There is no candidate in the race who is less libertarian than Donald Trump—because there is no candidate in the race who is less a product of ideology than Trump. Trump is a man of his instincts and experience; in favor of capitalism (or at least business); dismissive of China, Obama, Marxism, and most of the GOP candidates; against gay marriage and abortion because, well, a septuagenarian from Queens would feel in his bones that’s not right; and a family man in the postmodern sense (even his detractors report he is close to his children from multiple wives, no mean feat). He is a brilliant man, who, as Frank Cannon was probably the first to notice (back in March), the press, the pundits and the other candidates underestimate at their own peril.
He runs on no particular platform but his own strength, his alpha maleness, his capacity to stand up to Islam and the Left, and shouts “Stop!”: “If I run and win I will be the best representative Christians have had for a long time,” is his Iowa pitch. A Me candidate for the Me, Me Me generation?
The latest poll in New Hampshire shows Trump catapulting into second place, with Rand Paul dwindling to 4 percent. Maybe a polling aberration, or it may be a warning sign that there are far fewer libertarians in the GOP coalition than libertarians imagine (given their cultural dominance in GOP ranks). Paul’s strong defense of privacy and civil liberties is clearly hurting him with GOP primary voters—and in New Hampshire.
Do not mistake me: I am no supporter of Trump’s. My reactions to Trump are bizarrely similar (for different reasons) to my reactions to Marco Rubio, except Rubio appeals to the fluttering, aspirational superego and Trump appeals to the Id. Together they are the yin and yang of the American soul, and yet both of them share the same defect (as yet) in my eyes: I have no idea what kind of President they would be, what they would do or accomplish.
Marco Rubio, as his recent Faith and Freedom speech made clear, wants to turn himself into a generational and aspirational symbol: the embodied will to the American Dream, student debts and all, re-incarnated. It is starting to feel a little fabricated, poll-tested and, as Politico said, “flat.” Trump is already in his mind a symbol of aggressive, unashamed strength, patriotism, and the embodiment of the conservative will to fight, fight, fight. But he doesn’t think it’s all that relevant to tell us what he would do other than win.
Everyone takes Marco Rubio seriously. The better angels of our nature are powerful indeed. But do not count Trump out.
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at American Principles in Action.