The Superlative Candidate

Twenty years after Richard Nixon announced his resignation, and a few months after the once most powerful man in the world died, iconic conservative William F. Buckley told of his brief contact with the ethic of the Nixon White House. Buckley had been invited to meet with President Nixon in 1970. At that meeting, the President offered to support his brother James Buckley as an independent conservative candidate against New York Senator Charles Goodell.

He then thought to give me some political advice to pass along to Candidate Buckley. “Tell him when he is being heckled at one of his speeches to go right up to spitting distance of the protester. The television cameras will catch that face-to-face encounter and that means votes for the law and order candidate.

Mr. Haldeman took it from there. “Bill, get a couple of guys from Young Americans for Freedom. Tell them to dress up like Woodstock protesters and have them throw an egg or some ketchup at your brother. That will make it into the evening television news.

William F. Buckley, August 8, 1994

Richard Nixon had made into an art form the goading of dissidents. He would climb onto any available makeshift platform, the trunk of an automobile would do, to egg on those who hated what he stood for. As long as news cameras focused on the uncouth opposition, he would come out ahead.

As Buckley later noted, if the angry young could not be tempted into violence, a few supporters in disguise could be counted on to throw whatever was handy.

Along the political spectrum, the more conservative, or the more authoritarian nearly always benefits from violence committed by perceived opponents. It seems natural. It is human nature to want to strike back at the bad guys, and the violent are usually the bad guys. Striking back with votes can mean voting for those most loudly calling for strong action against perpetrators.

All the ingredients are with us today for the Nixon recipe to work.

The indefensible violence against Donald Trump supporters is captured by camera and and documented in credible narrative. Deadly violence by America’s enemies, indeed the enemies of the safety and freedom of modern civilization, is horrific. The death toll is greater with each incident.

With every incident of terror, supporters join the candidate in praising his predictive abilities and his toughness. And they express joyful glee at the success those tragedies guarantee for Donald Trump’s quest for the office of President.

They can wait if they like until next November for the actual balloting, but Donald Trump was elected president tonight.

Ann Coulter, November 13, 2015
   after the terrorist attack on a cafe in Paris.

This is not new. It was not new in the days of Nixon ascendancy.

It did not start with the Reichstag fire, propelling Hitler to power with the promise of exterminating leftists, Jews, and other dangerous undesirables. It did not even begin with the burning of Rome 2,000 years before that. Nero promised to eliminate the dangerous Christians who started the destruction. When rumors became rampant that Nero himself had sent thugs to commit the arson, his opponents promised to eliminate the dangerous Emperor.

It did not end with the riots of the late 1960s, the student demonstrations into the 1970s, or with Richard Nixon’s provocations through that period.

The battle cry never varies.
Enough is enough. We will put an end to it … and to them.

It has always worked.

Until now.

Donald Trump’s approval, as measured in one poll after another does not match the gloating. The predicted rise does not occur.

Part of that may come from the naked partisanship of the reactions. Ordinary people, people capable of any depth of empathy, would not express joy at such tragedy. When there exist human beings who seem incapable of feeling anything beyond political calculation, we add to our mourning for the dead the additional prayer for lost souls.

The death toll of the Orlando night club massacre may stay at around 50, if we are granted a miracle and all of the remaining wounded survive. It is already the most massive single instance of spontaneous gun violence in American history.

Mr. Trump’s initial reaction was only the beginning:

Appreciate the congrats for being right…

Excuse me?

Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!

Donald Trump, June 12, 2016, via Twitter

Mr. Trump goes on to imply that President Obama is not only weak, but may have a hidden motive for his tepid response.

We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind.

Donald Trump, June 13, 2016

Something else in mind.

There’s something going on — it’s inconceivable. There’s something going on. He doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands. It’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable.

Donald Trump, June 13, 2016

Something inconceivable going on. The President doesn’t get it, or … maybe … he gets it better than anybody understands.

So the President is in on the attack? He is a co-conspirator with terrorists?

For the record, Donald Trump was … not to put too fine a point on it … incorrect when he claimed to have predicted the Orlando attack, except to the extent that every child who has learned to talk could predict that terrorists will continue to attack. There was a prediction, however, that was prescient.

I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I’ve got people who we KNOW have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States – US citizens. And we’re allowed to put them on the no fly list when it comes to airlines.

But because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun.

This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show right now, and buy as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that. Even though the FBI knows who that person is.

President Barack Obama, June 1, 2016

That terrorists in the Middle East are motivated by a corrupt interpretation of Islam is not in dispute. No-one is in denial. The refusal to declare, or even imply, some sort of war against Islam is motivated by a fidelity to truth combined with a strategic desire not to insist that all Muslim believers take sides against us.

Even conservative critics of Barack Obama occasionally acknowledge that the President holds the all time record for capturing and killing terrorists and their leaders.

In a country of hundreds of millions there will remain some portion of humanity who will take seriously someone who expresses self-congratulatory glee at deadly violence, and then follow with accusations that cross over some ugly ragged edge into a land of delusional paranoia.

Demagogues of the past knew how to turn human tragedy to their benefit. Donald’s ham-handed approach blows away the advantage that others would have used.

He has described himself in many ways. He is the biggest, the best. And he is the loudest.

Donald is a candidate of superlatives.

He is the most successful businessman, the smartest graduate, the toughest candidate, the best thing that ever happened to evangelicals, the most attractive to women, believe me, believe me.

Each word and phrase goes further, farther, higher, beyond anything expected. He gloats at tragedy, appreciating the congratulations he believes to be flowing his way. He is the most perceptive of prognosticators.

The superlatives do not stop there. The President he opposes is the very worst. The conspiracies Donald imagines are the very best. They go higher and farther than that imagined any anyone else.

He is the superlative candidate, caught in the best trap ever, a trap devised by Trump himself.

Donald is a demagogic captive, limited, made small by his own talk, imprisoned with steel-like bars made of the stern stuff of his highest, loudest, most extreme, most conspiratorial, most extravagant rhetorical excesses.

Believe me. Believe me.

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