Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that George Washington was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1757. In 1757 that body was known as the House of Burgesses. This version has been updated.
Frequently predicted but never reached, “peak oil” — maximum possible production — has been postponed yet again, this time because of fracking. “Peak Sanders” was prematurely announced because of persistent underestimations of how underwhelming Hillary Clinton is as a candidate. The Vermont senator’s peak might not arrive soon because his fundraising prowess will allow him to continue campaigning to outlaw fracking.
“Peak Trump” — the apogee before the dwindling — might be approaching for the perhaps bogus billionaire (would a real one bother with fleecing those who matriculate at Trump University?) who purports to prove his business wizardry, colossal wealth and stupendous generosity not by releasing his tax returns but by displaying a pile of steaks. The eventual end of our long national embarrassment might be foreshadowed by Donald Trump’s pattern of doing better among early voters than among “late deciders”: He firmly has those he entranced early; others are more elusive.
If Trump does become acquainted with gravity — no, not intellectual sobriety; nature’s downward tug — it will be for two reasons: The Republican Party, which together with the Democratic Party has framed the nation’s political debate since first running a presidential candidate 160 years ago, is not a flimsy dinghy to be effortlessly commandeered by pirates hostile to its purposes. And the lavish media exposure that has fertilized the growth of the weed of Trumpism in the garden of conservatism might still stunt its growth by causing his supporters to have second, or perhaps first, thoughts. A steady diet of his self-adulation can be cloying; even an entertaining boor can become a bore.
Mitt Romney’s denunciations and ridicules, reciprocating Trump’s, are not designed to dissuade Trump voters. It is axiomatic that you cannot reason a person out of a position that the person has not been reasoned into. The adhesive that binds Trumpkins to their messiah can be dissolved by neither facts nor eloquence. Romney and other defenders of Republican traditions are trying to prevent a stampede to Trump of “Vichy Republicans,” collaborationists coming to terms with the occupation of their party.
If Trump, who has said the most recent Republican president should have been impeached, is the 2016 nominee, the party’s most recent nominee will not support him. But this through-the-looking-glass scenario need not happen. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has demonstrated an appeal to people susceptible to the Trump temptation — blue-collar voters in an important manufacturing (and swing) state buffeted by globalization. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) offers what many Trumpkins say they want — conservatism with a serrated edge. Trump, however, is all edge and no conservatism, although his shambolic syntax disguises his vacuity.
Trump, who fancies himself the blue-collar billionaire, promises a 45 percent increase in the price of the imports from China that help draw more than 100 million weekly shoppers to Walmart, America’s largest private-sector employer. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), another aspiring savior of the proletariat, promises “socialism,” which he defines as a “revolution” that resembles the status quo — meddlesome economic regulation by a federal government whose budget is 66 percent income redistribution through transfer payments. Sanders is conducting a self-refuting campaign, the premise of which is that “the billionaire class” of (according to Forbes) 536 people buys elections. Last month, Sanders raised $42.7 million, Hillary Clinton raised $30 million, and the most prolific Republican fundraiser of this presidential cycle (Jeb Bush, $157.6 million) went home.
In Monday’s Fox News town hall, when asked about Michael Bloomberg, an actual billionaire, deciding not to run for president, Sanders said: Bloomberg is a billionaire, and it is “a bad idea” that “the only people who feel in many ways that they can run for president are people who have so much money.” Which is why Citizens United must be overturned, “so all people can run for office, not just people who have a lot of money.” Well.
Sanders does not even understand his white whale, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. It ended prohibitions against independent (not coordinated with candidates) political advocacy by corporations and unions. It had nothing to do with what Bloomberg could have done, spend his own money on himself.
Politicians have been doing this since at least 1757, when George Washington supplied voters with 144 gallons of whiskey and other drink, enough to amply lubricate each of the 307 voters he persuaded in winning a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. This year, campaign spending on whiskey for voters would be welcomed by them as an anesthetic.
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