Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reflections on Government: My Night with President Trump

Am I a bad trad? Do I sin if I fail to believe monarchy is inherently a superior form of government to all others attempted in human history? It is generally the most stable, but that is hardly a commending accolade.

Winston Churchill's comment that democracy is the "worst form of government, after all the others" has always resonated with me if only because it acknowledges that the matter of government is practical, not ideal, and that in dealing with human nature it tends to come up short in any application. The current state of the American and British governments are constitutionally perilous, although they do not seem to underpin any innate proclivity toward violence in the issues which cause our crises. Britain's crisis is Brexit, the question as to whether a non-binding vote should be honored and how it should be honored. America's crisis, as always, reflects the divvying up of demographics over the last few decades by both parties to win elections. The result is a deeply divided state in which one side seeks to kick out the legitimately elected, incompetent president, Mr. Donald Trump.

I voted for Mr. Trump. I would repeat my choice if the 2016 election were to happen again and I expect to cast my ballot for him again in 2020, but I have no illusions that he is either a good leader or a good man. He was the least-bad person who was not Hillary Clinton who could beat Hillary Clinton, nothing more.

So, when a friend suggested that I joined him at the Trump rally in Dallas last month I initially recoiled a bit at the idea of standing alongside the great mass of humanity, clad with red trucker hats announcing the MAGA slogan, and listening to chants of "Lock her up!" I found my company's luxury suite was available at the venue that evening, which meant a guaranteed parking space, a shorter security line, and seclusion from the crowd. Conceding that I might learn something, I agreed to attend.

A venue which holds 20,000 people was entirely full with just as many standing in line, zig-zagging through downtown Dallas, waiting for admission. The place was a sea of red MAGA hats. The President was scheduled to begin at 7:00PM, but took the stage 25 minutes late. Before most of the crowd even took notice of him, I recognized that the President was on the floor. His hair, a shade of reddish-gold unknown in the natural world, stood out from the palette of blacks, blues, greys, and reds behind him. The crowd erupted. I had been in the same venue eleven months earlier for an Elton John concert, and this crowd made twice as much noise. By the end of the night my ears were ringing.

"Louis Vuitton. It's costed me a lot money, folks," he opened to a roar of cheers. He had just toured their new factory just outside of Dallas. Five minutes into the night it became clear Mr. Trump spoke extemporaneously, and unlike most public speakers, he did not have a message. Much more akin to a comedian, he had shtick. Although he told many jokes and said many things to incite laughter ("sleepy Joe Biden, whose son got thrown out of the Navy like a dog"), he spoke about political matters while demonstrating a sense of timing on par with the best stand up comics: Dangerfield, Kinison, Norm MacDonald.

On television, Trump appears to stutter, ramble, drift off in vocal tone, and repeat himself quite often. In person these patterns repeat, but with their purpose revealed. He uses these devices, athwart deafening noise unheard on television, to control, redirect, and time the reaction of the crowd. His drifts let them have their final applause before he changes topic. His roars quiet them down so they may hear the punchline. His repetitions let them know he is not yet through with a topic. He continued this mesmerizing spectacle for nearly two hours and the crowd did not subside in enthusiasm. A huge section of "Hispanics for Trump" chanted "Build that wall!" alongside blue collar white men, neither of whom want to pay for Abuelo Alberto to come to Dallas.

By the end of the night I confirmed a theory that I first developed in high school after hearing Bill Clinton speak in a similar manner, albeit with more finesse and refinement. Political figures do not sell ideas, they sell facts. When Obama said "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon" or when Trump said "Mexico sends us some good people, but they're sending a lot of really bad people" they are selling a narrative of reality that resonates with a large segment of the populace even if those stories and ideas fail to correlate with why people feel that way.

The disconnect between voters and reality is stunning, and the people for whom they vote are more connected to reality yet are less connected to the people to whom they appeal. Is the answer to this a replacement of the failed representative system with a direct rule? Unfortunately, the ruler(s) would reflect the values held by the elite of our day and not the values of the monarchs from five centuries ago.

After the event my friend and I shared drinks at a distant watering hole. He awed at "how much the people who like him really like him", and they do. I yearned for a day without universal suffrage, if we are to continue a democratically elected, republican form of government. I do not mean a return to an age without women and blacks voting, but I do think the primitive days of the American republic had some merit to a few of their voting qualifications: one had to be able to read and hence to be an educated person, one had to be a property owner who paid taxes and therefor be a participant with a stake in the matters disputed by government.

Sadly, this purification of the voting system will never happen. The progressives have carved up America for four generations by expanding the effects of voting (lowering the voting age, making Senators into super-Congressmen etc) and concurrently creating a welfare state to make voters reliant on the system for which they voted. The right, always behind the times, continuously picks up yesteryear's disillusioned Democrats on their way to the grave: neo-conservatives, anti-Communists, labor union members.

My expectations for Trump's administration were modest. As an anti-establishment candidate, I expected the system would reject him and that he would accomplish very little of his agenda, which was alright by me. In fact, it would be a welcomed change if a president did not directly influence the lives of the general public for four or eight years. President Trump wants to make America great again. I would be quite happy if he did not do anything at all.


  1. No, you're quite right. Monarchy, at least the pure kind (like Caligula, etc.), is easily one of the worst forms of government. St. Thomas Aquinas himself advocated for mixture of government forms: a balance of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Absolute monarchy only came back in the 1600s, with the Divine Right of kings, with abandonment of the principles of St. Thomas and spread of Protestantism. The Founding Fathers, with all their flaws, agreed with St. Thomas on this point at least.

  2. What you did was exercise the morally permissible right to vote for a lesser evil. What I take issue with is when clergy dictate to us that what is morally permissible becomes somehow morally REQUIRED.

    I am a monarchist in principle, but I respect your different position, as long as you don't disparage my holding to what many a Catholic moralist holds as an ideal form of government and/or a Catholic society. I take issue with making American systems and ways as ideal or objective.

  3. Those voter rights limitations would not have a meaning now. Everybody can read somehow. And everybody with some legal income has to pay taxes.

    1. Modern ver of citizen refinement
      some combination of
      - min. 20 yo
      - net fiscal contributors
      - minimum military preparedness
      up to 50 years of age
      - 65 and over become the "elder" segment electing a special advisory body of elders, veto power
      - abolish FPP vote for Preferential instant runoff vote

    2. @ Pulex,

      I more meant to allude to the significance of the criteria than what they specifically said, although I doubt a great number of people could vote if reading at a high school level were a basic requirement. Similarly, everyone with a job pays taxes, but about half of tax-payers get a complete refund every year from the IRS. It won't happen, but some aspects of those criteria would be somewhat adaptable.

      @ Anonymous,

      Not sure I'd want to move toward a European runoff model. It keeps candidates more moderate for a while, but also keeps the status quo, whatever it may be.

      @ John R,

      I do not mean to disparage monarchism or promote an American model. Far from either, I am simply stating governance is primarily a practical, not an ideal thing, and that how we practice our model has strayed.

    3. 'Runoff voting' can refer to:
      - Two-round system, a voting system used to elect a single winner, whereby only two candidates from the first round continue to the second round, where one candidate will win. [not this one]
      - [this one] Instant-runoff voting, an electoral system whereby voters rank the candidates in order of preference. eg Australian voting law

    4. Dear Rad Trad, I wasn't saying that *you* were disparaging monarchism, but there is a certain subset of priests, who despite being surrounded with all things traditional, whose formation was entirely Americanist and who publicly preach from the pulpit that voting for the lesser of two evils is a moral imperative under pain of sin, rather than (what it correctly is) a morally permissible act to be determined based on the prudential judgment of the individual. Said priests also have no care to delve into the long corpus of Catholic social principles to reform their view of politics outside of the American narrative, and hence disparage monarchism in ipso.

  4. If modern hereditary monarchy: There should be a monarch with absolute veto power over legislation, there should also be an elected senate with regional representatives in 5 year mandates and ordinary immunity, preferential runoff voting, no political parties you vote for one dude he can pick four aides, more rigorous citizenship laws, upper chamber of expert for-life senators with less total vote impact, upper chamber can propose laws - members appointed and removed by monarch. Military directly under monarch. Country should continue running smoothly even if the main guy is disinterested or still a child. No queens with standalone power. If no children then last guy's brother or his son.

  5. Prince Andrew's escapades ought to warn anyone off of monarchy . . . Or read some Shakespeare as to the problems related to succession.

    1. You omit the
      English monarchy is symbolic,
      holds no authority,and
      suffering from 500 years of Apostasy theft blasphemy and idolatry.

  6. Yeah, but you could just as easily give a list of good and decent Monarchs and many, many instances of smooth succession.

    Really, why wouldn't someone think Monarchy would be way better at its best and at its worst merely just as bad as the party-parliament-system at its worst or usual.