Trump Is A Rump, But He Has A Point

Trump Is A Rump, But He Has A Point

I’ll vote for anybody you put up against Donald Trump, but neither do I believe that everything he says is untrue or without merit. In fact, he’s hit on one big true idea our society has lost.
Bill James
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Let me begin by telling you what I think about Donald Trump. I stress that I am not trying to tell you what you should think about The Donald; I am merely telling you what I think, how I react to him.

I have despised Trump for 35 or 40 years, however long he has been a national figure, and I don’t intend to give this up now, or after he becomes president. Of all of the people who are running for president or have now dropped out of the race, Trump is absolutely the last one I would vote for.

I could summarize the reasons for this in five bullet points:

(1) I believe Trump is more interested in what is good for Donald Trump than in what is good for America. Not that the same could not be said about many of the other candidates, but it seems to me that this has to be more of a concern in the case of a man who has spent 30 years plastering his name to everything he could put his name on.

(2) I don’t think Trump’s background in business prepares him for the challenges of the presidency.

(3) I think Trump’s hard-ass approach to problems would be very dangerous for our nation in the presidency, and might have terrible consequences for all of us.

(4) I intensely dislike self-promotion. Trump is the nation’s most notorious self-promoter—and was before he decided to run for president.

(5) I don’t believe Trump is sincere in 99 percent of what he says. I think almost everything he says is either an outright lie, or something he is merely saying because it is convenient for him at the moment.

We haven’t had a president since Harry Truman who mocked people, a president who was openly rude and vulgar, and I am not anxious to bring that back to the Oval Office. Also, although I stress that I don’t know, I doubt that Trump is likely to win the election.

There Aren’t Enough Morons to Elect Trump

I would like to see the Republicans nominate somebody who could actually win, not that I necessarily am going to vote for him. I would just like to have better options, just as I would like to have better options in buying an automobile or a gallon of milk. I would like to see Chevy produce better automobiles; it doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy a Chevy.

A candidate can win by dominating the moron vote because it only takes about one-seventh of the total population to take the ‘lead’ under those circumstances.

I don’t think that Trump can win, frankly, because I don’t think there are enough morons to elect him. A certain percentage of the American public is just morons; that’s the way it is. When you divide the public in two then divide the voters in one of those halves among five candidates or more, a candidate can win by dominating the moron vote because it only takes about one-seventh of the total population to take the “lead” under those circumstances.

But when you’re talking about needing 51 percent of the whole population, rather than needing 30 percent of half of the population, you run out of morons. I hope we will. I hope Trump will lose, because I hope he runs out of morons to vote for him.

Again, I stress that I am not trying to tell you what you should think about Donald Trump. I am merely telling you what I think about him.

The Attention Effect

Also, I resent that the cable networks have let Trump sucker them into playing his game for the last eight months. What the networks want, of course, is viewers. Trump has been a public figure for 40 years and a reality TV star for 20 years, and he is much, much savvier about attracting viewers than any of the other Republicans who have been seeking the office.

They are dancing to Trump’s tune like a bunch of rats being trained to ring the bell for a morsel of cheese.

Because he is so much better at attracting viewers, the networks have him on, constantly; you can’t get away from the egomaniac son of a bitch. But the networks have done this, oblivious to the consequence. The consequence is that, just as there is an attention effect in Hall of Fame voting, there is an attention effect in political voting. Trump gets a grossly disproportionate share of the attention, and thus a disproportionate share of the idiot vote.

I resent that the networks don’t have the tiny modicum of self-discipline that would be required to realize they are dancing to Trump’s tune like a bunch of rats being trained to ring the bell for a morsel of cheese.

Yet Donald Trump Is On to Something

Now, having said all of that, having hopefully dispelled any notion that I am a closet Trump supporter, let me speak on behalf of Donald Trump, or at least Trump’s supporters, for the rest of this article. What Trump is advocating, I believe, is courage; not that this is all that he is advocating, but this is a critical part of what he is advocating.

Trump has had the courage to say and do things that people tell him he can’t do. We need that in a president.

I believe in courage. I am all for politicians displaying courage, and I think Trump has done a better job of displaying real courage than anyone else running this year. Trump has had the courage to say and do things that people tell him he can’t do. We need that in a president. We need somebody who is willing to stand up and say “You don’t make the rules for me. I make the rules for me.” I applaud Trump for being that person.

Also, Trump is advocating real democracy in a way that the other candidates are not, and in a way that is too subtle for most of the talking heads to understand. We have in this great nation a class of professional do-gooders who have made a lot of rules for the rest of us, and who have, with the knowing co-operation of the media, forced the rest of us to comply with their rules. Most of us never voted upon or agreed to these rules. Some of these rules are good and proper, and some are useless and counter-productive.

Trump is saying “screw you” to the professionally self-righteous and to those people who are trying to force him to obey these rules that the nation has been forced to accept by leaders who lacked the courage to stand up to it all.

The Rules of the Self-Righteous Are Choking Us

The rules to which I refer are emanations and outgrowths of completely legitimate rules (and laws) that were adopted for sound reasons. Let’s start with racism. Indeed, these rules do generally start with opposition to racism. It used to be, in my lifetime, that one could express open hostility toward people of other races. It used to be that you could use racial slurs on radio or TV, and use them in the most pejorative way, not teasing or mocking but carrying real menace. You can’t do that now.

Why are we not permitted to say what is true?

That’s great. In no sense should we retreat from that. Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dictum that freedom of speech does not extend to the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater may reasonably be extended to mean that no one has an inherent right to say disparaging things about a group of people while those people are in real danger of suffering serious consequences from being treated unfairly by our society.

But extend that idea out without resistance, extend it outward without respect for its natural boundaries and without any respect for the other valid principles with which it may come in conflict, and here is where you wind up. A couple of years ago I described Gino Cimoli, a 1950s outfielder, as. . . I forget what the words were, but it focused on him being Italian. He was super-Italian, actually. He was part of the same Bay-Area Italian culture that gave us the DiMaggios, Ernie Lombardi, Billy Martin, Cookie Lavagetto, and many others. He dressed like he came straight out of “Goodfellas”: sunglasses, slicked-back hair, high-gloss shine on his shoes, and glittery suits.

But when I described him this way, I heard immediately from the self-righteous rules makers: No, no, no—you can’t characterize him by his ethnic origins. It’s racist stereotyping.

Well, but Gino Cimoli wasn’t ashamed of being Italian. He was extremely proud of it. He wanted to be Italian; he wanted everybody to know that he was Italian. You couldn’t miss it. And I hadn’t in any way insulted him by pointing it out. Why, then, are we not permitted to say what is true?

Anti-Discrimination Can’t Apply to Everything

It is wrong to extend the principles of anti-discrimination willy-nilly in this fashion. It is wrong for four reasons.

First, to do this implicitly equates telling Pollock jokes or making innocuous comments about Italians or Irish with the real harm that has been done to blacks, Native Americans, Jews, and gay people. What has been done to those victimized groups is not the same as teasing or even taunting. It is not the same, and it should not be treated as if it were the same, and it should not be regarded in the same way.

For you to make rules about what I can say assumes that you have to right to govern me without my consent.

Second, to do this extends a valid premise—that one should not discriminate against others based on their origins—beyond the point at which that valid premise comes into conflict with other equally valid premises.

Third, it tramples on the freedom of speech. It denies people the right to say what they have to say. For you to make rules about what I can say assumes that you have to right to govern me without my consent.

Fourth, this is turning us into a nation of whiners.

Petty story. A few years ago, when my son was in the seventh grade, he brought home from school a handout about peanut allergies. Many kids have peanut allergies, of course, which is a very serious condition from which 75 to 100 people die every year. So you can’t bring peanut butter sandwiches to school, and you can’t bring treats to school to share with your class on your birthday or Valentine’s Day, because somebody will forget and bring something with peanut oil in it. That’s fine; make whatever rules you have to make to keep the kids with peanut allergies safe.

But then, there was also a paragraph about kids being teased about having peanut allergies, so each kid was required to sign a pledge stating that he wouldn’t tease the kids who had peanut allergies. What?

You Boss Yourself, I’ll Boss Myself

Let’s talk about, let’s say, lisping. Kids who talk with a lisp get teased about it. When I was in school, if my father had ever heard about me teasing the girl who had the bad lisp, believe me, I would have caught hell. If we had ever caught our kids teasing a classmate about lisping, they would have caught hell. It is not proper to do this, and it is not proper to tease kids about having a peanut allergy.

It is my perception—as it is the perception, I think, of almost all the Trump supporters—that we are becoming a nation of whiners.

But also, if I came home from school and complained to my father that the other kids were teasing me about, let’s say, wearing glasses held together by masking tape, it would be the understatement of the week to say that I was not going to receive a sympathetic hearing. I would have been told in an extremely direct manner to grow up and stop whining.

What exactly do you think you’re accomplishing when you try to ban that sort of thing, not by teaching proper behavior but by banning improper behavior? Do you really think that ends teasing among schoolkids? What it really does is create a nation of whiners. Oh, Mrs. Templeton, Sally is picking on me because I talk with a lisp. Oh, Mrs. Templeton, Johnny is picking on me because I’m short. Herman said something bad about me because I’m Polish.

It is my perception—as it is the perception, I think, of almost all the Trump supporters—that we are becoming a nation of whiners. When you try to make rules about how others treat you, you are always a victim. The solution to that is simple: you don’t make rules for how others treat you; you make rules for yourself. You make rules for yourself, and you teach those rules to your kids, but you don’t make rules for other families.

The Trump Principle: Stand Up for Yourself

The authors of the Constitution were dead wrong about many things, and they were right about many things. One of the things that they were right about was this issue. The Constitution doesn’t say that you have a right to be free from other people saying things you don’t want to hear. It says that you have a right to say whatever you want to say, and other people have to put up with that.

The self-righteous majority, aided and abetted by the media, has made de facto rules that have infringed on the right of free speech in ways that invade our daily lives.

The Constitution is a barrier to infringing your legal right to say whatever you want to say, but the self-righteous majority, aided and abetted by the media, has made de facto rules that have infringed on the right of free speech in ways that invade our daily lives. The Trump campaign, I think, is telling these people that they don’t make the rules because we’re tired of following their rules, and we’re not going to take it anymore. And I second the motion.

The basis of Trump’s campaign is not “conservatism,” it is the principle that you have to stand up for yourself. That’s what his whole campaign is about, I think: you have to stand up for yourself. Our politicians have to stand up for us. I don’t believe anyone has ever run a presidential campaign before based on this principle, and what Trump has done is to demonstrate exactly how powerful this is as an organizing principle for a political campaign.

Well, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the proposition that you have to stand up for yourself, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with making that proposition the centerpiece of your campaign. It is a completely valid point, and it is high time that somebody did this.

We’ve Lost the Virtue of Toughness

Trump tells us he is going to make America great again. I am not voting for Trump because I don’t believe that he has any idea how to make America great again, nor do I even necessarily believe that America, all things considered, was ever greater than it is now. It doesn’t appeal to me, but then, I have been a very fortunate person, and America as it is has been very good for me.

We despise toughness, not as individuals but as a collective, and we sympathize with whiners when we should ignore them.

But it appeals to other people, and I think I understand why it appeals. The slogan “make America great again” has two parts:

(1) It implies that America used to be something that it no longer is, and (2) It argues that the responsibility of the president is to stand up for America, and not to worry about what the Europeans or the Mexicans or the United Nations delegates think about this.

Trump is implicitly saying that we have lost touch with certain values that used to characterize America, and that is absolutely true. It is always true; every generation loses touch with certain virtues from the past, then re-discovers those virtues only after the consequence of losing them becomes visible.

We have lost touch with the virtue of toughness. We despise toughness, not as individuals but as a collective, and we sympathize with whiners when we should ignore them. The consequences of this are becoming visible, and they will become more visible until we realize that toughness is a real thing, a real virtue, and that we need more of it.

Standing Up for Yourself Is Good

The responsibility of our elected officials is to stand up for America, and we have had many failings in this regard. It is the responsibility of IBM officials to do what is best for IBM, and not to worry about how the people who run Microsoft feel about this. It is the responsibility of the NFL to do what is best for the NFL, and not to worry about what the NCAA thinks about this. It is the responsibility of the New York Yankees to do what is best for the New York Yankees, and not to worry about whether the Boston Red Sox fans are annoyed by this.

I’m not saying ‘screw the Europeans’ or ‘to hell with Asia,’ but that the United States’ president needs to do what is best for America.

This is not to say that IBM is good or that Microsoft is bad, and it is not to say that the NFL is good and that the NCAA is bad, and it is not to say that the Yankees are good and the Boston Red Sox are bad. It is to say that the system doesn’t work if the people who are running each part of the system don’t protect their own interests.

I’m not saying “screw the Europeans” or “to hell with Asia”; what I am saying is that the United States’ president needs to do what is best for America, without any concern whatsoever for what the Europeans or the Asians or the Mexicans think. I believe in the old phrase “tough shit” or, as we used to say to our kids about 14 times a day, “tough bananas.” (Sometimes we would say “tough cookies” or “tough toenails,” just for variety.) You don’t like Guantanamo? Tough shit. The rest of the world doesn’t approve of water boarding? Tough shit.

That, I think, is what Donald Trump is saying, mixed in with a lot of lies and half-truths and stupid self-promotion, but that’s the kernel of it. I’ll vote for anybody that you put up against him, but neither do I believe that everything he says is untrue or is without merit. He’s on to something. Hopefully somebody who isn’t The Donald will be smart enough to pick up on it.

This article is reprinted, with permission, from the author’s website.

Bill James is best known as a baseball writer and analyst, the author of "The Historical Baseball Abstract." He is also the author of the 2011 history of sensational crime stories, "Popular Crime."

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