Over at Right Wisconsin, editor Collin Roth gently nudges conservatives tempted to succumb to the siren song of the Trump away from the bombastic billionaire’s fiery, alas empty, rhetoric. He starts by commiserating with the anger of conservative voters:
The economy recovered without really recovering. The world feels more dangerous and unpredictable than its been in some time. Leaders in Washington are deadlocked while major issues go untouched. The rule of law is ignored while a law of rules strangles everything that moves in red tape. The national debt balloons, student loan debt soars, and American cities are touched with violence and protest.
But rage and frustration don’t win. Just ask the recallers here in Wisconsin.
Roth connects some important dots. In describing Scott Walker’s “aggressively normal” background and positive demeanor, he contrasts the governor sharply with Trump, who is outrageous, bombastic, and until very recently an outspoken liberal and Clinton supporter. This is a fact, and it’s one that Trump supporters are willfully ignoring (supporters many of whom just four years ago eschewed Mitt Romney for his support of state-level “Romneycare”). Perhaps Trump supporters are mainly interested in being entertained, which Trump does as second nature.
Just ask another bombastic billionaire Trump knows well who we love to hate but who we’d never want as president, Vince McMahon.
Trump’s on-the-record support of abortion, universal healthcare, and the Clintons is his most incandescent difference with Walker, whose policies are like sledgehammer blows to the edifice of progressivism in its very birthplace, Wisconsin.
The picture, though, needs broadening. To bring in historical context, there is no doubt that events both within and without America’s borders are coalescing into a very ugly and dangerous set of circumstances just a few years down the road. But storm clouds have gathered in America’s path before, and we’ve always managed to pick the right leader at the right time. The Founders. Lincoln. FDR (I held my nose, but read on…). Reagan.
Great American leaders who shepherded the country through the greatest challenges and led us to our greatest achievements were universally happy warriors. Take Lincoln, for example. A lawyer-poet and humble scion of the dirty frontier, Lincoln used self-deprecating humor, cheerful anecdotes, and a “charity for all, malice toward none” magnanimity to win the White House and forge a “new birth of freedom” for the continent.
FDR famously said “All we have to fear is fear itself” and held “fireside chats” designed to put the American people at ease and whose 1932 campaign slogan was “Happy days are here again.” Notably, it wasn’t a Trumpian denoucement like, America is in one hell of a shit storm, and it’s Wall Street and our incompetent loser leaders who did this.
More recently, Reagan won in a massive landslide twice thanks to his storytelling, asskicking grandpa routine (not to mention the spectacular success of his policies). The Gipper used all the same qualities in communication as Abe along with a bludgeoning foreign policy that contained precisely zero political correctness to forge an economic revival and precipitate the collapse of our decades-long enemy, global communism.
Americans want leaders with records of success. Conservatives want a contrast with the jello-spined, politically correct coward who is currently in the Oval. But we also want to be entertained – to be made to feel, rather than just to think, thus the rise of Trump, and for that matter, the mini-rise of no-nonsense Carly Fiorina. In the absence of a leader who will make us feel better about the future, Marco Rubio’s efforts notwithstanding, some will zombishly stagger toward the voice that makes us feel angry (Trump), a category into which economically illiterate crypto-commies who populate The Left also do, in the opposite direction, when they thrust their “Feel The Bern” stanchions into the heavy air of a Bernie Sanders diatribe/rally.
In February, I suggested the Walker campaign stays on simmer to avoid the Price-Is-Right-Cliffhanger treatment in which the little yodeling dude falls off the cliff and the contestant’s dreams are crushed. It appears he has. Now, the time has come for Walker to slowly dial up the rhetoric and grab some more mass-media attention. But the rhetoric shouldn’t be Trumpish, it should be Reaganesque.
From Reagan’s staccato “Tear down this wall” that reminds us of hammers hitting graffiti-strewn concrete, to “Morning in America” and “Evil Empire,” or even Lincoln’s admonition that slaves are “Men, not mere merchandise,” one thing Walker does not do well that great leaders of previous eras have is ditch facts and figures and use penetrating language.
We have to win with ideas. We have to win with our hearts. We have to prove that we care. And we have to believe that our ideas and our policies will strengthen America and provide freedom and prosperity for all – including a lot of voters who don’t vote Republican.
He’s right–and Walker can do just that, if he uses a sharper and longer rhetorical knife.