UNFORTUNATELY, truly rational argument, even among the scientific community, has become something of a minority sport. In today’s democratic politics, rationality is rarely practiced. More often than not, driven on by the baying hounds of social media, politicians prefer to highlight vapid sentiment rather than engage in closely-argued debate.
When politicians stand up and tell an audience they “want to be clear,” it is almost a given that they are about to produce a statement of almost pure fudge, especially if this is in response to an awkward question they do not wish to answer.
It is small wonder that throughout Europe and North America, trust in politicians is so low. It was the contempt in which most US voters held their bipartisan and deeply polarized political establishment that opened the way for Donald Trump to become President of the United States. On Tuesday this unlikely leader, who has broken virtually every rule in Washington’s political playbook, formally announced his intention to run for a second term. On his current showing, it looks as if it will be very hard for the Democrats to choose from an already remarkably wide field of would-be candidates someone who can beat him.
There have been few presidents who have been so hated by the political establishment, which includes large swathes of the press and broadcasters. From the very moment, exactly four years ago this week, that he announced he was running to succeed Barack Obama as the next occupant of the Oval Office, the knives of America’s liberal establishment were out. Every piece of dirt and every species of mockery were used to denigrate this man, who swore that he was going to drain the “political swamp” on Capitol Hill. The disbelief when Trump actually won the Republican nomination turned to outrage when he went on to triumph in the presidential election itself.
Since few Trump advisers have lasted very long, it has perhaps been more by instinct than careful calculation that he has surfed, almost effortlessly, the tidal wave of vitriol that has been directed at him by the Establishment. Its denizens had predicted immediate disaster for a country led by a bombastic know-nothing. Thus far entirely the opposite has proved true. The US economy is humming. His putting “America First” policy has started an alarming trade war with China. But though it has a knock-on effect effect for some US business, there is widespread admiration for his calling out Beijing over its unfair commercial practices.
Popularity polls do not however reflect this. Trump is supposed to have some of the lowest approval ratings of any modern president. But he of course calls this “fake news”, pointing out that these results are commissioned and published by the liberal media sore that they have lost their privileged position in the White House corridors of power.
The point is that the more Trump is vilified by his enemies, the stronger he seems to become. And the endless flow of malevolent commentary, in which Trump can do absolutely nothing right, has become self-defeating. History may show that this extraordinary president was fortunate in the endless disparagement of his critics. He has defined himself by their constant carping.
Like a nail, the harder you hit him, the deeper he seems to be embedded in power.
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