“And you may ask yourself –
Well, how did I get here?”
— David Byrne/Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”
Maybe you don’t know who Grover Norquist is – but some call him “the most powerful Republican” or even “the most powerful man in America.” He’s an anti-tax activist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, and the guy behind the “No New Taxes” pledge that practically every Republican candidate for elected office must swear to, an oath only slightly less weighty than that of a Greek god swearing upon the River Styx.
(Side note: Grover and I were in the same undergraduate class at Harvard College, but I never met him in person. We ran in different circles. I was into theater; he hung out with The Guys Who Were Obviously Destined to Rule the World.)
Anyway: Grover said something really interesting back in 2012, something which I think might help explain the Donald Trump phenomenon. Here’s the quote:
“We are not auditioning for Fearless Leader. We don’t need a President to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. … We just need a President to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate. … Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.” (Source: Daily Kos, http://bit.ly/2aT5pSY )
So a few weeks ago, I sent a tweet to Grover: “@GroverNorquist So, have you actually seen @realDonaldTrump wield a pen? Are his digits acceptably functional?”
And here is Grover’s verbatim response: “@smendler Right number of digits. Some say they are small, but that is okay.”
Now I’m not going to say that Grover’s statement explicitly confirmed my suspicions; you can judge that for yourself. But I submit that Donald Trump is exactly the kind of candidate Grover and his compadres had in mind – someone with no policy ideas of his own, but who’d be perfectly willing to sign whatever the (GOP-dominated) Congress might send his way.
“But wait!” you might say. “What about all that panic, all that ‘Never Trump’ stuff? What about all that opposition from the ‘GOP Establishment’ before the convention?”
Here is becomes useful to know that Donald Trump has some experience with the world of professional wrestling. In that world, there is the concept of “putting someone over” – that is, making the audience sympathetic and supportive towards a certain wrestler (sometimes called the ”face” or “babyface”). Traditionally, this has done by the wrestler’s opponents in the ring (the “heels”) making them look good – but in recent years, some of the major wrestling promotions have used a different approach, designing storylines where the opponent is not another wrestler, but the “management” itself.
I would suggest that by seeming to “resist” or be “panicked” by Trump’s rise, the “Establishment” sought to create an image of Trump as an “anti-elitist,’ a “maverick” who would “shake things up in Washington” – when of course, he’s nothing of the kind.
But it is beginning to become obvious that the GOP Establishment has overreached, as they have many times before. They have created a phenomenon that threatens to run out of their control. Or, as David Byrne might say:
“You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself –
MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?”