by Rod D. Martin
September 17, 2015
Most important political fact of the week: Trump won. “Huge.” Which is more than a little disconcerting, since he also showed a complete lack of the knowledge required to conduct American foreign policy.
Nevertheless, win he did. In the (admittedly unscientific) Drudge poll, at the time of this writing Trump has 52.47% — and more importantly, a whopping 325,847 votes – to his nearest rival (Carly Fiorina’s) 21.48% (and 133,392). To properly appreciate those numbers, “inevitable front-runner” Jeb Bush has 1.23%, for a total vote count of 7,637.
Someone will inevitably email me to say that Trump has rigged the poll, ala Ron Paul. Well maybe. But if he has, why can’t Jeb Bush find more than 7,637 people to do the same? (For the answer to that, read my column from July 25).
While answering that question, it might be worth noting that the “Paulbots” have abandoned Rand Paul (4.3%, 26,772). But more noteworthy still is the rise of a very particular outsider, Carly Fiorina. Anyone who watched her last night knows that she was as shockingly specific – on every topic under Heaven – as The Donald was vague. She got the best of her exchange with Trump over her time at HP, and was dominant while ladylike much of the night. She will be a real threat to Ben Carson’s number two status going forward.
Without belaboring points you can read elsewhere, it is important to state that Ted Cruz had an excellent night: he was by far the most statesmanlike of the group, the most conservative on all points, and no less in command of detail than Fiorina. Chris Christie had a great night too: if we had more of these debates he might rise over time (as did Newt). Mike Huckabee was stellar on abortion and religious liberty, but just couldn’t ever break through. Those who’ve written off Walker are likely right. Those who’ve written off Rubio got a surprise last night. And those who’ve pumped Kasich got exactly what Kasich has been delivering for 25 years: the reincarnation of Bob Dole and John McCain.
So how did Donald Trump win? Well, blame it on the Republican Establishment, who are getting a “heaping helping” of irony, to wit, our second most important political fact of the week: more debates are better.
The conventional wisdom says the opposite, but as is so often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. Detractors say 2011’s Republican debates became a reality show, but they miss the point that such truth as there is in that complaint is actually good: we got to know the candidates, we got to know their styles and their positions, we got to see how they work with and against one another over time.
If your only aim is to cynically package an inauthentic, contrived product, more scrutiny may well be “a disaster.” But if you want the public to make an intelligent choice about who should lead them, if you want to see if whether a “known quantity” – such as Rick Perry last time – is really as known as we think, more debates matter. And anyway, today authentic trumps packaged every time.
The unspoken but actual complaint of the Republican Establishment is that the process just described kept Mitt Romney – their chosen one – on his toes for a whole year. He had to actually say things that weren’t soundbites, and he had to face real rivals who otherwise could have been dismissed because they had no money. Newt Gingrich ultimately became the choice of the people – scandalous! – and only lost when Romney was able to outspend him 5-1 in Florida. Without the debates, he’d have gotten three votes.
More debates meant less Establishment control. So they took over the process and rigged it for Jeb Bush.
None of their calculations included a Donald Trump. Trump cannot be outspent, and the only way to beat him is to get him to show himself unqualified. He flirted with it briefly last night, with his unprovoked swipe at Rand Paul at the outset, and with the juvenile back-and-forth that followed. But he recovered, and that’s that, because most likely, there won’t be enough additional debates between now and January to trip him up.
The establishment can never conceive of its own defeat (other than its pretty consistent defeat come November), and so it cannot imagine primary debates as a meaningful vetting process. But the rest of us can. Frontrunners rose and fell last time because they tended not to handle their status well. This time, in a process designed to ensure Jeb Bush could coast to victory on a sea of money, a fine mind and decent presence, he is now faced with harsh realities: vastly less money than the frontrunner, twice as many opponents as he imagined possible, and no way to stand out from the crowd.
The only beneficiary of this is the man who needs to be made to stand and deliver once a week from now until Iowa. As our British cousins would say, the Establishment was too clever by half. And that’s why Donald Trump, having survived a foreign policy debate he should have lost, is very likely to be the next President of the United States.
But what about the Democrats, you ask? And that brings us to our third most important political fact of the week: a Washington Post-ABC poll finds that Hillary is down 29 points among women.
Yes, you heard that correctly. In eight weeks, the inevitable first female President is down from 71% to 42% among Democrat women, in a poll conducted by two liberal news organs.
It’s not quite time to put a fork in her. But it’s hard to see how she rights herself. And with Sanders now ahead in both Iowa and New Hampshire and Biden waiting in the wings, this year could get a lot more interesting yet.
Finally, the most important political fact of the millennium is that, on this day in 1787, 39 brilliant men signed the biggest breakthrough in human governance in all of time to this point, the United States Constitution.
The left is increasingly open in its hatred for that document and its framers. But the left’s intelligentsia opposes it because it makes the sort of radical nationalizations Clement Atlee imposed virtually impossible; and the left’s rank and file opposes it because they’ve been told to, without benefit of meaningful civics teaching that could help them form an independent opinion. No one explains, for instance, how the Founders were supposed to craft a document that the states would ratify that abolished slavery; likewise, no one explains how drafting a document no one would ratify would have helped anything or anyone.
What is certain is that the U.S. Constitution created an order in which liberty could prevail, in which self-governance could exist without threat of the tyranny of the majority, in which states and localities could govern themselves without the stultifying one-size-fits-all authoritarianism of empire. It also gave us an orderly manner of amendment, so that changing times could be accommodated: when, for instance, the view of the majority of the Founders prevailed, slavery was indeed abolished. And to be quite honest, most of the amendments enacted this past century have done more to harm than to help: the Founders got most things right not just for their time but for all time, at least so far.
It is to the Founders that we may attribute much of what has been called American Exceptionalism. They created a system that properly took account of man’s corruption, and at every point balanced men and institutions against one another so that they would have to cooperate, could never dominate. The result has been more liberty, innovation and human flourishing than anywhere or at any time in the history of the world.
God willing, we are only just beginning.
Rod D. Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, is a technology entrepreneur, futurist, hedge fund manager, and professor. Fox Business News calls him a “tech guru”, Britain’s Guardian labeled him a “philosopher-capitalist”, and Gawker describes him as a “brilliant nonconformist.” He was a senior member of PayPal’s pre-IPO startup team and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy.