Three truths fuel Donald Trump.
One, Barack Obama is the Dr. Frankenstein of the supposed Trump monster.
If a charismatic, Ivy League-educated, landmark president who entered office with unprecedented goodwill and both houses of Congress on his side could manage to wreck the Democratic Party while turning off 52 percent of the country, then many voters feel that a billionaire New York dealmaker could hardly do worse.
If Obama had ruled from the center, dealt with the debt, addressed radical Islamic terrorism, dropped the politically correct euphemisms, and pushed tax and entitlement reform rather than Obamacare, Trump might have little traction.
A boring Hillary Clinton and a staid Jeb Bush would likely be replaying the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush – with Trump as a watered-down version of third-party outsider Ross Perot.
But America is in much worse shape than in 1992. And Obama has proved a far more divisive and incompetent president than George H.W. Bush.
Little is more loathed by a majority of Americans than sanctimonious PC gobbledygook and its disciples in the media. And Trump claims to be PC’s symbolic antithesis.
Making Machiavellian Mexico pay for a border fence or ejecting rude and interrupting Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference is no more absurd than allowing more than 300 sanctuary cities to ignore federal law by sheltering undocumented immigrants. Is it sober and judicious of the Obama administration to ignore immigration laws and effectively open the southern border wide to all comers?
Putting a hold on the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees is no more illiberal than welcoming into American communities tens of thousands of unvetted foreign nationals from terrorist-ridden Syria. Would the Obama administration allow a mass entrance of persecuted Middle East Christians or displaced Ukrainians?
In terms of messaging, is Trump’s crude bombast any more radical than Obama’s teleprompted scripts?
Trump’s ridiculous view of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sort of “Art of the Deal” geostrategic partner is no more silly than Obama insulting Putin as Russia gobbles up former Soviet republics with impunity.
Trump’s confusions are reminiscent of Obama’s own, though Trump knows how to pronounce the word “corpsman,” and that there are not 57 states.
Obama callously dubbed his own grandmother a “typical white person,” introduced the nation to the racist and anti-Semitic rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and petulantly wrote off small-town Pennsylvanians as near-Neanderthal “clingers.” Did Obama lower the bar for Trump’s disparagements?
Certainly, Obama peddled a slogan, “hope and change,” that was as empty as Trump’s “make America great again.”
Two, the Republican establishment also jolted Trump to life.
Trump supporters apparently don’t believe that Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street or Republican Party grandees offer many antidotes to Obamism.
Republicans who play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules don’t seem to have the belly to deal with the $10 trillion in additional debt accumulated during the Obama administration; out-of-control entitlement spending; chaos in the Middle East; the empowerment of the Islamic State, Iran, Russia and China; the deterioration of racial relations; and political correctness gone wild.
Three, Trump is a nihilist, but he is a canny nihilist unlike any we have seen in recent campaigns.
In about a day, Trump wrecked Hillary Clinton’s planned “war on women” talking points that had helped to win the election for Obama in 2012. Given the modern-day recognition of microaggressions and the implosion of onetime national icon Bill Cosby, a front-line feminist warrior like Mrs. Clinton cannot get away with enabling her husband Bill Clinton, a philanderer and accused sexual harasser.
“If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women’s card on me, she’s wrong,” Trump declared recently.
Street fighter Trump has an uncanny ability to spot these apparent contradictions. Jeb Bush is a good person who really was “low-energy.” Trump’s unkind label stuck.
Politicians really do pander in shameless fashion to big-money donors. Who better than Trump to know that? He claims he used to lavish cash on lots of them.
Trump does not play by any political rules because he has always made up or bought his own rules. Such a wheeler-dealer is no more bothered by an anchorman’s raised brow than he was by a banker’s frown.
How does the establishment derail an out-of-control train for whom there are no gaffes, who has no fear of The New York Times, who offers no apologies for speaking what much of the country thinks – and who apparently needs neither money from Republicans nor politically correct approval from Democrats?
Victor Davis Hanson is a Tribune Content Agency columnist. He is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of “The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.”