Opinion | Morgan Liddick: American exceptionalism and the Trump card | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Morgan Liddick: American exceptionalism and the Trump card

Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County. His column appears in every Tuesday in the Summit Daily News.
btrollinger@summitdaily.com |

It’s Tuesday, Aug. 4. — two days until the first Republican presidential primary debate. To quote Samuel L. Jackson’s character John Raymond Arnold in “Jurassic Park”: “Hang onto your butts …”

Barring fisticuffs, a Thursday viewer should watch for a few things.

Headlines on Friday will feature the name “Trump,” but which Donald will show up? The one wearing clown shoes, or the candidate more in tune with the seriousness of his position as putative party leader? How will other candidates treat this phenomenon? From ignoring to attacking him, those onstage will have to display real strategic thinking and nice judgement: Assuming he will not be the nominee, how do they ease him out of the front-runner position without provoking a third-party bid and without confirming to all of his followers that they are right to be fed up with the business-as-usual, country-club, old-boy, favor-trading, Chamber-of-Commerce Republican party that has no room for the concerns of the common man — be they about the economy, the collapse of cultural values or the rot at the heart of national security? Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and, if he makes the cut, John Kasich may do well here.

Who has the best ideas and can explain them in 30 seconds or less? In a debate like this, sound-bites win — the more compelling, the better. Those who have thoroughly thought through their policy positions to the degree that clear explanations of the specifics come easily will move ahead. Look for success on this front from Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and John Kasich.

Who will be a fighter? This is part of Trump’s appeal: He is beholden to no one and is not impressed, nor influenced, by the party elite. He is no fan of political correctness nor is he cowed by the mob — be they politicians, activists or journalists. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the obvious frontrunners here, but both have damaged their relationships with the party elite and the moneymen who increasingly control the process in both parties. The danger for the Republic in this is a candidate who has won the nomination but alienated both of these and so is hampered in the general election, possibly to the degree that an incompetent former secretary of state who should be under indictment and who sees public service as the quickest route to personal enrichment — the Republic be damned — will be elected by default. That is, barring something we have not seen since 1980: a universal feeling of revulsion for, and rejection of, the party controlling the White House.

Who best expresses confidence in our country? Look for optimism, appreciation for American exceptionalism, eagerness, faith in our future as a world-leading nation and an ability to articulate goals and policies that would restore the luster to the idea that America has something important to contribute to the world — that it is not just another humdrum nation among many. Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz probably lead here.

Last, who will forthrightly list our nation’s problems and tell the truth about them? Americans have responded well to challenges in the past: This is the nation that was instrumental in winning the Second World War and the Cold War that followed. We put a man on the moon and robots on Mars. We created the personal computer, the Internet and fast-food franchising. The world is freer, better informed and connected, its people better fed and safer for our efforts. Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades, Republican politicians have been all too willing to capitulate to voices who counsel that our best days are over, that we must accommodate to less, that we are nothing special. We have now had almost seven years of that sort of non-leadership, and the Republican who stands boldest and firmest against this drivel will accomplish much. Donald Trump has shown this clearly.

And, there is much to accomplish. November 2016 will witness a pivotal election. We will either begin to repair the damage done by eight previous years of incompetence and wrecking, or we will continue the slow national slide into oblivion. Last Sunday, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, chairwoman of the Democrat party, was asked to explain the differences between the positions of her party and the Socialism of Bernie Sanders. She could not articulate any, clearly indicating the Democrat stance in our political debate. The eventual winner of the Republican contests will have to make clear, logical, popular, arguments against this Democrat desire to remake the most dynamic, productive and freest country humanity has ever seen into the image of Italy or Greece.

The stakes are nothing less than our national patrimony and future. So pay attention — this Thursday and thereafter.

Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.

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