I need to say right off the bat that I am a Trump detractor, a #nevertrump subscriber. This piece isn’t, however, about my reasons for opposing Donald Trump in his bid for the presidency. I reckon that Americans have heard about all the arguments for and against Trump that are likely to make much difference. I feel that most of us are in our camps and nothing short of a huge gaffe or a huge PR coup is likely to change most of our minds. Of course those are likelihoods given campaign history post conventions but even then most of us have decided how we feel about Donald Trump.
This article or essay is about the awkward position that ‘conservative’ politicos and political pundits find themselves in with the Donald Trump candidacy. I should start with definitions.
What is a Politico?
I am using the term politico to refer to that body of folks who intend to make their living in the pursuit or servicing of public office. It includes professional politicians, those who have occupied office for a good portion of their lives and derive a substantial, if not all of their livelihood from being elected to public office. It also includes professional political aides, political consultants, political campaign staffers, political public relations folks and others that make their living servicing those in political office in various capacities. (stop snickering, it doesn’t include THAT kind of servicing) I do not intend to disparage or suggest that anything at all is wrong with being a politico, a person deriving your living from staffing and servicing the political process. I have great admiration for most politicos despite the public flailing that they get. The money is rarely huge and most could do much better in the non political realm with their talents and expended energy. I think that most are highly motivated by the ideals, and the lore. Some are of course motivated by the thrill of the competition and maneuvering and the gamesmanship. Some are cynical and only after victory at any costs and their status as part of a winning campaign. Any field has those who are motivated by the gamesmanship and that become amoral and cynical. As the money is not that great except at the top I doubt that politicos are nearly as prone to cynical and ruthless competition as are those corresponding folks in the finance, sporting, or marketing world.
What is a Pundit?
I am using the term political pundit to refer to the vast army of political writers, talk show hosts, columnists and professional speakers that make a living off holding forth on, and in many cases leading, political causes. The American right is especially chock full of political pundits. This greater number of so called conservative pundits is probably due to the real or perceived under representation of the right in the established print and broadcast media and academia. It includes syndicated columnists, talk show hosts, authors of books on political topics, lecturers, and bloggers for revenue. Once again I am not a detractor of political punditry. It fills a great void in the political activism and information spectrum.
What is the Trump Train?
The term Trump Train is a phrase used by both supporters of and opponents of Donald Trump. It is used to describe the huge groundswell mass of support for Donald Trump the person and the presidential candidate. This support has built momentum and mass much like a steam train being furiously stoked. The movement has overrun opponents and taken on energetic and angry folks, fed up folks, former opponents and opportunistic politicos and pundits as it gained momentum. It is a rolling campaign force and evolving campaign hierarchy possibly never seen before in this country. It is an apt metaphorical train.
The relationship between Politicos, Pundits and the Trump Train.
At the onset of Donald Trump’s campaign there were almost no Politicos or Political Pundits ‘on board’ the Trump Train. Republican politics and political custom were so opposed to the wild rhetorical and unrehearsed swings of Donald Trump that joining the Trump campaign, boarding the Trump Train, would have been a very unwise career move. As the first shocking polls were released, some of the more marginal Political Pundits, let’s call them the rented stump speakers, surprisingly jumped on board. Sarah Palin was probably the most dramatic example. History may record them as brilliant opportunists, visionaries, or desperate sinking and struggling for market share shills for hire. It will probably depend upon who writes the history.
Gathering momentum and jumping for the train.
As the unexpected momentum of the Trump Train increased more pundits saw the advantage of boarding or feared being steamrolled and left behind. Eventually Politicos began to board the Trump Train. Foremost were those vanquished in the primary or those marginalized and pigeon holed in niche leadership roles. Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee were examples of the former and Jeff Sessions an example of the latter. As the office holders began to jump on board the Trump Train, those who served and staffed them begin to do the same.
But what of those Politicos and Pundits that resisted boarding the Trump Train until the nomination was secured on paper or are still resisting?Their dilemma is dire. To be a conservative Politico or Political Pundit outside the favor of the Republican Party is a highly unenviable and unprofitable position. The opportunities for staffing or running for office on the Republican ticket are greatly reduced for those not on record as on board the Republican National ticket, especially for those vocally opposed to such. To be a conservative political pundit outside the favor of the Republican nominee and possibly Republican president is very limiting with very few audience members and sponsors available.
If the Democrats take the Presidency then of course there will be a tsunami of backlash fervor blaming those who stood against the Republican nominee. Granted that wave will likely back flow the other way eventually and wash the folks onboard the Trump Train out to the seas of public ridicule but it will be hard to pay the bills until then.
Many Politicos and Political Pundits have decided to cut their losses and stagger bloodied and beaten to the rear cars of the now tiresome methaphorical train. They will have to humbly, and with downcast eyes, take seats at the back while those that boarded earlier take the better seats. Those Politicos and Political Pundits will have to work their way back up a party structure that may well be shortlived and doomed to collapse anyway. As most of the last to board were, in my opinion, more courageous and harder working than the rabble that boarded early they will likely work their way back to positions of authority and larger audiences if the Trump Train doesn’t derail however it will be a tiresome and uncertain struggle. While I wish that all Politicos and Pundits would refuse to board the Trump Train I certainly understand and do not blame those that felt they had to give in. A man has got to eat and perhaps it is good that some of the Trump Train manifest is not composed of angry populists but reluctant paid staff.
The brave and suffering holdouts
Some brave and principled Politicos and Political Pundits will not board the Trump Train. Some could not as they are on Trump and his campaign staff’s, ‘do not seat’ list. Some will not because they would rather wait out the hurtling hot mess and be prepared to go back to their positions and market shares after the likely derailment. Some simply will not out of principle and will opt instead to wander the political desert of third party politics and smaller niche audiences where the dangers are many and the rewards are sparse.
I pity the honest conservative Politico and Political Pundit who holds out but it is pity eclipsed by admiration. It is a terribly lonely and difficult task to refuse the seductive hysteria of Trump, it’s difficult to be run over by the Trump Train and watch it disappear into the horizon without running after it and begging forgiveness and a seat. However the very act of principled sacrifice that avoiding boarding the Trump Train, that trying to stop it in it’s tracks despite momentum and fury, is the tempering that makes pig iron into high grade steel and run of the mill Politicos and Political Pundits into revered leaders and patriots.
**This is a ‘Partisan Political Essay. It’s content is not endorsed by the Louisiana Junto. The Louisiana Junto will gladly publish a rebuttal essay that abides by the writing guidelines.