Let’s suppose there is this man in America. He is wealthy. He considers himself a “conservative guy” but he is not ideological. At one time or another in his past he has said he is in favor of a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on wealthier people, and even universal health care.
Yet, he cannot bring himself to self-identify as a Democrat. Given the alternatives available, he sees himself as a Republican.
For all that, he has never been politically active, other than voting and contributing to this or that candidate for one office or another. Still, he has been politically engaged. He is aware of what is going on in the political realm.
For some time he has become more and more concerned with the trend in American politics. Most especially, he has become dismayed by the effects of a growing stress on so-called “ideological purity” in the Republican Party.
He sees that process for what it is. It started as sloganeering to pander to anti-liberal and disaffected people to get their votes. The problem is, the party has been doing that for so long and has become so dependent on their votes that the people being pandered to have taken over the party.
Many people have, like our man, identified with the Republican Party for lack of a meaningful alternative. Within that group of people, many of them have chosen “the government” to be the target of their disaffection. For some of them, the very idea of governing has become evil incarnate.
Yet governing is, after all, an unavoidable aspect of the existence of a nation—or any community. For our man, governing is all about being pragmatic: “making deals.” That is why he is certain he would be good at it. All deals require compromise.
There are people who have joined with the Republican Party for whom compromise is intolerable. It is intolerable because it is the end of their feverish dream. In that dream they are publicly acknowledged as powerful people (by virtue of their membership in a powerful group). That’s the whole of it. Nothing follows: no policy, no program. Sustaining their dream-state is their only real goal. No matter what a compromise might gain, it is not the unadulterated display of power (however negatively manifested) that steadfastly refusing to comprise is.
Besides being wealthy, our man is also a celebrity. Almost every American knows who he is.
He realizes the value of name-recognition in politics. It is the same as a recognizable brand in business.
He decides, almost on a whim, to run for president. His goal is to capture the disgruntled people who are anti-liberal. If he can take that group away from the more ideologically extreme candidates, a more moderate, pragmatic candidate can emerge in the Republican Party to be its nominee for president.
To achieve his goal he will say anything. He will pander like no one has pandered in anyone’s memory.
It is imperative, however, that he never reveal the true nature of his candidacy. He can never admit that it was all a ruse, however well-intentioned it might be.
This somewhat-less-than-well-laid plan goes awry. It turns out that there are too many disaffected people, who are disaffected for too many reasons. For them, voicing their anger (used to hide their angst) by supporting him is more important than any other thing.
Rather than have created an opportunity for a more moderate candidate to emerge, he finds that he has become the epicenter of a political phenomenon. Irony of ironies, he has been captured by his intended captives in a wildly foreshortened version of the very process from which he had sought to free the Republican Party.
At the same time, the traditional powers in that party detest our man because he is successfully doing what he set out to do—if also more. He has laid bare the bait-and-switch pandering for votes that had become the sustenance of the party by taking it to its logical extreme—if not further. (What is most frightening is how many of his supporters would enthusiastically go in even further that direction.) In the process, he might have rent the Republican Party asunder.
He realizes he only has two choices: either stop the flow of events by disclosing his true aims or go with the flow. He chooses the latter. After all, he would rather a more pragmatic Democrat became president at his expense than for the craziness that has overtaken the Republican Party to continue.
If the foregoing were at all true, those of us who are not disaffected to the point of delirium might owe a great debt of gratitude to a man who sacrificed treasure and suffered abuse for the sake of the Republic—and could never acknowledge our thanks if they were offered.
On the other hand, he might have inadvertently supplied a template that someone with far more sinister motives could use to rend our Republic asunder.