Some political commentators and even some of Donald Trump's opponents are labeling him a demagogue like that's a bad thing. But is it? I don't think so.
Originally demagogue meant "a leader or orator who espouses the cause of the common people." Over time, however, it has come to mean "a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than using rational argument."
The general consensus among the commentariat seems to be that such an approach is undesirable; I contend that it is anything but. In today's Internet-dominated world, rational argument is highly overrated. Given the speed of modern communication, there's no longer time for the methodical give and take of reasoned debate. If you just got slammed on Facebook, you better hit back fast and hard or you'll quickly become yesterday's man.
That's why Donald Trump is just the guy to lead the Republicans into the next presidential race. He doesn't pretend to be anything he's not. He's a demagogue and he's downright proud to be one. In fact, he aspires to be the best and most fantastic demagogue America has ever seen.
Liberal, elite, East Coast media types belittle Trump's resort to ad hominem attacks and his simplistic answers to complex issues. Clearly these folks are out of touch with the zeitgeist, the defining mood of today's mile-a-minute technology-based marketplace of ideas.
Look no further than the comments section of any news or opinion website. Are online participants looking to add to detailed, fact-based, rational discussions of complicated social, political and economic issues? Of course not. The more efficient approach in today's rapid-fire universe is to dismiss one's opponent with terse, content-free personal comebacks like "You're an idiot!" or "What a jerk!" or, in the interests of succinctness, simply "Idiot!" or "Jerk!"
And that's why we need Donald Trump. The Donald is what our new electronic age has been looking for -- i.e. -- The Digital Demagogue.
Mexican immigrants? They're rapists. Illegal immigration from Mexico? Build a wall. What to do about ISIS? Have a plan and be tough.
Carefully parse his opponents' positions? Fuggedaboutit! Lindsey Graham? What a stiff. He's an idiot. Rick Perry? He should have an IQ test. Jeb Bush? He's weak.
When you read some opinion piece on the Internet that you don't like, what do you do? Do you spend time carefully researching the issue, talking to those knowledgeable in the field and formulating your own detailed response?
No, who's got time for that? What you do is quickly type out a short reply denouncing the opinion as nonsense and the opinion holder as a shortsighted, brain dead nincompoop. Bam! End of argument. You win. Game over.
Of course such an approach often generates even more of the same with an immediate diminution of rational debate. Some might mourn the loss of reasoned discourse but the fact remains that today's winner is the one who shouts the loudest, name calls the longest and simplifies the most.
If that's the way the world now works, who do you want running your country? Not some Ivy League-educated believer in diplomacy, civility and compromise. No, you want the biggest, meanest, name-calling bully you can find. In short, you want the best demagogue on offer. And for my money, the best of the best when it comes to rabble-rousing provocateurs is New York City's own, Donald Trump.
Let's put The Donald in charge and watch the fireworks begin. As Dr. Strangelove's General Buck Turgidson said in arguing for a nuclear attack: "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops." However, if you do decide to go with Mr. Trump, please give me a quick heads up so I can make my way to the nearest bomb shelter.
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