“But as to Mr. Trump’s words, throughout our history other nations never sent their “best” to America. My people and my friend’s, the Irish, were not Ireland’s elite when they came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They had nothing back home; that’s why they left. The landed gentry, the high-born, the educated and established—they didn’t come here. They didn’t have to! The wretched refuse did…

…And the Irish transition to America was not so smooth. There was plenty of poverty, overcrowding, addiction, criminality. We should always remember—and Mr. Trump, as a native New Yorker, should remember—that our city’s arrest vehicles weren’t known as paddy wagons for nothing….There may even have been some fairly fractious Trumps way back then . . .We’re all limited by the facts of where we live and what we see, but I live in New York, surrounded by immigrants of all nations, many but by no means all from points south, and they are the hardest-working people in the city. They keep the place up and operating each day. Everyone thinks of them as the good guys—they make nothing worse and a lot of things better. Whether they are legal or illegal, I see how they work and what they do to educate their children and as human beings I honor them.”, Peggy Noonan, “Donald Trump’s Appeal—and Its Limits”, The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2015

“I could not agree more. Thanks Peggy Noonan!”, Mike Perry

Opinion

Donald Trump’s Appeal—and Its Limits

Sometimes an ill wind feels like a breath of fresh air.

By Peggy Noonan

Donald Trump is an unstable element inserted into an unsettled environment. Sooner or later there will be a boom.

The Republican presidential hopeful at a house party in Bedford, N.H., June 30. Photo: AP Photo/Jim Cole

He has shot up like a rocket since his June announcement but likely has a low ceiling and short staying power. He is not as popular with Republicans as Bernie Sanders is with Democrats.

Does Mr. Trump ruin the Republican brand? That tends to be the eager question of those who hope he will ruin the Republican brand. But he’s his own brand. He doesn’t call his hotels “Republican Plaza.” He spends much of his time knocking Republicans, setting himself apart from the party and its contenders.

If he says something stupid and cheap it will reflect on him. If he should say something brilliant and wise it will not redound to the benefit of the GOP.

He’ll make things uncomfortable for Republican candidates, who will devise ways of dealing with it. He enjoys disparaging them—they’re “dopes”—and highlighting their weaknesses. Just by walking into the room he lowers the tone. His special brand of irresponsibility may prove infectious. Reporters love him because he’s colorful, dramatic, walking-talking clickbait. At the moment he controls the daily agenda because reporters insist other candidates respond to whatever he says. That will lessen as the novelty diminishes.

On the other hand Mr. Trump will make most of his competitors—certainly all those in the top tier—look, in comparison, measured, thoughtful and mature. No one who looks at Donald Trump will then look at Jeb Bush, John Kasich or Rand Paul and question whether he has the presidential temperament.

Mr. Trump’s loquacity will be a challenge in the debates. How will anyone get a word in edgewise? Candidates will rely on the moderator. The moderator may amuse himself by stepping back and watching the fun. None of the candidates will want to take Mr. Trump head-on because he doesn’t play within the margins of traditional political comportment. He’s a squid: poke him and get ink all over you.

He has the power of the man with nothing to lose. If he won he’d be president. If he loses he’s Donald Trump, only a little more famous. His next show will get even higher ratings.

He puts individuals and groups down in a mean and careless way. He has poor impulse control and is never above the fray. He likes to start fights. That’s a weakness. Eventually he’ll lose one.

But Donald Trump has a real following, and people make a mistake in assuming his appeal is limited to Republicans. His persona and particular brand of populism have hit a nerve among some independents and moderate Democrats too, and I say this because two independent voters and one Democrat (they are all working-class or think of themselves that way) volunteered to me this week how much they like him, and why. This is purely anecdotal, but here’s what they said:

They think he’s real, that he’s under nobody’s thumb, that maybe he’s a big-mouth but he’s a truth-teller. He’s afraid of no one, he’s not politically correct. He’s rich and can’t be bought by some billionaire, because he is the billionaire. He’s talking about what people are thinking and don’t feel free to say. He can turn the economy around because he made a lot of money, so he probably knows how to make jobs.

He is a fighter. People want a fighter. Maybe he’s impolitic but he’s better than some guy who filters everything he says through a screen of political calculation.

Some other things Mr. Trump has going for him the three people I spoke to did not mention but they agreed when I did:

Mr. Trump is not a serious man, which is part of his appeal in a country that has grown increasingly unserious.

He’s a showman in a country that likes to watch shows—a country that believes all politics is showbiz now, and all politicians are entertainers of varying degrees of competence. At least Mr. Trump is honest about it.

He capitalizes on the fact that no one in America trusts politicians anymore.

The thing that has propelled him so high so far—he’s No. 1 among Republicans in one national poll, No. 2 in New Hampshire and tied for No. 2 in Iowa—is his announcement speech on June 16. One part of the speech has been heavily quoted: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . . . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” That last—“I assume”—was the cruelest.

The minute I heard it I knew he’d hit a nerve. He said what a lot of people think and are afraid to say. Certainly after the murder last week of a young woman in San Francisco by an illegal-alien felon who’d been deported five times, what Mr. Trump said resonated.

My moderate Democrat friend who called this week was explicitly supportive of his comment, and asked my opinion. I said illegal immigration is a calamity. It is an admission by a nation that it has lost control not only of its borders but of itself. It is no longer functioning as a sovereign nation; it has lost its self-protectiveness and dignity. And in this predatory world they note when you don’t see to your own dignity. So I’ve long supported complete closing of the border to illegal entry and cracking down on visa overstays.

But as to Mr. Trump’s words, throughout our history other nations never sent their “best” to America. My people and my friend’s, the Irish, were not Ireland’s elite when they came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They had nothing back home; that’s why they left. The landed gentry, the high-born, the educated and established—they didn’t come here. They didn’t have to! The wretched refuse did. And the Irish transition to America was not so smooth. There was plenty of poverty, overcrowding, addiction, criminality. We should always remember—and Mr. Trump, as a native New Yorker, should remember—that our city’s arrest vehicles weren’t known as paddy wagons for nothing.

There may even have been some fairly fractious Trumps way back then . . .

We’re all limited by the facts of where we live and what we see, but I live in New York, surrounded by immigrants of all nations, many but by no means all from points south, and they are the hardest-working people in the city. They keep the place up and operating each day. Everyone thinks of them as the good guys—they make nothing worse and a lot of things better. Whether they are legal or illegal, I see how they work and what they do to educate their children and as human beings I honor them.

My friend said “Yeah.” And then, more softly, she said “Yeah” again.

She still likes Mr. Trump, but it gave her pause.

Think of how powerful he’d be if he had a longer memory, or could take tough stands without maligning people. That’s his weakness. Blowhards don’t wear well.

Posted on July 13, 2015, in Postings. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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