians believe, or are soon taught to believe, the party is—should be, must be—the centerpiece of elections, and not the candidates themselves. Why? Because parties are what do the work, not individuals. Candidates are members of parties in a biological sense, like your arm is a member of your body.

This is the natural consequence of a party system in a democracy. That’s why it’s not a surprise to hear Donald Trump, and even Bernie Sanders, being called “populists” by party supporters.

Now that’s hilarious. I’ve said this before, but screaming Populist! at a politician in a democracy is like yelling Driver! at the man behind the wheel of a car. Direct elections of leaders are, by definition and by design, populist. What else would you call a year-long process where the citizenry is bewitched, bothered, and bewildered and then asked to decide which of two men will be best at a job neither has any experience at?

Candidates trying to be popular with the populace. That’s what, if anything, populism must mean. And that’s what all national or state-wide elections in a democracy are: populism. Not populist are elections in small constituencies, where the electors know the measure of the men vying for office, and where all (or most) know the functions, powers, and limitations of those offices. Those contests in which the principle of subsidiarity are heeded are the only ones that can’t be charged with populism.

Yet we do hear stalwart party members, in or out of office, calling Trump, and to some extent Sanders, a populist. Why? Simply because, to a party member, a populist is a candidate who is not party first. Pundits like George Will tell the world that Donald Trump isn’t a true Republican, and that Trump “relishes wrecking the GOP“.

What Will and his confreres don’t realize, saturated as they are in party-based democracy, and convinced no political system is superior, is that men like Trump don’t care about party. This is why early on, and from time to time afterward, Trump threatened to run as an independent. This is why there are rumors by Sanders supporters that Bernie should run as an independent. Sanders’s deep support comes from people who also don’t give a flip for party.

Will’s charge, therefore, is true: Trump is indifferent about the GOP, seeing it only as a mechanism, a tool which he can use. Trump does not see himself as a tool for the party. Hence he is called a populist.

There is a slight paradox with the voters here. Many voters on the right use terms of opprobrium like “RINO” and “no true Republican” applied to party members who they (the voters) think are not acting like conservatives. The voters thus appear to put party above ideology. There is undoubtedly some truth in this, but the attitude stems mostly from voters believing the propaganda the Republican party puts out about it being conservative, and from the voters discovering, much to their shock and dismay, that Republican politicians’ true loyalty is to the party and not to ideology.

This is why so many are rebelling. Conservatives have suffered one defeat after another and for a long time. Many of these defeats were via cowardly surrender of the Republican party. They don’t fight. At least, that’s what the voters think. Actually, they do fight. But only for the party’s existence, and not for the ideas which the party says it stands for.

That’s why when you hear a pundit say Trump will wreck the GOP, Trump’s supporters cheer.

Update From Rush:

And we’re also back reminding everybody that the establishments of both parties continue to be in denial, and maybe they’re not. Maybe they know by now how fully opposed they are and they just got their backs up and they’re going, “Well, screw you. We’re still gonna get what we want. You’re the serfs. We’re the elites. We run the show. Screw you. You may have some temporary victories here, but we’re gonna get this done no matter how and no matter where, whether you’re looking or not, we’re gonna get it done.” That’s their attitude.

Their attitude is not, “You know what? The American people really don’t want this. We better modify this.” That’s not it at all. That doesn’t permeate the establishment mind. If you don’t support what they want, you have to be taken care of, you have to be defeated, you have to be rendered irrelevant, you have to be cast aside, whatever. It’s that polarizing an issue and nothing’s changed on it.

38 Comments

  1. This has all been obvious since June to anybody that has read:
    A) Any book on sales
    B) Aristotle’s rhetoric

  2. You are entirely correct about both parties existing only for the betterment of the parties. Just like any government bureaucracies main (unwritten of course) goal is to perpetuate the bureaucracy.

    Trump has certainly found the sweet spot among people concerned about illegal immigration. His prescient comments about illegal aliens committing crimes right before Kate Steinle was killed caused his popularity to skyrocket.

  3. Trump is a man who seems to “have it all” in the material sense which is what people it seems in the majority value most. Trump seems to be one of these types, in a sense he has to be to succeed in business as he has with presence all over the world. I therefore find it endearing, call me naive, that he would want to do something for his country. In fact I would go further to say perhaps he knows he’s been acquiring wealth and power for himself but knows this isn’t a noble cause.
    So one can either look at him and say he’s just power mad but I don’t read him like that. Perhaps he just likes a challenge but I think that’s possible but he’d likely drop out as he would run out of steam.
    So, I know he’s a toad but I think he does appeal to a broader spectrum of the population and that has to be a healthy thing.
    …And, if anyone can build a wall Trump can. If a country doesn’t secure it’s borders it is not a steady safe place.
    Perhaps he will just serve as the man who broke the deadlock of political correctness and restored freedom of speech.

  4. Over on a place called “American Thinker” there was a post and it asked, “What do the Trump voters want?”. It appears that what the Trump voters want is for the media and the democrats to JUST SHUT UP!

  5. It is fascinating that Americans are considering electing a “hopey-changey” candidate based on their hatred for the current hopey/changey guy. That tactic failed twice and yet here we are again, trying to elect a guy that hates the same people the voters hate, has no platform and whose only notable trait is being a cheerleader for hatred and getting even with the other side while assuring voters “he cares”. Hatred for Bush gave us Obama, hatred for Obama may give us Trump. In the end, Americans may be truly getting the government they deserve. If all voting is is revenge against the other party or group, don’t expect things to get any better, nor should they. Voting based on hatred and revenge should never, except by purest of accidents, result in a viable government. It hasn’t worked elsewhere or historically, but by all means, keep doing it over and over.

  6. I too noticed the WWE-effect in this campaign. Trump supporters reminded me very early on of the crazed fans whose favorite “wrestler” was hammering his “evil” opponent. As Sheri points out, the electorate has become visibly emotional in it’s support, rather than silently seething. I blame the media (all sorts these days) which loves instigating a spectacle and the nitwits who fall for it. Trump is the Vince McMahon of this granfalloon.

  7. Gary perhaps they are not nitwits. Perhaps it’s all the others!

  8. Gary –

    I still call it the WWF, the NGO be damned!

    This is why early on, and from time to time afterward, Trump threatened to run as an independent. This is why there are rumors by Sanders supporters that Bernie should run as an independent. Sanders’s deep support comes from people who also don’t give a flip for party.

    Now that would be a three way to see: Donald, Hillary and Bernie.

    And speaking of another WWF Smackdown of note:

    Jessie (the Body) Ventura, Norm Coleman and HHH III…….
    ……and you thought it could only happen in Minnesota!

  9. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 24, 2016 at 9:25 am

    if anyone can build a wall Trump can.

    To be fair, the French built a wall, too. They called it the Maginot Line.

    and restored freedom of speech.

    Unless you speak against Trump, then he comes down on you with all his Forbes 500 throw weight. Or unless you’re Vera Coking.

  10. I, for one, cannot wait for “AIR FORCE TRUMP” in big gold letters. And the reality television shows! “SecDef” where various celebrities vie to become the next Secretary of Defense. There will be fun little challenges like seeing who can bomb the most “bad guys”. “Mr Moneybags” will pit contestants off against each other for the next Fed Chairmanship, and we’ll see Judge Judy elevated to the Supreme Court.

    It’s not just that the guy is a populist (your points are valid). It’s that he is an identity politician, like many in Europe. Archie Bunker (a.k.a. my Father-In-Law) will vote for him in a heartbeat. And there’s no way to stop him.

    I wish I could revise my predictions from January. I don’t think Hillary can beat him now.

  11. And there’s not a western organized religion around that actually cares about anything more than its own growth and persistence (…and perhaps consistent access to young children). Yeah, generalizations are easy, rigor, not so much…

  12. YOS,
    I take it you’re suggesting they’ll come round the other way. There are songs about walls.
    When Trump builds the wall they’ll be fewer points of access, it’s the oldest and most obvious solution. We had Hadrian’s wall. and offa’s dyke.
    If, as it has been described by many even previous republican candidates, been true that the border is as good as permanently open, there’s no border except a virtual one.

    As for the prediction about Trump’s behaviour in office, who knows. That’s the same for all the candidates. What difference can they really make? Obama seems to have done a lot of damage so perhaps someone can correct some of the financial problems which is always the first place to start.
    Defence and conservative fiscal policies.
    He is a businessman he must have conservative values. He must be good at cutting surplus spending. He can start with science and looking at the Pope’s new hobby horse. Now they’re both on the same page.

  13. The wrestling analogy is good. Jesse Ventura said that politics is like wrestling. The “opponents” pretend to dislike each other and then have dinner together. I think some of the terms used in the old carnival, wrestling circuit are useful descriptions for politics. A “jobber” is someone who loses on purpose to make the main event wrestler look good. I think voters have been frustrated that Republican candidates, too often, have looked and acted like jobbers. A “shoot” interview or shoot match is one in which a wrestler seems to go off script. That fits Trump.

  14. Briggs

    February 24, 2016 at 11:43 am

    All,

    I should say I found the video above from Huffington Post. They highlighted it thinking it would hurt, and not help, Trump.

  15. Joy: Maybe it is all the others—and maybe Obama was the greatest president ever. It’s all about one’s perspective.
    As for Trump as a businessman, several of his businesses declared bankruptcy. He did recover, but I’m not sure what that says about his business skills other than he is a risk taker. Also, businessmen are often not conservative—socialism is endorsed by Bill Gates, Tom Steyer and basically all those promoting the global warming mantra. The rich can advocate for socialism, knowing they can except themselves from whatever laws and redistribution are brought in.

  16. Trump inherited a bunch of NY real estate right before NY real estate went insane. He’s successful in spite of his bad business decisions.

    “Had the celebrity businessman and Republican presidential candidate invested his eventual share of his father’s real-estate company into a mutual fund of S&P 500 stocks in 1974, it would be worth nearly $3 billion today, thanks to the market’s performance over the past four decades. If he’d invested the $200 million that Forbes magazine determined he was worth in 1982 into that index fund, it would have grown to more than $8 billion today.”

    He’s good at self promotion and reality TV. Not much else.

  17. Well, it’s nice to know that you, Briggs, are the man in charge of deciding the meaning of the word ‘populist.’ Certainly a one-man job. 😉

    Trump is showing a deep weakness in the Republican platform. I remember when Fiorina, in a debate, responding to some populist statement of Trump’s, said she couldn’t believe those words had emanated from a Republican. Well, first, they weren’t emanated from a Republican, and second, they were not Republican words. Fiorina made the mistake of assuming Republican voters are all ideologically in tow. She’s out of the race now. Rubio said yesterday, as I recall, that Trump could be taken down from the top if the “other four” candidates boiled down to one. But he’s assuming Carson and Cruz voters would go to him. If Trump so much as split those votes with Rubio, that would be enough for Trump to win right there. Carson and Cruz are also populists, hardcore Conservative Christian populists but populists nonetheless.

    Populism is a reaction to real issues faced by large portions of the society that are simply not being addressed at all by the two parties, or at least by the party people prefer otherwise. Trade, real economic growth for most people, education, healthcare, boom-&-bust markets, the police state, a military stretched and profiteered, these are real issues people really care about and the GOP has shown no propensity whatsoever to address them at all, and the Democrats seem to give little more than lip service. This is what Sanders and Trump have in common – they attempt to deal with these neglected matters. Cruz and Carson are more ideological, but also seem to be tacking along these waters. It’s the year of the populist. Next year will probably not. I hope it is though. We need a good shaking. It’s time to stop fussing over philosophical nonsense and get back to building the nation.

    JMJ

  18. Briggs

    February 24, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    JMJ,

    If somebody’s got to be in charge, it ought to be me.

  19. LOL! A stats guy would be a good pick for that position! 😉

    JMJ

  20. Briggs,

    Undefined is the core term: conservative. What exactly is a conservative, especially considering the common assumption that conservative ihas an eternal connotation, while liberal is fleeting at best?

  21. I’m too depressed by the Republican primaries to offer any sensible comments. My wife, who has never voted for a Democratic nominee in 59 years, will not vote for Trump, nor will I, if he is nominated. And there are many Republican local committee people who feel the same way. He can not possibly win the election if he should be nominated.
    I often wonder, since he was so palsy with the Clintons, whether there might not have been “conversations” between Trump and the Clintons a few years ago, promising ???? even if he’s defeated as a nominee.
    Canadians, Australians, Kiwis: what’s your advice about emigration for two old parties who still have some good years left?

  22. And I guess there’s also Israel as a possible emigration destination.

  23. Ye Olde Statistician

    February 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    He is a businessman he must have conservative values.

    No, a lot of businessmen are crony capitalists, whose main pursuit is rent-seeking; i.e., welfare for the rich. Trump was famous for this, especially in his pursuit of eminent domain to have the government seize the private property of the little people and turn it over to developers. Most infamously in the case of Vera Coking in Atlantic City. See his paean to eminent domain here, in a typical example of Trumpestuous logorrhea.
    http://reason.com/blog/2015/10/06/donald-trump-thinks-kelo-style-eminent-d

    He’s a slick-talking real-estate salesman, not a businessman per se.

  24. Rubio (Cruz) should make a deal with Cruz (Rubio): if Cruz (Rubio) drops out the race, he’d pick Cruz as his running mate.

    Candidates trying to be popular with the populace. That’s what, if anything, populism must mean. And that’s what all national or state-wide elections in a democracy are: populism.

    LOL! I’ll give another laugh. Say Trump receives support from 45% of republicans. He is popular among the 45%, but not among the other 55% of republicans. Is he a still populist?

    To be popular sure is one way to win a majority of the popular vote. Majoritarianism?!

    I don’t think Trump’s supporters are rebelling. Perhaps, they are just taking the Republican’s rhetoric of anti-establishment, anti-intellectualism, and anti-government to heart!

  25. In the event that Trump is elected, he will be a politician just like any other. Everyone isn’t going to be gloriously happy all the time, but if he is smart, he will throw some bones in all directions to keep everyone at bay.

    And yes, his stance on eminent domain is awful and terrible, but that won’t stop people from voting from him. There aren’t many single-issue voters out there, and eminent domain is not a super-popular single issue.

    If it comes to Trump and Hillary, will you really vote for Hillary? Trump and Sanders will be harder contest to call.

  26. “When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt.

    “All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    – Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

  27. Sheri, yes that’s the nature of perspective.
    Some business sectors are riskier than others none are without risk. To think that if Trump took a risk in his business career he would be an unnecessary risk taker in office as president seems unlikely.

    Nate, hindsight is 20/20.
    He was a businessman first, then a TV personality.
    He’s done everyone a favour in showing up the mainstream media and many of the politicians.
    YOS, He is a businessman but you don’t like him.
    That’s Democracy. Everybody loves it when they get what they want and hates it when it doesn’t suit them. Perhaps you could become an off grid spoon whittler.

  28. Bob: It’s quite common for people to say they are going to leave if such-and-such is elected. It’s uncommon for people to actually do so. It’s interesting that you are so put off by Trump, but stayed for eight years of King Obama.

    JH: One assumption seems to be that Democrats will not vote for Trump. That may not be true. If enough Democrats support Trump, especially those who are also tired of the failure of the Democratic party to move the country ahead, he could win.

    Anon: There’s always the libertarian candidate or a write-in. Assuming one will not vote for a party or a candidate they absolutely do not like and Trump and Hillary are both in that category.

    Ken: I think we’ve seen that already…..

    Joy: Risk takers tend to risk in all endeavors. It’s who they are. Also, as I said, Americans may actually get the government they deserve now. No thinking, just emoting, racial riots, reckless spending. Americans love Santa Claus and Jerry Springer.

  29. Sheri, we stayed for 8 years of Obama in the hope that the American people would see reason, and that this would be a blip in the political process. Trump’s success argues that H.L Mencken was right, and the electorate is a booberisie. To be frank, my wife and I are too old to move, although it might be nice to spend our last years in Israel. I will certainly urge my children to emigrate in the unlikely (God willing) event that Trump is elected–why live in Rome at the end of the Empire.

  30. Bob: Perhaps you should move, if you find the US so depressing. Why spend the twilight years in a place you can’t stand? As for the end of Rome, it’s everywhere, so moving may only slow the end for a year or two. The world has basically lost its mind and there’s no place to hide.

  31. Bob and Sheri, that is one of the funniest conversations ever. A couple of apocalyptists living comfortably in modern America contemplating emigration to Israel, a country founded by the survivors of the Holocaust. Neither of you have a clue what the heck you’re talking about.

    JMJ

  32. For all: I won’t bother to reply to inane comments, and in fact, I’ll go back to my Lenten vow–not to comment on the Internet. It only serves to vent, and there are other ways of doing that. As a sound theological principle would have it, you can’t deal with invincible ignorance.

  33. JMJ: You’re failing to actually read conversations. Bob was discussing leaving. I’m breaking out the popcorn and watching the progressives get devoured by the monster they created. I wouldn’t miss that for the world!

    (Note: You would think a country such as Israel founded by survivors of one of the most evil and horrible dictators the world has known would at least not be filled with the whiney crybabies we have so many of in America. Of course, 200 years from now, assuming Palestine and the Muslims stop attacking Israel, all bets are off. Once affluence and a certain level of comfort is reached, stupidity sets in and things go to hell in a hurry.)

  34. Jim Fedako,

    “Undefined is the core term: conservative. What exactly is a conservative, especially considering the common assumption that conservative ihas an eternal connotation, while liberal is fleeting at best?”

    And there is the crux of the matter. Influence, advertising, information warfare is all based on terminology and word games.

    The dominant Politically Correct Progressive belief system was created as a result of concentrated information warfare. This effort used terminology to deadly effect.

    If you do not, or cannot, define your own terms, and belief system then it will be defined for you, on the battlefield of “populism.”

    The paradigm of “right/left” and “conservative/liberal” is dead. These terms have virtually no useful meaningfulness remaining. At least in the USA.

    We have a battle for our culture between two belief systems. One is clearly defined: Politically Correct Progressivism. Its proponents know exactly what they believe–even if they can’t quite describe it, it can be described (see below).

    The other belief system is not clearly defined, as you noted. It can best be termed Normal-Americanism.

    For now, Normal-Americans’ beliefs can be described in negative terms–that is, we do not subscribe to the PC-Prog belief system.

    I’ve pitched the idea of convening a “Congress of ‘Conservatives'” to hash out a 10 bullet point list of positive beliefs. The current establishment fake “conservatives” have no interest in such an effort. They profit handsomely from the confusion.

    So, for now, Normal-Americans must be satisfied to describe their beliefs as NOT the PC-Prog belief system, detailed below.

    1. Normal-America is irredeemably racist.
    2. Normal-America is virulently sexist.
    3. Normal-America is homophobic.
    4. Normal-America is stunningly xenophobic.
    5. Normal-America is graspingly imperialist.
    6. Normal-America is greedily capitalist.
    These tenets are the core of the PC-Prog politics. The beliefs are nearly religious. To be a member, one must never contradict these tenets (in public, or in privately recorded conversations.)
    The corollary to the tenets of PC-Progressivism is the “Action Requirement.”
    It is simple: Normal-America must be changed.

    http://intelctweekly.blogspot.com/2014/07/politically-correct-progressive-belief.html

  35. “Some Democrats threaten to move to Canada; Republicans, in a gracious gesture of reconciliation, offer to help them pack.” Dave Berry

    I think what many conservatives have been dancing around, but are deathly afraid to acknowledge, is that the US Constitution has failed in it’s core mission, which was to prevent the rise of a distant repressive centralized government. The system of checks and balances carefully crafted into the Constitution failed to anticipate the irresistible corrupting influence of having all branches of the Federal Government co-located geographically, virtually insuring the rise of a ‘ruling class’ that puts it’s interests (power and money) above all else.

    The only way to fix the situation is to fix the Constitution, giving the States significantly more power to vacate Federal actions. Expecting any other outcome other than a continuing loss of freedom is to deny fundamental aspects of human nature.

  36. Milton – Murray argues in his new book that we are too late to make change happen via constitutional or legislative changes. Massive civil disobedience and legal challenges to the extra-legal administrative state is his preferred solution, though in practice I wonder how far it would get before the brownshirts arrive to forcibly put it down.

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