How Trump Has Managed to Defy Gravity
This commentary originally appeared on RealClearPolitics.com
Washington is debating a different set of laws these days: The laws of physics. Do Newton’s principles affect Donald Trump like other inhabitants of our planet? There is evidence Trump has the power to defy gravity: When this president slips, he doesn’t fall, he floats. It is frustrating the establishment to no end.
President Trump went to Helsinki, made Vladimir Putin look the taller man, and undermined his own country’s intelligence agencies. He came home and resentfully explained he misspoke, only to reverse that and then face accusations of silencing an affair with a Playboy model. All this while separating immigrant parents from children. And continuing his street fight with Iran’s mullahs. And Twitter-bombing the Russia investigation. For anyone else, it would not have been a stellar week, but Trump’s polls ratings rose.
As Carl Cannon writes in “Trump Deserves a Nobel Prize – in Physics”: “What goes up, must come down, Isaac Newton taught the world. But Newton never met Trump. No matter what he says or does – and no matter what’s said to him or about him – the man’s poll numbers hang in suspended animation.” How, Cannon wonders, could this happen?
To understand, Washington may have to imagine an unfamiliar nation, the America that exists beyond the Beltway. There, Trump’s mistakes are not “screw-ups.” His “gaffes” are the reason he was handed the highest public office in the land.
Remember why Trump thrashed both big political parties and won the election.
His supporters can’t plead ignorance. We pretty much knew what he was before we voted for him. Trump is not subtle: He made his living billboarding who he is and what he does on tall buildings, in glowing neon, uncaring of whether it delights or offends. He is the most obvious politician we’ve ever had.
He said John McCain wasn’t his type of hero, drooled about dating his own daughter, conceded some Mexicans weren’t rapists, admitted he does not ask God for forgiveness, testified about his profound faith and familiarity with two Corinthians, and boasted of grabbing women by the p-word, all before election day. Nearly half of American voters cast ballots for him anyway. They didn’t vote for him despite knowing he was a living hand grenade. They voted for him because of it – so they could roll that explosive device under Washington’s gate.
When Trump rends the fabric of the establishment’s universe, he is doing exactlywhat his supporters want him to do. Instead of being shocked, disappointed, or offended, his fans cling to him. They pray, “Please God, help him do it again.”
Which tells us several things:
1. Millions of Americans remain repulsed with the Washington status quo and find its return so perilous that they prefer the human embodiment of nitroglycerin in the White House, even with its attendant collateral damage, rather than taste again the malignant gruel Washington was serving them. They judge that the explosive ingredient in dynamite is safer than the stew of venomous elitism that fed the decline of their country. Trump’s steadfast support is an appraisal: It measures how America feels about Washington, D.C.
As I’ve noted before, Trump’s supporters elected an apex predator, a T-rex, to eat the smaller, slimier pillagers who were devouring them. These voters are not shocked when the T-rex acts like a T-rex and, on occasion, mates with an inappropriate object or, oops, possibly by mistake, eats grandma. Instead, they say, “I loved grandma. And I’ll miss her ... but this is what we need to fight the Washington raptors, the bastards.”
2. Nothing has changed in Washington since Donald Trump was elected. The D.C. establishment and the creaky, old political parties and legacy media have not learned anything from the beating this outsider gave them. As long as they hold enormous power, Trump voters will continue to cheer the bull in Washington’s china shop, as he breaks the remaining tea cups in the establishment’s precious displays.
3. Until someone in Washington does change and provides an acceptable alternative, Trump can not only shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, he can get caught in the Kremlin on Vladimir Putin’s desk with a goat, and his supporters won’t care. They expect Trump will say, “Fake news! Fake desk! Fake goat! Maybe a younger, hotter bovid, but not this one!” They are good with that.
Trump is still all that is standing between his supporters and the return of the establishment. “Can you imagine what the raptors would do if we retired the T-rex today?"
Yet, every time Trump disrupts and disturbs norms, the establishment faints and reaches for the smelling salts. They are convinced that this time he’s gone too far. In a desperate bout of establishment thinking, for example, Joe Scarborough writes, “Trump may finally be feeling gravity’s unforgiving pull as one summer scandal bleeds into another.”
Fat chance, Joe. Trump’s job approval in The Real Clear Politics poll average has moved all the way from 43 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove the day he sat with Putin, to 43.2 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove in the latest sampling. Trump’s poll ratings are flatter than Kansas, the state scientifically proven to be flatter than a pancake.
And in the real world, Trump’s supporters can make a pretty good argument that whatever disturbs Washington is working pretty well for them.
Trump has largely erased ISIS, de-regulated our economy, cut taxes, jump-started jobs and business, delivered 4 percent growth, strengthened our military, stood up to China, stared down Little Rocket Man, and chosen terrific Supreme Court justices. Equally important, he treats working America with respect, not contempt. As a bonus, he keeps kicking Washington and the media around.
To his good fortune, they kick back. “Morning Joe,” the rest of MSNBC, and CNN keep telling the country that Donald Trump is a dangerous man. They report he is a threat to all the elite have accomplished, the end of everything they cherish, assuming that will hurt him. They must believe it will, for reasons they can’t confess.
The establishment cannot accept that millions of Americans chose Donald Trump, knowing what he was, instead of returning them to power.
To understand that Trump is the solution, as his supporters do, Washington would have to concede that the establishment is the problem. If Donald Trump is right about anything, it means Washington has been wrong about everything: Higher taxes can’t grow the economy. We are not a few edicts away from regulatory Nirvana. Weakness won’t pass for strength in foreign policy. Our flag and our national identity are not embarrassments. The self-regarding elite doesn’t know best.
Instead, Washington chooses to dodge humility and introspection. The existing order prefers the twin fictions that everything was going great pre-Trump and his supporters are inexplicably deaf to his debilities. Like Garrett Morris on “SNL” with the news for the hard of hearing, they shout Trump’s failings louder, hoping his unenlightened, red-hatted voters will eventually “get it.”
A taxi driver told a friend of mine why he voted for Trump. The driver said, “I knew he’d tear things apart. I knew he wouldn’t be the guy who could put things back together. Down the road, we will have to get somebody else smart to do that. But Trump is what the country needs right now.”
And he will continue to be until Washington examines itself and sees what millions find incontrovertible: Donald Trump remains the only alternative to the establishment. Their arrogance sustains him. He’ll continue to float above his weaknesses, defying gravity, until Washington suffers an uncharacteristic spasm of humility, kneels in penance, and acknowledges it has to change.
Alex Castellanos is a Republican strategist, a founder of Purple Strategies and a political analyst for ABC News.