Walter Russel Mead, well respected academic and editor-at-large for The American Interest, is a sober social commentator whose views are well thought out and well presented. His thoughts on the seemingly ubiquitous Donald Trump did not disappoint. A word comes to mind when I read him: wisdom. And he applies his insights in spades to the Trump phenomenon. The piece is titled, “The Nihilistic Populism of Donald Trump,” and while much commentary has been dedicated to The Donald, Mead says it as well as it can be said:
Trump is a sham, of course, but for many Americans in 2015 the whole political process is a sham. Trump, however, is an entertaining sham, and some voters think that if the establishment is going to screw you no matter what you do, you might as well vote for the funny one.
So it doesn’t matter that Trump’s positions (insofar as he has taken any) are unpopular, or that he is so obviously and outrageously a member of the economic elite that has so many Americans riled up this year—indeed, it may help him. Donald Trump is living large, which is how many Americans wish they could live.
In part, also, Trump’s popularity is the result of harmless good fun; our two-year presidential electoral cycle is a ridiculous spectacle and the reporters and pundits who discuss the horse race in such diligent detail are chasing will o’ the wisps and wasting time. Many of the people who answer the polls that get analyzed to death in long, thumb sucker pieces aren’t thinking seriously about how they will vote more than a year from now. You can also tell a pollster that you plan to vote for Trump simply, as George Wallace used to put it back in 1968, to “send them a message.” Trump offers average Americans the chance to pull the Establishment’s chain, and then watch the wonks and the pundits jerk and squeal. This is a lot of fun for the tens of millions of people out there who think the whole political class consists of high-minded incompetents and unprincipled parasites.
So here’s hoping the Trump spectacle goes on for a while longer so we can see the political and journalistic establishments sputter their pretentious platitudes about “The process.” Look at the nominees it’s gotten us for both parties in the last twenty years. Come to think of it, Trump doesn’t look all that bad in comparison.