Source: Rick Marschall

An odd aspect of this year’s odd political climate is the fact that many predictable campaign smears are not being denied, but often accepted with almost gleeful guilty pleas.  Democrats virtually admit that they regard the Trump presidency as illegitimate, that “collusion” and impeachment efforts were mere strategies in a righteous war, that inconsistency is an acceptable tool they are entitled to employ.

Similarly, one of the remarkable features of President Trump’s personality is that his response to many attacks is, practically, to say, “Bring it on.”  He seems to revel in incoming fire.  Arrogant?  He does not deny.  Unpredictable?  He calls it a strong point.  Unfocused?  He would call it multi-focused.  Rude?  We have seen it: he shrugs.  Bring it on.

One word that cannot justly be laid at his political feet is “unsuccessful.”

Since I was a child, a long time ago, I often heard adults say at every election that they were going to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Even in pre-pundit days, I would ask, “Aren’t you admitting that you still are voting for evil?”  Usually, only sighs were the answers, which means that the paradigm has ruled in American politics for years.

Cynicism, as an attitude, seldom is polled, but it is an over-arching and common factor among voters — of every age and race, both sexes, every class, and every geographical region.  It is part of a downward spiral that is fueled by, and feeds, cultural ennui and the disintegration of many institutions — political institutions chief among them.  A contemporary incarnation of Edward Gibbon plausibly might discern negative effects of prosperity, or the decline of religion, or a corrosive stage in the life-cycle of nation-states.  Whatever the causes, the effects are many and sadly identifiable.  And the symptoms must be addressed.

America has experienced toxic political environments and bitterly contested elections in the past, but there is a distinct feeling that things seem different today.

Things seem different today because things are different today.  Political issues generally are unchanged — with different labels, emphases, and aromas — but the major difference is Donald Trump.  If Trump had not appeared on the scene, America might have had to invent him.  Life would have continued, but possibly at a pace of greater acceleration, a greater leftward drift, and the gray miasma of wars on foreign soil and encroachment of the homeland by foreign forces would have plodded on.

In Ronald Reagan’s early months in office, he enjoyed a honeymoon with the general public and with the Establishment.  His conservative prescriptions initially were welcome, possibly in recognition that the liberal, and regulatory state needed to be saved from some of its excesses.  It did not last.

Likewise, Donald Trump, whether from a solid philosophical base or inchoate instincts — it makes no difference — applied similar palliatives, and with a vengeance.  Future historians, in a decade or perhaps a century, will observe with an astonishment free of current prejudices how radical President Trump has been.  Revolutionary, really.

His specific actions are trees that obscure focus on the forest.  In three and a half years, he has virtually undone the “successes” of President Obama’s eight years.  He has transformed the Republican Party from its traditional white-collar country-club identity into the blue-collar party of working people.  Amid foreign-policy “adventurism” solemnly warned against as suicidal and incendiary, he has withdrawn from bad treaties, defeated foes once regarded as intractable, and brokered actual peace in the Middle East.  He revived an economy and industrial base — and repeats the feat in the face of an unexpected plague.  He proudly has ministered to the frustrated ambitions of minorities.  He champions the causes of Christians and the unborn and home-schoolers and manufacturers and gun rights advocates and frackers and drillers and small entrepreneurs…

And so on.  Court appointments.  Over-regulated small businesses.  Harried police and responders.  Military members; their families; veterans.  He has chased the Capital-E Establishment from the Republican Party.  When the mutinous moderates, the Neocons, the suits and uniforms of the corporations and perpetual-war councils realize they have migrated to the party of socialism and abortion…they will be very lonely, indeed.

President Trump has effected this paradigm shift almost overnight.  The definition of “conservatism” as foot-dragging liberalism has been excised from the political lexicon.

Despite the wardrobes and gold-plated faucets and country clubs of the Trumps’ former life, there is little doubt that he would feel more at home with a beer — if he drank beer — or at a backyard barbecue or union local’s picnic with workers than on a yacht, hobnobbing with other billionaires.  Maybe one parvenu is sufficient in Trump World settings.

These signs of an astonishing revolution can be translated thus: Donald Trump has kept his promises.

Almost every politician hungry for re-election will tout “Promises Made; Promises Kept.”  But Donald Trump has — with seeming insouciance — delighted his base by keeping promises he only hinted at — that is, he has extended the specifics and generalities of his policies to levels that have enthralled his base as much as they have enraged his enemies.  For instance, Reagan spoke to pro-life rallies by microphone from a mile away; Trump mixes it up in person.

It is rare enough, virtually nonexistent in these cynical times, that presidents keep a promise or two.  “Throw the base a bone.”  But Trump has made a sacred practice of keeping his promises, and then promises more.  And delivers.

That is, in the end, the most remarkable thing about his persona and his presidency.

And part of the promise-keeping is the fact — resented by enemies and felt by supporters — that he “has their number.”  The enemies cannot get over that truth, and for that reason they must not merely defeat him, but destroy him.