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Donald Trump: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of a Populist Candidate’s Rise

Donald Trump in a very short period has become a Republican presidential frontrunner. As such, he has attracted the ire on both the Left and on the “Right” from the big government RINOs when his populist voice reverberated with the electorate, risking feel good status quo scripted messages and forcing candidates to refocus on real issues.

As Ann Coulter so succinctly put it, “Trump’s candidacy divides the elites from the people more than anything I’ve seen.”  The populace has taken a shine to Trump because his statements on illegal immigration speak for them and their real life experience.  The elite’s candidates are mortified that their glass menagerie is being shattered.

Never, since the Great Depression and the run up to World War II, have so many problems confronted the United States.  We are on a quasi-wartime footing with a sieve of a border beckoning both illegal immigrants, ready to soak up more public benefits we can’t afford, and potential terrorists that hope to create yet more havoc, with a President who can best be described as being in Wilsonian denial.  Economically, the divide between rich and poor is greater than at any time in US history except 1929 before the stock market crash, and we have debt levels higher than at ANY time in US history. These two related issues create an economy that will never reach escape velocity until dramatic changes are made.  Yet the status quo “solution” is more of the same from the last 20 years that caused the problems in the first place.

These are just a few of the issues with which candidates could distinguish and differentiate themselves.  But the elites that benefit from the status quo have, until recently, succeeded in controlling the public debate through compliant, bought-off candidates and ownership of the mainstream press.

Historically, this is exactly when populist leaders emerge on the political stage.  Populists are a reliable sign of a broken political feedback system.  When the populace knows the situation is in extremis, and they receive neither an ear nor a megaphone to be heard, populists are society’s hot backup to amplify the people’s stifled voices, usually with varying levels of distortion.  The populace’s frustration and anger manifest themselves in the populist’s emotional message.  Trump’s formulaic appearance is as predictable and unpreventable as gravity.  In a world of monumentally expensive campaigns, Trump’s difference is that he comes from the elite, much as FDR did. As a voice for those unheard, this is good.  We see similar developments in Europe with Nigel Farage’s UKIP and Greece’s socialist elections.

There are three alternatives to populists: 1. Truly addressing and solving the issues that would hurt the rentier status quo, in which case Mr Trump’s egotistic behavior would be redundant and excessive; 2. Stifling the populist voices until violence erupts and the ensuing suppression extinguishes both the violence and anything but state-sanctioned monologue, or 3. Massive emigration.

While The Donald is certainly an egocentric huckster, he has done the country a big favor by helping to demonstrate just how critical these issues are.  For the status quo, the quicker Trump is discredited, the faster they can return to their parade of status quo candidates and discard Trump’s message on real issues. This would be bad for the country.

Trump’s ugly comments regarding Senator John McCain now allow the status quo another opportunity to discredit him as a candidate.  In his discussion, Trump said he prefers winners to losers and questioned that “perhaps he (McCain) is a war hero.”

The exemplary senior officer of Hanoi Hilton, where McCain resided for many years and shared similar torture without acceding to NVA propaganda demands, was Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his truly heroic service in keeping his men together during those years of torture.  Yet Stockdale was denigrated as a fool when he acceded to Ross Perot’s request to serve as Perot’s running mate.  Where were these voices for an apology to Stockdale?  So veterans well know Trump’s behavior is not new.  What is new is the disingenuous hue and cry.  We note all the vehement responses from the Republican candidates in a Fox broadcast yesterday were from the RINO status quo, wanting Trump’s populist messages gone.

McCain turned down an opportunity to come home from POW camp early, which would have embarrassed his father, who was CINCPAC at the time, the Navy, and the nation.  McCain served heroically from this period—certainly with today’s loose definition of heroism.  Senator McCain’s heroism is completely in another league from Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s rebranding.

Still, McCain has certainly traded on this experience often.  And what of Trump’s contentions that McCain has not represented his veterans well?  These appear to be more well founded.  Unlike retired Marine Generals Zinni and Hoar and Marine and future Senator Jim Webb, among many other military veterans who opposed the hapless wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain failed to make a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee to husband our Nation’s military.  Neither did McCain nor Senator Lindsey Graham support Senator Webb’s vastly improved post-9/11 GI Bill that passed on both sides of the aisle in 2008 to help returning veterans reintegrate into society.  It is deplorable that Senators McCain and Graham didn’t want to see these Service members able to leave the military, having no other options but to stay in and fight bad wars.

Senator McCain, often playing a populist himself, has appeared to be as much a loose cannon with human lives as Mr. Trump is with his mouth, but because McCain is normally on the side of the status wuo, he gets a pass.  As one who has had a longstanding 43-year relationship with the Naval Academy and the Navy, I have found that many comrades who likely should have supported McCain against Obama in their 2008 presidential race were either lesser of two evils McCain voters or sat out the election entirely, such as myself.

Because of Trump’s McCain comments, Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that Trump “should immediately withdraw” from the race.  Many veterans I know would prefer an open discussion of the issues.  They would much prefer a President who doesn’t offer them up as political cannon fodder to prove his or her toughness.  They would rather see a President like General and President Dwight Eisenhower who was tired of pointless conflict and was a steward for his military, successfully ending the Korean conflict while ensuring the lives lost in that conflict retained their meaning.  South Korea is a great nation today because of that.

Mr. Trump’s megaphone, in his right to free speech, has done a service to the US.  He has flushed out a skewed propaganda machine at the Huffington Post that won’t cover real news.  Like him or not, Mr Trump is NEWS.  The RINO Right should not attempt the Left’s playbook for silencing the debate of free speech.  Trump has admirably gone after illegal immigration, and some of his criticisms of Senator McCain have hit the mark, as well.  If Mr. Trump stays in the race, the diversity and accuracy of the discourse will increase with some amplified overshoot.  The best way to attenuate Mr. Trump’s resonating voice is to find other candidates that voice reasonable solutions to the real problems Mr. Trump has had the audacity to expose.

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