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February 22, 2016

The value of political insight

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

One would be within reason to expect that two decades of active, involved political experience at the local, county and state level might increase the value of political wisdom to the person who acquired that experience.


One would be wrong. Early in this campaign cycle, with all of my alleged political insights, I had written off both of the leading candidates in this presidential nomination race.


It’s increasingly likely that Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders could be their party’s nominees come November. If asked how likely that would have been when both announced their respective candidacies, the response from this pundit/ex-politician would have been a hearty laugh, nothing more.


On one hand, an admitted Socialist and a narcissistic, billionaire TV pitchman and real estate tycoon on the other? President of the United States of America? Are you kidding?


No apparently, you’re not.


As the national political journalists and pundits pine for a big battle-royal in the GOP, Donald Trump quietly (OK, not very quietly) storms across primary states holding large rallies that set attendance records. He holds forth on exclusive news media interviews, many taped in the upper lobby of his grand Trump Tower in mid-town Manhattan, while lesser candidates are forced to schlep into broadcast studios to get on the air.


He doesn’t just criticize his opponents, he rips the beating heart from their chests, holding it up in front of them so they can watch it slowly lose its rhythm before they die (politically, of course). He then burns their campaign infrastructure to the ground, and then salts the earth to prevent any future rebirth.


When Trump goes after someone, its Old Testament-style wrath.


So far, this Trump reaction has happened to just about every other Republican presidential campaign. He started out focused on Jeb Bush. Remember “Low Energy” Jeb? Maybe the most effective negative political advertising ever done, it became true merely through Trump’s consistent deployment of the description.


It was so impactful that Jeb Bush dropped the exclamation mark from behind his nickname, at least until he outperformed expectations in the New Hampshire primary.


When Jeb decided to bring in his older brother and former President George W, Trump pointed out that saying the 41st president kept us safe on his watch was like saying you played well against a baseball team by holding them scoreless for eight innings after they scored 19 runs in the first inning.


Now Mr. Trump has turned his focus to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. After decades of watching political ads, there appear to be an almost unlimited number of ways to call a politician a liar without the word. Deceitful, dishonest, misleading, obfuscating, intentionally misleading, the list could go on, and usually does.


Not The Donald, though. He came right out onstage and called Senator Cruz a liar. Since the last debate, Mr. Trump has used every single opportunity to describe Senator Cruz as the biggest liar in politics.


So, just how is it that a self-acknowledged Democrat-Socialist and the aforementioned real estate tycoon-turned TV personality are sitting atop the political world?


It’s our fault.


The reasons why weren’t really clear ’til recently. I mean, why throw away the future of a great nation just to stick a thumb in the eye of the political class?


Ron Fournier, a former senior political writer for the Associated Press and now senior columnist for National Journal used the French Revolution as an analogy.


“It’s like the barricade. Which side of the barricade do they stand on? Candidates like Trump and Sanders stand with the people, not the political class.”


So, in a way, Mr. Fournier lays the blame at our feet. We’re so sick of the status quo, we’ll accept a lack of qualification, and whatever comes as a result, just to make sure we don’t get what we’ve gotten before.


So, grab a pitchfork, a torch and a Make America Great Again ball cap, or a Feel the Bern tee shirt. Because this time you don’t have to worry about whether the whole thing might blow up or not, apparently we actually want it all to blow up.


In fact, like the old Looney Tunes cartoon, we’re perfectly comfortable sending Yosemite Sam charging into the dynamite shack with the open flame.


So much for the value of political insight.


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