Trump, the First Amendment Candidate?
It was supposed to be a triumphal procession for Hillary and a series of carefully choreographed duels between Jeb and the conservative du jour. But the campaign has been transformed. Lady Macbeth of Little Rock has been laid low by her server. And Donald Trump has soared to the top of GOP field.
If Clinton wriggles out of the email scandal, the Foundation scandal will do her in. Most voters have an email account at work in addition to their personal email, and may have used one for messages that they ought to have sent on the other. Few voters have their own foundations. Fewer still have spouses who get paid $250,000 for an hour-long talk. (“We have bills to pay!”) If they did have a foundation, and they happened to be Secretary of State, most voters would think twice before accepting the largesse of individuals representing foreign governments. “It would be wrong,” as Nixon famously said.
“Her moment has passed,” my sister-in-law told me a couple of days ago. Meg was about the most ardent Clinton supporter on the planet in 2008. Hillary’s moment has passed.
What accounts for Trump’s commanding lead? At first it seemed like it was his willingness to speak bluntly about an issue that politicians don’t seem to understand is critically important to most Americans: the transformation of our country by mass illegal immigration.
But sanctuary cities have been around since 1979. Tom Tancredo got nowhere in 2008. It’s the speaking bluntly that has Trump with three times the support of the Jebster.
What the Trump surge is really all about is the First Amendment. The regime that George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, and, especially, Czeslaw Milosz described so brilliantly has taken root here. Voters know that an unguarded comment, if read or overheard by the wrong person, can instantly cost them their job. They know that to reveal a familiarity with the history and beliefs of Islam is to be labeled an Islamaphobe, to refer to four decades of research on race and intelligence or to black crime statistics is to be labeled a racist, to speak about the work of neuroscientists on gender differences is to be branded a sexist. And they know that these labels can have terrible consequences.
I first heard the term “politically correct” walking on Hendry Beach in Santa Barbara in the mid-‘80s with the effervescent poet, novelist, and raconteur Barry Spacks. I laughed. “Politically correct” meant calling a janitor a “sanitation engineer.” A book called Politically Correct Bedtime Stories made the NY Times bestseller list in 1994. It was classified as humor. For a long time now we haven’t been laughing.
There are not yet any re-education camps in the U.S. But Big Brother is watching. You’d better use the guarded legalese that’s gradually been taking over the English language since Watergate. Trump refuses to do this. And he does not conceal his contempt for a media that enforces the quarantine on plain speech. He’s broken the sound bite barrier.
Two questions remain.
1. Will Trump preach what he practices? Will he defend others who want to speak freely but don’t have a net worth in the billions? Does he believe in defending the First Amendment not only for business owners and employees forced to violate their religious beliefs, but for everyone who expresses an opinion? Will he promise to abolish “hate crimes” -- a wonderfully Orwellian term? (Hold up a poster with a Star of David, an equal sign, and a swastika and you won’t be arrested for a hate crime. Hold up a poster with a Muslim crescent, an equal sign, and a swastika and you probably will be -- if you’re not lynched first.)
2. There’s a second submerged issue that’s just as potentially explosive as mass immigration. This is Affirmative Action -- another Orwellian euphemism. Nearly every European- and Asian-American is affected by flagrant discrimination in college, law school, and med school admissions and in hiring. But the practice can’t even be discussed. Like the bribes given to Bill and Hill, it’s just wrong. Even 44% of African-Americans believe that preferential treatment solely by race in college admissions is unfair.
Is Trump willing to be politically incorrect about Affirmative Action? Are any of the other candidates? This could be the Civil Rights issue of 2016. Trump has said he’s fine with AA. But that was three weeks ago. Consistency has never been the hobgoblin of his mind. And once upon a time the Donald outraged the left by observing that the President was an obvious beneficiary of Affirmative Action.
If someone has the guts to speak out on the issue, the bound and gagged will be grateful, and that gratitude might pay big dividends. Mitt Romney received only about 27% of the Asian vote and 59% of the European-American vote in 2012.
With minimal increases in the latter -- .6%, 1.9% and 3% -- he could have taken three states he narrowly lost, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. If he’d upped his percentage of the European-American vote to 65%, he would have captured Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
“When people are divided into ‘loyalists’ and ‘criminals,’ wrote Milosz in The Captive Mind, “a premium is placed on every type of conformist, coward, and hireling; whereas among the ‘criminals’ one finds a singularly high percentage of people who are direct, sincere, and true to themselves.”
Whatever else you can say about Trump, he’s true to himself. I’m not in his camp, but I hope his courage and candor are contagious.
Trump does not have a monopoly on courage or iconoclasm. No candidate mentions “radical Islam” except Bobby Jindal. No candidate has come out as forcefully in support of Kim Davis and in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal as Mike Huckabee. And Ted Cruz’s campaign against Obamacare, and his entire Senate career, has been a profile in courage.