Tag Archives: Washington

Donald Trump is a fireship (pub. Sept. 15, 2015, 1 year before Trump’s presidential victory)


The question in yesterday’s post was:

Why has Donald Trump survived our discovery of his flaws and deficiencies?

Normally, a new candidate has his or her moment in the sun, until we discover who they really are. Then they’re done.

But this doesn’t ever happen in Trump’s case, however damning the revelations.

The answer, I think, is that his supporters don’t want a president. They want a fireship.

Fireships were instruments of destruction when the world was ruled by wooden ships. The idea was to pack a ship with flammables, set it ablaze, and send it in the direction of enemy ships in the hope that it would set these enemy ships ablaze. Fireships helped defeat the Spanish armada gathered in the English Channel.

Donald Trump promises to make a very good fireship. He lacks the subtlety, intelligence, breadth, and leadership we look for in a candidate. And that’s precisely what makes him such an effective instrument of political disruption.

Reckless, boorish, self centered? Perfect. Trump’s flaws make him a unassimilable. Washington is its own empire with formidable powers of hegemony. Many reformers go to Washington. Virtually all are claimed, colonized, incorporated. The Trumpians believes they have found a candidate so full of himself not even the Borg can absorb him. (If you can’t have incorruptible, unassimilable will have to do.)

But that’s just Step 1 of the Trump disruption, the passive play. Step 2, the active play, is a candidate who thinks he’s smarter than the system. Most Trumpians know that Trump isn’t smarter than the system. They just want him to act as if he is. That guarantees the destructive chaos they’re hoping for. I don’t think anyone doubts that Trump is a bully and a blow hard. They just want him to knock lots of things down when he throws his weight around. (If you can’t have cunning, clumsy will have to do.)

Trumpians don’t want a candidate. They want an agent of chaos. They don’t want to reform Washington. They want to burn it down.

Gridlock or Progress: Washington in the interim

Seeing the big picture in baseball is not always easy. There are a lot of games. And teams are streaky, winning 5, then losing 3. How are we doing?  Sometimes, it’s hard to say.

In a great act of pattern recognition, George Will says something like this.

All teams lose a third of their games. All teams win a third of their games. Whether a team does well or badly on the season depends on whether they win or lose that remaining third.

Ah. Clarity.

I thought of Mr. Will’s great act of clarification on Sunday when I was listening to the pundits (including Mr. Will himself) debate what will happen in Washington in the short term. There’s an argument to be made for gridlock and one to be made for cooperation. It’s a vexingly complex issue.

Then I wondered if we could say simply this. Each party will keep it’s faithful. Whether they win or lose in the next election depends on whether they win or lose the independents. And if we know anything about the current mood, we know that the independents want action. They want to see things get done. They want accomplishment, not grid lock.


Will, George F. 2010. Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball. Reprint. Harper Paperbacks.