An early look at 2016 dy­nam­ics Trump work­ing the fear and anger of fol­low­ers

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Henry Dubroff and John J. Hug­gins Henry Dubroff is an en­tre­pre­neur who splits his time be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and Colorado. John J. Hug­gins is an en­tre­pre­neur and in­vestor in Den­ver.

Don­ald Trump be­came a house­hold name as the celebrity host on the re­al­ity show “The Ap­pren­tice.”

But in pol­i­tics he’s been mak­ing his mark by tak­ing his cues from an­other pro­gram, the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel se­ries “Myth­Busters.”

The chief myth he has busted is the no­tion of “small govern­ment con­ser­vatism.”

Al­most ev­ery pres­i­dent since Franklin Roo­sevelt has over­seen an ex­pan­sion of fed­eral power. Even Repub­li­cans — in­clud­ing Dwight D. Eisen­hower (in­ter­state high­ways), Richard Nixon (EPA, Medi­care), Ron­ald Rea­gan (So­cial Se­cu­rity, space de­fense) and Ge­orge H.WBush and his son (tax in­creases, bank­ing bailouts, Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, and mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence spend­ing)— have sup­ported sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sions of fed­eral tax­a­tion and reach.

Some of the Repub­li­can oli­garchy— su­per-rich cam­paign fi­nanciers like Charles and David Koch— seek an end and even a re­ver­sal to the growth of fed­eral power. But their de­sires are out of sync with the anger of the Repub­li­can base.

Don­ald Trump has claimed the lead in the race by fig­ur­ing out that it’s not the size of govern­ment but what it does — or does not— do for most vot­ers that is the is­sue. What peo­ple want is a govern­ment that ben­e­fits them. He’s con­vinced a big chunk of work­ing class Repub­li­cans (and some Democrats and in­de­pen­dents as well) that he can de­liver that in a way that no­body else can.

Trump’s sim­ple self-con­fi­dence— some would call it a con­fi­dence game— and suc­cess have shaken the GOP es­tab­lish­ment. And Sen. Ted Cruz has been clev­erly rid­ing Trump’s coat­tails, hop­ing that Trump will stum­ble. Trump has punched back, dis­put­ing Cruz’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions to be pres­i­dent.

To de­con­struct some of the drama around the Trump phe­nom­e­non, it’s worth look­ing at the prophetic words of au­thor Ge­orge Or­well. James M. Lang of The Bos­ton Globe re­cently ob­served: “Long be­fore he en­vi­sioned the charis­matic fig­ure of Big Brother, Or­well ar­gued that most peo­ple are not cast­ing their votes for ex­ec­u­tives based on their political po­si­tions. The most suc­cess­ful lead­ers, he (Or­well) sug­gested, know how to ma­nip­u­late the emo­tions of their fol­low­ers: ‘The en­ergy that ac­tu­ally shapes the world,’ Or­well wrote, ‘springs from emo­tions— racial pride, leader-wor­ship, religious be­lief, love of war.’ ”

Trump has rec­og­nized what Or­well

de­scribed. As Lang wrote, “Our most pow­er­fully felt emo­tions are neg­a­tive ones, and they de­mand ac­tion and res­o­lu­tion.”

Trump works the fear and anger of his fol­low­ers like a vir­tu­oso con­duc­tor or “mythbuster-in-chief,” stir­ring up th­ese emo­tions and then re­solv­ing them into sup­port of his prom­ise to van­quish foes near and far.

In­deed, th­ese res­onate with far more ef­fec­tive­ness than Jeb Bush’s com­plaints about Trump’s seat-of-the pants rants about the need for tar­iffs on Chi­nese im­ports or wonk­ish plans to re­duce small-busi­ness regulation from John Ka­sich.

As the Iowa cau­cuses and New Hamp­shire pri­mary ap­proach, and vot­ing be­gins in the pres­i­den­tial pri­maries, in­sur­gent can­di­dates Trump and Cruz on the right and Sen. Bernie San­ders on the left seem poised to win some vic­to­ries. On both sides, the in­sur­gency is fu­eled by anger over de­clin­ing real wages for most Amer­i­cans, over the govern­ment’s fail­ure to hold peo­ple ac­count­able for the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and over the takeover of our pol­i­tics by a su­per-rich oli­garchy.

On the Repub­li­can side, the two lead­ing can­di­dates are tak­ing a de­cid­edly Or­wellian path. Both Trump and Cruz are masters of stok­ing anger and anx­i­ety in their base. They both rely — though in some sub­tly dif­fer­ent ways— on vil­i­fy­ing the “other” (im­mi­grants, Mus­lims), on self-ag­gran­diz­ing state­ments, on ap­peals to re­li­gion, and on bel­li­cose lan­guage (such as Cruz’s threat to “car­pet bomb” civil­ian ar­eas held by the Is­lamic State) to fire up their base.

And, like Big Brother in “1984,” the true ge­nius of Trump lies with his spe­cific strat­egy for whip­ping up the emo­tions of his sup­port­ers, one de­picted by Or­well as Big Brother’s most ef­fec­tive tac­tic: unit­ing his fol­low­ers in ha­tred of a com­mon en­emy.

In­ter­est­ingly, and with in­cred­i­ble hypocrisy, Trump has re­cently at­tempted to raise the birther is­sue with re­gard to Cruz, who was born in Canada to an Amer­i­can mother and a for­eign father.

The irony here, of course, is that Pres­i­dent Obama— about whose birth and le­gal qual­i­fi­ca­tion to be pres­i­dent was made into a big deal by Trump and the far right— is more clearly qual­i­fied than Cruz be­cause he was born in the United States. But Trump’s use of the birther is­sue was never re­ally about where ei­ther Pres­i­dent Obama or Sen. Cruz were born; it was and is about mak­ing them “the other.”

Much of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment re­coils in hor­ror at the thought of a Trump can­di­dacy, and per­haps of a Cruz can­di­dacy as well. In ad­di­tion to the long-term dam­age they might cause (think Barry Gold­wa­ter in 1964), Trump and Cruz rep­re­sent a form of big govern­ment con­ser­vatism.

It would take an enor­mous ex­pan­sion of fed­eral power to de­port all the un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, as Trump pro­poses. And the mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence es­ca­la­tion that both Cruz and Trump en­vi­sion— if you take them at their word— would be very sub­stan­tial. That prospect has the con­ser­va­tive es­tab­lish­ment from con­ser­va­tive bil­lion­aire Charles Koch to colum­nist Ge­orge F. Will warn­ing about the dire con­se­quences of an in­sur­gent vic­tory.

On the Democrats’ side, the in­sur­gent San­ders is an un­abashed be­liever in ever-big­ger govern­ment. His pro­pos­als for uni­ver­sal health care and free col­lege tu­ition, while po­lit­i­cally ap­peal­ing to the Demo­cratic base, would be enor­mously ex­pen­sive. And Hil­lary Clin­ton has pro­posed ex­pand­ing the role of the fed­eral govern­ment in sig­nif­i­cant ways as well.

If any com­bi­na­tion of th­ese four lead­ing can­di­dates get their re­spec­tive nom­i­na­tions, we can ex­pect fur­ther ex­pan­sion of fed­eral power and lit­tle de­bate about the proper role and size of govern­ment. In­stead, this pres­i­den­tial cam­paign is likely to fo­cus on “what your coun­try can do for you” or “against the other” as tar­gets for vil­i­fi­ca­tion.

That out­come would turn the legacy of John F. Kennedy up­side down.

Don­ald Trump, in his role as host of tele­vi­sion’s “The Celebrity Ap­pren­tice,” mugs for pho­tog­ra­phers at a press tour in Pasadena, Calif., in Jan­uary 2015. Trump has claimed the lead in the pres­i­den­tial race by fig­ur­ing out that it’s not the size of govern­ment but what it does for most vot­ers that is the is­sue. Chris Pizzello, Invision via As­so­ci­ated Press

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