Everywhere you go, your friends and associates are puzzled, perplexed, amazed, distressed, some frightened. How can anyone explain the ascendancy of Donald Trump?
Here are two possible explanations, adapted from two noted thinkers from earlier eras — one a scientist, the other an economist:
Isaac Newton’s Third Law: For every action (Barack Obama), there is an equal and opposite reaction (Donald Trump).
Barack Obama has been so extreme in his disdain for American ideals, virtues and principles that the electorate is embracing an equal reaction that swings to the other end of the spectrum — Trump.
Not that Trump is even close to being a laissez-faire libertarian or conservative. But he is a bombastic businessman, the opposite of a wonkish socialist, and his theme is “Let’s make America great again” (instead of tear it down) and do it demonstrably (build a wall, stop immigration, bomb the sh- - out of them, etc.)
Or, there’s another explanation …
“Why the Worst Get on Top”: This comes from the late Nobel Prize Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, from his seminal book, “The Road to Serfdom.” One of his chapters is entitled “Why the Worst Get on Top.”
As you read Hayek’s explanation, you can substitute either the Trump or Obama phenomena as the subject:
“… It is the general demand for quick and determined government action that is the dominating element in the situation, dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic procedure which makes action for action’s sake the goal. It is then that man or the party who seems strong and resolute enough ‘to get things done’ who exercises the greatest appeal … What they will seek is somebody with such solid support as to inspire confidence that he can carry out whatever he wants…
“There are three main reasons why such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogeneous views is not likely to be formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society. By our standards, the principles on which such a group would be selected will be almost entirely negative.
“In the first instance, it is probably true that, in general, the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated, and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values.
“It is a corollary of this that if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and ‘common’ instincts and tastes prevail.
“This does not mean the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards. It is, as it were, the lowest common denominator which unites the largest number of people.
“…It will be those who form the ‘mass’ in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals…
“…The second negative principle of selection: He will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.
“…The third and perhaps most important negative element of selection: It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program — on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off — than on any positive task…the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed that will solidly knit together a group for common action.”
Add to Newton’s Law and Hayek’s law the fact so many Americans have such disdain for career politicians, be they governors or senators. There is a burning hunger for a leader to emerge from outside of the traditional political circles, a leader who is bold and, well, bombastic.
That pretty much narrows it down to one candidate — Trump.
It’s a law of nature.