Years ago I served for a time as President of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a citizen information and action group founded in the wake of the Grace Commission’s report on the egregious financial inefficiencies of the U.S. Government. One premise of the organization was that government should be run like a business. That makes some sense when focusing on budget and spending issues. But it lends credibility to the idea that it’s reasonable to assume that people who have been successful CEOs in business have thereby proven themselves fit for office as Governor of a State, or President of the United States. No assumption so easy to make could be farther from the truth. It would be like assuming that someone who is virtually unbeatable in a video war game like “Call of Duty” has proven themselves fit to be a company commander in the military.
There’s a difference between being at war and playing at it. When you play at war you can beat the opponents who killed your brothers-in-arms and share drinks and jibes with all of them afterwards. When you are at war, a commander’s aftermath might include bracing himself with a drink for the task of writing letters to the parents, spouses and children of troops killed by the enemy you defeated, at the cost of their loved ones’ lives. In the first case winning is virtually enough. In the second, winning a battle that’s over may never seem quite enough to justify the loss that will go on being lived for one or several lifetimes.
What does justify it? For mercenaries who fight for pay, the money is supposed to be enough. And there have been and are countries in which soldiering is just what the word implies, a matter of money. But for decent folks and the decent societies and governments they establish for themselves that just won’t do. They see and strive for goods that money can’t evaluate. And so they sum up their losses in terms that money cannot measure or comprehend.
Since the beginning, the people of the United States have declared themselves to be such decent folks. When they stepped onto the stage of human history as an independent nation they justified the step in terms of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”. By those laws He informed our human nature of the difference between right doings and wrong. With that information He seeded each of us with the disposition to do right. In their Declaration of Independence the good people of the United States acknowledged and declared that safeguarding this disposition was the aim for which, as human beings they institute governments, governments that derive their just powers from the general and mutual consent of people all together determined to live according to God’s information of their will.
The Americans, who risked and sometimes were called to sacrifice their all in various wars, never did so deliberately as a nation except for the sake of the justice that informed its identity when it first began. There were certainly always individuals, factious groupings and cabals that abused the harsh incidents of war to pursue their greedy ambitions, rousing and satisfying their selfish lust for wealth and power. But when Americans sought to speak and act as one, they never consciously did so but for the sake of justice, understood as their respect for right and rights determined by their Creator’s will, in respect of which they came together to build, extend and share their national life.
This common sense of God-endowed right can rightly be said to be our nation’s soul. Time and again Americans proved unwilling, in the final analysis, to give up this soul for the sake of profit measured by some other means. So time and again they have accepted the challenge to fight on, if need be for justice sake, “until every job of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” For though war has never been our purpose, we have borne it for the sake of the peace that nothing but good conscience brings to our flawed but well-intended humanity.
What has this to do with Donald Trump? Little or nothing at all. And that is his deficiency. But Charles Krauthammer is mistaken to dismiss his entry into the GOP primary field as some kind of side show. Trump is the showy, glamorous version of what has become the archetypal candidate of the quisling GOP — the business success that promises to bring the competitive edge of businesslike tactics, discipline and organization to the slovenly behemoth that the U.S. government has become. His announcement reads like a résumé, brimming with boldly self-justifying confidence, which comes from a proven record of performance — dollars and sense, jobs and a solidly expanding bottom line. That’s the ticket.
But only if people exist to be administered like things, rather than represented in the task of governing themselves as decent, right-minded human beings. Some may bridle at the comparison, but the archetypal candidate of the GOP has much in common with Mussolini, fulfilling his boastful promise to make Italy’s trains run on time. But in the end Italy ended up running with wolves and jackals, as the fascists consumed the human race like beasts of prey. The fate of those totalitarians warns our would-be elitist tyrants not to imitate their “style.” But it doesn’t keep them from pursuing the monopoly of power that, like the Obama faction Democrats, they now value above all else.
The Obama leftists call it “history.” The GOP quislings call it “freedom of action.” But it boils down to power, all the same. Both wings of the elitist faction share that goal. Their supposed competition takes the form of a compromise, that marks out the conveniently pliable boundaries of the territories they will mutually rule, with due respect for everyone except the people that, for the time being, they still pretend to care for and even (for tactical purposes) occasionally represent.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing, deciding which sheep to shear and which to have for dinner. That’s what they are. Their clothing is, of course, the remnants of our constitutional system. But with spirit, soul and mind now mostly numb or dead, it is being reduced to a convenient veil, a painted wall, rice paper thin, on which to cast the shadows that enthrall, excite and frighten those who once were free. Donald Trump may or may not end up being the elitist faction’s standard bearer in the White House. But he appears on that standard as a rampant lion, to one side of the shield of lies centrally embossed upon it. And on the other, a black dragon with the face of a woman in white, and a body that ends with the devil’s tail. And the slogan, etched in ink with words that partially fade in and out as sham elections come and go: ALL GOOD HOPES EQUALLY ABANDONED.