John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Posted on March 1, 2016
I_Voted_Sticker

Do Trump voters want change or do they fear change?

A family friend sent me an email that encapsulated the anger of the average “conservative” voter.

They dislike Obama. They dislike illegal immigration. They think the government is going bankrupt. They voted in Republicans in the House and the Senate and nothing has changed.

They think that the game is stacked against them and that everybody else is getting special protections under the law. They are getting stuck with the tab.

They think America is weak and they want a strong leader. They hate political correctness and feel that if they say anything that they truly believe, they will be punished at their work place or in society for airing their views. They think that the Republican Party is feckless in the face of a feckless President.

They want somebody who will stand up to political correctness, stand up to the special interests, stand up to the Muslims and the Mexicans, stand up to Washington lobbyists, and make Washington work again.

They want change. And they want it now.

Liberal interest groups want a different kind of change. Those groups want a society that is more diverse, where power is taken from the hands of white males, where government steps in and takes money from Peter to pay Paul.

Trump voters are fighting directly against that instinct.

The Trump message is not to make America great. It is to make America great again.

It wants change by returning to the past. It wants counter-revolution, not revolution.

It wants Napoleon, not Robespierre.

Republican legislators are caught in the middle. They want to do best by their constituents, but they know privately that they don’t have the power to return America back to a more genteel past.  They can’t undo the change we have all seen in our society.

They don’t have that power with President Obama wielding his veto pen, and they won’t have that power when Hillary Clinton sweeps into the White House with a Democratic Senate in her back pocket.

They promise change but they can’t deliver it. That is especially true of Ted Cruz, who has endlessly promised things he knows his leaders can’t deliver and then condemns them for not delivering.

The bloom has gone off the Cruz rose as of late. His strategy to win the South crumbled after a crushing defeat in South Carolina.

No region has changed more in the last three decades than the South and most of that change has been positive. But for Trump supporters, it has been the wrong kind of change.

For some of these folks, and some of them have connections to white supremacist groups, the influx of illegal aliens, the special protections demanded by homosexuals, the rise of political correctness, the widespread rejection of the Confederate flag, and the mere presence of Barack Hussein Obama in the White House, has been way too much change.

The fact that their incomes have stagnated, that their schools have gotten worse, that there is no money for roads or bridges, and that the national media mocks them for clinging to their outdated belief system is even more of reason to demand counter-revolutionary change.

The fact that we live in a much more interconnected world, that we have a much more diverse society, that globalization is by and large a good thing for American consumers, that there is a consensus (at least at the Supreme Court) that anybody can get married to just about anybody -- as long as it is only one couple at a time --, that mechanization makes a lot of workers obsolete and that kind of progress is pretty much unstoppable seems to be lost on many of these voters.

What is also lost is it is highly likely that Donald Trump will not win a general election and a vote for him is a vote (ultimately) for the status quo.

Alvin Toffler, once wrote a book, Future Shock, that predicted all of this turmoil.

He said two things that have turned out to be especially profound.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

“Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life.”

The Trump voter wants change in the political system to stop change in our broader society. Their political illiteracy will likely bring Hillary Clinton into the White House, which will most likely bring even more of the change that they hate so well.

“Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose,” wrote Jean-Baptiste Antoine Karr in the aftermath of the 1848 February Revolution that brought in the Second French Republic.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That is certainly seemingly true of our political system.  Except in this case, the more things stay the same, the more things will continue to change.