Smoking in the Cathedral

Posted on 2017 May 21

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[Trump] is not actually cutting back on the size of the state; he is doing something even more terrifying from the center-left point of view: he is ruining the mystery of the state, and thereby discrediting their holy institutions. — Jeffrey Tucker

Has anyone noticed how porous the Trump White House has become? Every other day, it seems, another scandalous report gets leaked from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Trump administration is the leakiest ever.

There must be a mole inside the West Wing. Someone there whispers to the media anything that smacks of dirty politics. Given the size of the disloyalty, it’s a wonder they’re getting away with it.

But it’s no wonder that somebody’s doing it. Trump is the most hated president in history. On the campaign trail he made enemies of the media, the intelligence community, and fellow Republicans. So the leaks could be coming from nearly anyone in the White House, but especially someone in the press room, or a liaison from the NSA or CIA, or simply any Republican who secretly wishes to return the White House to GOP normalcy under, say, President Pence.

Sure, Trump can be annoying. His whole style of engagement is arrogant, testy, pugnacious. It’s political theatre, yet most observers take it seriously, as if Trump sincerely believes everything he declares in public. People see him as a crazy imbecile, a strange aberration that should be excized from the halls of power. But Trump didn’t become a billionaire and the president by being stupid. His tweets are carefully crafted, both to energize his base and intimidate his opponents. The Left has, thus far, vastly underestimated Trump to its chagrin. Arrogant, daring, even foolish he might be, yes. But dumb? No.

Trump’s style has some of the atmosphere of Championship Wrestling. He puts on a big show for his fans as he strides across the political arena, stares menacingly at his opponents, crows like a rooster about his own prowess, and promises to pummel the poor “losers”. With his tweets Trump climbs the ropes and jumps down on his enemies. If he wore a cape and mask it wouldn’t surprise. The entire performance is a bit lacking in class, but Trump’s main constituency is blue-collar workers who resent the pretensions of higher-ups.

And that is the problem with Trump. Washington, D.C. is a kind of political cathedral, where pundits and academics congregate with politicians and bureaucrats to, in effect, worship at the font of power. All of us are expected to adopt an attitude of hushed respect when at church— er, when discussing the lofty values of governance. Trump, on the other hand, treats government as if it were a simple lever of power to control, not a religion to obey. Believers in the solemn virtues of big government see Trump as a delinquent teenager who leans against a column inside the Cathedral, puffing on a cigarette. He’s a vandal scribbling graffiti on the altar. To the offended, he comes off like a drunk pissing on the precious marble flooring of the nave of government.

That is why so many people want him removed. He’s barely a Republican, he belittles the entrenched powers in D.C., he treats government as if it’s a servant instead of the almighty manager of the American dream. Where does Trump get off with an attitude like that? How could such a person be president?

The underlying question is this: should government manage our lives while we, in turn, offer it dutiful respect? Or should government behave, instead, as a humble servant of the citizens? The fate of the Trump administration turns, not so much on Trump himself, but on the demand by our overseers that we treat them and their powers with suitable awe.

This isn’t to say Trump is a good president, or that he’s innocent of impeachable acts; far from it. But it is to say that the controversy swirling around Trump is less about his possible misdeeds than it is about his willingness to stroll into the Cathedral and light up a smoke.

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UPDATE: Trump as Shakespearian character who will “utter sentiments that no one else dares  to voice.”

UPDATE: Trump’s insult tweets come from Championship Wrestling’s Smackdown culture

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Posted in: Politics