On one hand, we have had plenty of Republican presidential debates, and they have yielded little insight into what kinds of policies a president Donald Trump would implement. On the other hand, the debates have revealed what kind of president Trump would be: rude, cartoonish, duplicitous, unprincipled, insulting, anti-intellectual, demagogic, superficial, and on and on. But, he knows how to buy politicians, on that we can believe him.
In contrast, the remaining candidates, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, have provided principled and detailed policies. We voters can make informed decisions, partly based on our intellect and partly on our intuition.
The problem with the cult of personality is that intellect and intuition are thrown out the window at 70 m.p.h. Whether Barack Obama or Donald Trump, a cult of personality is based on pure emotion. It is like being in love: the object of your desire can do no wrong, and all signs to the contrary are conveniently disregarded. If the sales axiom is correct, that we make decisions with emotion and justify them with rationale, then the Obama-Trump phenomena are the hallmark of political salesmanship. If Bill Clinton was the used-car salesman of politics, then Obama and Trump sell timeshares in Phoenix.
Which brings us back to the emotionalism of Trumpism. Trump backed out of the Utah debate scheduled for Monday, leaving 50,000 attendees in the lurch. For the frontrunner Trump, lobbyists are now more important than voters, because he could only be hurt by a more demanding debate with Cruz and Kasich. The debate moderators and media coverage of the first three debates played into Trump’s manipulation of the process, whether by accident or design. The breadth and depth of knowledge of the other candidates were ignored in favor of the sensationalized “reality-t.v.” style of political discourse.
The civility of the last debate was a relief for debate watchers, but it was obviously killing Trump’s ego. In his attempt to appear more presidential (read that as intellectual and dignified), Trump could not resort to his usual tactic of juvenile insults and boring hyperbole. The other candidates were allowed to demonstrate their superior qualifications, especially Cruz, whose intellect, powers of reason, and principled moral character make him the obvious choice at this point in the race.
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