The resistable rise of Donald Trump

Reductio ad Hitlerum is a bad sort of argument, as Leo Strauss used to say, but there are exceptions to every rule. There is a touch of Weimar in the air. The Germans of the 1920s didn’t understand why they were impoverished and humiliated. Germany was Europe’s fastest-growing economy before World War I, its center of innovation, its greatest military power. How could it have lost the war, swallowed painful reparations payments, and given up huge swaths of its territory? The Germans were in a mean mood and they wanted the nastiest attack dog in politics. Hitler accomodated them. Even worse, the German Establishment, led by Franz von Papen, thought it could use Hitler, and invited him to form a government in January 1933…

Why does the Establishment hate Cruz so much? He threatens their livelihood, unlike Trump, whose real estate and casino business has required friendly dealings with politicians of all stripes for half a century. Permit me an anecdote: a couple of years ago I attended the annual dinner of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs where I was then a Fellow, and had the honor to sit next to Allen West. Col. West had just lost his Congressional seat in Florida to a massive Democratic campaign to dislodge him. We were discussing supply-side economics. Sen. Lindsey Graham sauntered over and flashed a smile with more teeth than a Great White. West and I stood up. I told Sen. Graham, “We should make this man president.” Graham showed even more teeth and declared, “First, we’re going to make him rich.”…

Corporate America wanted nothing to do with Ronald Reagan in 1980. Not a single Fortune 500 CEO backed him–all of them supported George H. W. Bush or John Connally in the primaries. When informed of this (Jude Wanniski, who was at the meeting, told me), Reagan said that he didn’t need them–he would be the candidate of the entrepreneur, the small businessman, the farmer, the workingman. Cruz wants to be Reagan redux. The Establishment remembers Reagan; in particular, it remembers that the corporate powers-that-be of 1980 were dwarfed by the entrepreneurial newcomers whom the Reagan reforms unleashed. It didn’t like Reagan the first time, and the last thing it wants is a younger incarnation of him.

Without a return to entrepreneurship, America’s economy will stagnate and America’s middle class will continue to lose ground. Donald Trump represents the triumph of resentment over hope. I don’t know what American voters will do. But I’m frightened.