Suddenly, the judicial conservative: Donald, Donald, Donald Chameleon
Donald Trump is a lifelong Democrat who voted twice for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But when it was in his own self-interest, he suddenly "saw the light" and became a Republican in order to run for president. Very soon before announcing his candidacy, in fact. Not since Saul of Tarsus has there been such a sudden, dramatic and complete conversion.
Well, sort of. He 's held on to some of his previous positions and is changing them piecemeal as his political interests dictate that he address them. This has not happened very quickly, since his sheeplike followers either didn't know about his actual positions, past or present, or even care. But The Donald is very much like a chameleon. He believes and says and does whatever his self-interest demands at the moment. Being intellectually lazy, he doesn't actually flesh out the generalities of what he believes until circumstances force him to. And he's developed an interesting habit of reversing them when he does.
He was strongly pro-choice throughout most of his adult life- but suddenly became pro-life just before announcing his candidacy for president as a Republican, since only a pro-life Republican can realistically be nominated.
Less than a year ago, he was strongly pro-amnesty. But when he saw that it could be a wedge issue, he suddenly decided to build a wall and to make the Mexicans pay for it.
Literally only a few weeks ago expressed his personal preference for a government-run, single-payer healthcare system. But he suddenly has become an advocate of the free market and an opponent of government-sponsored healthcare, offering what is actually a fairly decent alternative to Obamacare. He did so, as usual, because he needed to provide specifics on an issue he had been willing to discuss only in generalities before, and it became clear that his previous position was hurting him among those few Republicans who even knew about it, or cared. So "fleshing out" his position became an opportune moment to change colors, hopefully without anybody noticing.
The list of Trump's convenient conversions from positions he had held for decades to those more advantageous to a prospective Republican presidential nominee trying to halt the hemorrhaging of support from Republicans disgusted with him from his potential vote totals in November goes on and on. Curiously, they all have taken place less than a year ago. If you think you see a pattern, you're right. There is a reason why Donald Trump is a human chameleon.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a psychiatric malady or which a great many mental health professionals believe Donald Trump to be a textbook example, explains this. One thing and one thing alone stands at the core of Donald Trump's world: Donald Trump. Whatever serves his interests at the moment is good. Whatever is against his interests is bad. Nobody else really matters, in the last analysis, but Donald Trump. And nothing else matters except what is good for Donald Trump.
He simply does not have convictions as the term is usually understood. Now, I know that people grow. People change. I myself have very different political convictions at 65 than I had at 21. But keep in mind that all of these changes have happened in the past year, simultaneously with either his decision to run for president as a Republican, or events in his campaign bringing him to the point at which a change at that precise moment would be advantageous.
Like chameleons in captivity, Trump- like all sufferers from NPD- is actually quite fragile. Beneath all the bluster and self-promotion lies a core of self-doubt, a weak sense of self-esteem which must be zealously protected and constantly reinforced. Attack a true narcissist, or even mildly criticize him, and he will attack and/or threaten you in return. He (or she) will react precisely as Donald Trump reacts.
Lacking any true empathy for others, narcissists tend to be bullies. Trump bullies women. He bullied poor Chris Christie at the press conference at which that wretched man endorsed him, telling him as soon as he was done speaking, "There is the plane. Get on it, and go home." He bullied the people whose homes and land he stole with the help of eminent domain in order to "repurpose it" in a way of which the government approved. He bullied those who were ripped off by his fraudulent Trump University. He bullies Mexicans. He bullies Muslims. He wants to kill (or did until the outcry became too great) the families of terrorists. He promises to pay the legal fees of supporters who beat up even peaceful protestors at his rallies. And he's a big fan of torture.
He poses as a successful businessman. Actually, he inherited his wealth, and although he lies about it (a recent study claims that he lies once literally every five minutes) he has gone bankrupt not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. Trump Vodka? Failed. Trump Steaks? Failed. Mitt Romney is a successful businessman. Mark Cuban is a successful businessman. Bill Gates is a successful businessman. Donald Trump is a phony who pretends to be one and has managed to sell that image to credulous voters.
Pretending to be what he is not is a lifestyle for the Donald. The unrepentant serial adulterer who says that he never asks God for forgiveness and whose favorite Bible passage is "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" claims to be a Christian. Go to the center of Donald Trump, and it seems that one would discover as Gertrude Stein is supposed to have said once about New Jersey, "There's no there there."
Now, he's done it again. A large percentage of Republicans (and, as in my case, former Republicans) do not see that he is materially better than Hillary Clinton, and in any case believe him to represent evil at a level at which choosing between "the lesser of two evils" would be inappropriate and end morally repugnant even if it were otherwise. The one powerful argument those who do support Trump have had is that the future of the Supreme Court depends on the outcome of this election.
Justices Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer are all likely to retire in the next four years; Justice Scalia, of course, has already died. The winner of the 2016 election will quite possibly appoint four of the nine members of the Supreme Court. Now, as the experiences of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush all illustrate, there is no guarantee that apparently conservative, originalist judges appointed by conservative, originalist presidents will turn out to be a conservative, originalist justices. But this is a thought worth savoring for a moment. Conservative decisions like the Hobby Lobby case, the Little Sisters of the Poor case, and the case declaring political contributions a form of Constitutionally-protected free speech are on the line. But so are cases making abortion in most cases a legally protected "right," requiring states to allow same-sex "marriage," and permitting the government to require citizens to have health insurance. A host of controversial decisions while Justice Scalia was alive were decided 5-4, with the narrow liberal majority prevailing (despite the insistence of the liberal media, Justice Anthony Kennedy is no conservative!). There is the potential here- though far from a certainty- that in four years either the liberal or the conservative faction could so dominate the Court as to transform the nation, for good or ill.
There may never come another chance to reverse the trend of legal sanction for socially destructive, illogical and unnatural changes to long-standing legal principles, or to at least put some significant speed bumps on the road to liberal/libertarian hell our culture is barreling down.
The Supreme Court is seen by many conservatives as (excuse the pun) trumping everything else. It's a persuasive argument. Donald Trump may be a bully and at least a proto-fascist. His supporters may include the most motley crew of racists, authoritarians, and nut cases of any major party nominee in history. He himself may be catastrophically ignorant on pretty much each and every issue he has addressed in this campaign or is likely to confront as president, and even as to the most basic facts of American government as taught in grammar school Civics classes. His ignorance of the Constitution may be global. But he's in a position- maybe- to save the Court, and with it the Constitution.
Except that Trump has been a liberal on all the controversial issues, the Court has dealt with over the years up until it suited his interest only a few months ago to change his mind. Except that he shows no sign of even understanding such basic concepts of conservative judicial jurisprudence original intent," and seems either utterly ignorant of the Bill of Rights or totally indifferent to it.
Never mind that realistically the nomination of Trump- who will almost certainly lose the November election with or without the support of us NeverTrumpers- has already blown any chance for a Republican rather than a Democrat to do the appointing. Never mind that the nomination of Trump will likely cost the Republicans the Senate, and ease the way for President Rodham or President Clinton II or whatever to appoint anybody she jolly well wants, however radical. We're supposed to climb on the cattle car of the very man who made all of this inevitable and accept all the other garbage that would mean on the practically non-existent chance that his election will somehow enable him, rather than Hillary, to appoint all those judges.
Well, today the man who during the debates not only showed an abysmal ignorance of what a Supreme Court justice even does (he spoke of them "signing laws" and conducting investigations!) but held up his pro-choice, socially radical sister as an example of his ideal Supreme Court nominee has released a list of conservative, originalist candidates from which he says he would select Justice Scalia's successor. The move is unprecedented since the Court is supposed to be above politics. In fact, that objection is sheer posturing; it's been about politics and nothing but politics for at least 45 years.
And it's a good list. It's a political masterstroke. Not only does it give substance to the hitherto unconvincing argument that concern for the future of the Supreme Court and the Constitution should cause us to vote for a man, who, however repulsive in every other way, would make appointments better than those Hillary would make, but in some ways even more importantly it gives credence to another argument those who reluctantly support Trump have made. It goes like this: "Sure, he's a jerk. Sure, he has absolutely no idea what he's talking about on any issue whatsoever and makes outrageous and off-the-wall statements out of a vast and nearly global ignorance. But he knows that. He'll surround himself with- excuse the expression- 'good people, the best people' who do know what's going on, and he will follow their advice."
Of course, he said the same thing about the faculty of Trump University.
And so it is that when the moment arrived when vague generalities needed to be finally fleshed out with specifics, once again The Donald took the opportunity to change colors. All of a sudden, he's a judicial conservative. And it's tempting to fall for it. It surely is. It creates what is, for the first time, a dilemma for me: Do I vote for a pathological liar who changes his convictions the way other men change their shirts and who lies once every five minutes, who is motivated solely by self-interest, who is psychologically unstable, who is an authoritarian supported largely though not entirely by authoritarians and racists, and who in short is probably the most frightening person ever to be nominated by either party for the presidency because seems likely to make a good appointment to replace Justice Scalia?
Do you make that leap of faith for a man whose entire personality, campaign and career have proven him untrustworthy? To I vote for an evil man for that reason, knowing that in the end it won't matter because he has no chance of being elected?
Yes, for the first time, I am just a little bit tempted. But what I am absolutely not is convinced.