Your remarks about politicians being “honestly contradictory” are certainly interesting. For example, during the campaign, Trump said he’d build a wall across the US-Mexico border, and furthermore that Mexico would pay for it. At the time I assumed he meant what he said. After all, building a wall is a simple matter of assembling some building materials and the will to build it.
So I found Trump’s first assertion credible.
As for forcing Mexico to pay for it, I found that to be incredible.
That and all such windy rhetoric from the Trump campaign often made me wonder: Trump is a savvy and successful businessman. But is he only an amateur politician? Is he only a green beginner — a political illiterate — reduced to flamboyant bombast instead of the usual platitudes, this in his attempt to distinguish himself from the crowd of practiced candidates? In other words, were Trump’s speeches no better than barroom bluster filled with locker room insights?
Now that he is President, Trump has informed the world that by a “wall” he means a barrier of various kinds. Okay. After all, a barrier might be nothing more than a chalk line on the ground — a chalk line well-guarded. Such lines exist in football. And they’re certainly well-guarded! Consider what happens in those ferocious pile-ups!
As for Mexico paying for the wall or some chalk, that couldn’t happen without Mexico’s consent. And absent such consent, it could only happen with a US invasion of Mexico followed by a levy of war “reparations.” Meanwhile, Trump has indicated that, yes, Mexico will indeed pay for the barrier — but only indirectly through a series of tariffs.
In hindsight I can see that Trump was speaking rhetorically for effect. And the effect was of him getting elected. Now that Trump is President, he can realistically implement the goals the populace voted for. But most of those goals are complex in ways the people didn’t appreciate at the time. In other words, the electorate voted for the simple cartoons of sophisticated policies because the technical explanations of them wouldn’t have held the people’s attention. And political attention in America, as we all know, is shorter than a sound bite or similar sandwich portion.
So, yes, I can accept Trump’s method.
But there’s a much bigger issue that your remarks allude to. And that is: What is the nature of political speech in general? This isn’t a question now of how forthright or indirect a politician is, or even whether he or she is honest or fraudulent. It’s a question of the fundamental subject matter of politics.
That fundamental stuff isn’t ideals. And it isn’t principles. And it isn’t slogans like “Forward!” or “Freedom now!” Nor is it some sweet hopes for perpetual peace or any thick blueprints for permanent happiness.
The fundamental stuff of politics is power.
Of course that doesn’t mean political power must appear as brutal jackboot violence or caveman hunger grunts. Principles and civilities are usually — usually! — in place in civilization — when civilization is in place! — to shape and regulate the raw will to power. But power is what politics always is at heart — and always will be.
And yet Trump aide Michael Anton recently announced in an interview that the fundamental subject of politics is the good. The good — The Good! — was Plato’s conceptual cover-up of a robust, dangerous, and opportunity-rich reality. Well, we can deal with Plato another time, especially with his ominous so-called ideal “republic.” Meanwhile I think we can agree that the subject of power is power, whether human or electrical. And we can further agree that power is not “the good,” whatever that proxy god of philosophy is supposed to mean, and wherever it‘s supposed to be located in Plato.
But now you might wonder: Am I suggesting that political power, since it isn’t the good, is bad? No! Politic power is no more a bad thing than electrical power is. Electricity is only good and bad in the way it’s used: good for toasters and bad for shocks. In current politics and current transmission, good things are the results of power — domestic tranquility and breakfast toast — but not the stuff of politics itself. The great Federalists — Hamilton and Madison — knew this and said so when discussing the love of power at the heart of political disputes. (The Federalist, a.k.a. The Federalist Papers, #15)
Here then is my concern with political euphemisms — at least when they’re used too often. If an electorate — a public — a citizen body — is unaware of what government is really about, or if that people wishes to remain ignorant of reality, then its world view will be a cartoon consciousness of the universe. That nation will see the world as a picture of huggable nice guys and shifty-eyed bad ’uns. Such “looney-toons” might make for agreeable campaign chatter over rubber chicken or fussy finger foods. But reality isn’t made of such simplicities. Only delusions are. And from such simple delusions come the “celebratory” goose steps and “progressive” gulags of simple solutions.
Of course we can’t expect a candidate to risk not winning an election by using his rhetorical opportunities with the public to teach “Civics 101” or “Intro to Reality.”
But a politician might do this at least occasionally once he’s in office. And today this is easier than ever as the new personal media bypass the old institutionalized news sources. Indeed, Trump is already experimenting with direct-to-the-citizen social media on a regular basis.
Meanwhile the educators of America — the parents, the teachers, the professors, the religious ministers, and all the leaders of America’s innumerable civic organizations — should be teaching the citizenry of America the facts of life, of politics, and the universe.
Of course, that assumes they know them!