As Gandalf said of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, from the beginning of the campaign I’ve said that Donald Trump has a role to play in this national debate about who is fit to be president of the United States, but more importantly, who is fit to decide. Both issues seem to be up in the air.
This has nothing to do with who will be the next president of the United States, actually, but who will frame what the contestants for that job can say are the real issues, the voters or the media? Only in this case the “drive-by media” seems to be FoxNews, not the usual suspects on the Left. And Fox’s bishop seems to be Charles Krauthammer.
In the past I’ve invited you to visit Wikipedia’s Loyalist of the American Revolution page, where are listed the most prominent Tory families, and therefore the most prominent American colonial families in the 1770s. With the possible exception of William Franklin, Ben’s illegitimate son, or Thomas Fairfax, (the only man in the colonies with a gen-yu-ine peerage, a real baron, his lordship), you wouldn’t recognize a single name on the list….even though they were all the crème de la crème of colonial society. They, and not those 56 delegates sitting in Philadelphia, were the American Establishment in June, 1776.
Then everything changed in July..
I’m trying to give Donald Trump a little context here, both his persona and his words, while at the same time, keeping those two components separate. (For an historical analogy, consider that at some point after the Revolution Americans had to rethink Thomas Paine, for he found our experiment in democracy here was not radical enough for his tastes, so ran off to France, no longer a patriot-celebrity. Tom Paine was the American Revolution’s Gollum, unaffiliated with any faction or clique, marching to the beat of his own drum. But we’re damned glad to have had him, at the right place and right time, for, Oh My, what his pamphlet, Common Sense did to propel the cause of liberty in America among the people…more than any other writing, except maybe the Bible.
So, as with all outliers who impact a movement without really being part of it, the measure of Donald Trump is how others see him, and in the process, how they stretch the truth themselves while schooling us about his own stretches.. Today Donald Trump has become a sounding board for the great cancer that afflicts modern America; class and elitism, which brings us right back to Archdeacon Krauthammer and his disdain for his own parishioners.
In scrolling down that list of Famous American Tories, ignoring the names you wouldn’t recognize anyway, just mentally note their occupations, the stations in life they generally enjoyed. Many were high clergymen, (Church of England), but also college presidents (most of them also clergymen), assorted ranking Crown civil servants and several military leaders who formed various Loyalist militias, giving a “civil war’, neighbor-against-neighbor taste to the Revolution modern historians generally ignore, since they were not outcome-determinative, but which made post-Revolution reconciliation with their neighbors impossible, i.e. remaining in America was impossible for Tories. (There is a city in Nova Scotia, St John, where the Crown provided land grants for 30,000 Tories who had been dispossessed in the War. They fly the Union Jack to this day.)
The last Tory president of The College of William & Mary was an Anglican bishop named John Cramm. He stepped down in 1776 because of those silly Patriots and their Declaration of War against the Crown, including some his own W&M students. In fact, William and Mary was the alma mater of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration, so one has to wonder what those faculty-teachers and edifiers of the great thinkers and philosophies of natural rights of men would think… when their students would take what they taught them and take a new idea about liberty in a totally different direction than that that reflected by the English Crown?
Where was the respect for their betters, their teachers? Were their students simply getting uppity, and, (as they say in the South) “speaking out of school”, or had they lost their way? Did they sleep through the “Divine Right of Kings” section listed in the syllabus?.
Charles Krauthammer has said certain things about Donald Trump for which he cannot walk back. It’s like someone at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 referring to Alexander Hamilton as an “adulteress’ bastard son”. A duel would likely result. But in doing so, Krauthammer has also denigrated the words of Trump, and by direct inference, the alleged low intelligence of the rubes who seem to swallow those words.
I’ve seen those “rubes”, thanks to some photos from an attorney friend who attended Trump’s Phoenix speech. They looked pretty up-scale to me, more like CPA’s than hicks, not a bibbed overall or mullet in the queue. But true, they sure seemed to be thinking impure Trump-thoughts, many of which they likely deduced from Dr Krauthammer.
And here’s where the rubber meets the road. Is Krauthammer’s disdain for Trump-the-man purely class-based, or are Trump’s words equally class-based, appealing to lower minds who no longer pay any heed to the better minds? I’m trying to reconstruct in my mind how Dr Krauthammer might react when many of the many millions of his viewers (who are not necessarily extraordinary students in the academic sense) regurgitates back to him one of his gems of wisdom in a boorish and pedestrian way. If he did not intend for people of ordinary good sense to act on his words perhaps he should move to MSNBC, where no such persons can be found.
Dr Krauthammer may not be able to walk back his demeaning condescension, intended or not, of these voters, and that is a serious misjudgment on his part, in my view, especially at this precarious time of history. As explained here, and my list of Notable Tories, a verity I think he misses is that members of the Establishment never seem to be able to imagine themselves having to cut kindling in a crude cabin for a wood fire in Nova Scotia after having a servant do it for them for twenty years in Boston.
It’s one of the eternal vagaries proved by hundreds of years of history… when great teachers no longer pay attention to the meaning of their own words.
What happens next, as my favorite Kansas deputy sheriff, Festus Haggen, used to say, “That remains to be saw”. Such are the vagaries of history.
(As the Trump saga continues with his attacks on Sen John McCain, he continues to illuminate the demagoguery of others who demonize his demagoguery. As the world turn.)