UPDATE 2/23/2020: I wrote this post several months before the 2016 election. My views of Donald Trump had softened by that time, probably because Hillary was the only other option. When I wrote this post I still had hopes that Ted Cruz would win the GOP nomination. When it became clear that was not going to happen I became a staunch Trump supporter and remain so today. Trump has kept his promises and done so many good things I now think it’s silly to focus on his personal style. He fights back against those who attack him. Given how most Republicans in Washington are too chicken to stand up for their own dignity, Trump is a breath of fresh air.
Harvard professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution Harvey Mansfield (who is also a conservative!) made the case that Donald Trump is no gentleman in an Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Of course, Professor Mansfield in right. Trump is vulgar and bombastic. Those aren’t the traits of a gentleman. But then, Hillary Clinton is no lady either. To vulgarity and stridency Hillary adds dishonesty, criminality, and corruption. Neither Trump nor Hillary would be my ideal choice. Trouble is, we don’t have any other choices. None that stand a chance of winning the election.
Trump at least stands against the tyranny of political correctness. Hillary is the embodiment of it and will take it to new heights. Trump has no intention of amending the U.S. Constitution to take away our rights. Hillary longs to do exactly that.
Mitt Romney is a gentleman in just about all respects. Unfortunately, his gentlemanly manners prevented him from running a successful campaign against Barack Obama. When he refused to take the campaign to Obama, to criticize Obama’s stupid mistakes and silly ideas, and to generally treat Obama too kindly, too gentlemanly, he failed to inspire the conservatives in the Republican voter base. They desperately wanted the Obama agenda to be stopped. It was, in their view, a retrograde policy destructive of America and an impediment to their notions of a free country where everyone can pursue their dreams. When they stayed home on election day that meant Romney’s path to victory was effectively blocked. Romney was a gentleman alright, a gentlemanly loser.
Trump is more likely to be a winner but he could go one better. He could be a winner who takes on political correctness, which is the winning formula in 2016, but he could do it in a more gentlemanly manner. He didn’t need to tell vicious lies about Ted Cruz, his wife and his father in order to win the primary elections. He would have won those anyway because too many of the voters mistakenly took Ted Cruz for a member of the GOP establishment. That the GOPe hate Cruz should be proof enough he’s not one of them. All of Trump’s crackpot bluster about “Lying Ted” just wasn’t necessary.
Trump couldn’t help himself, though. He’s just not a gentleman.
Harvey Mansfield ends his excellent op-ed this way:
It isn’t that he cares about a cause, but as a demagogue he loves to be loved, and as a vulgar man he has an affinity for whatever is vulgar. Incapable as he is of appreciating the gentleman, Mr. Trump earns the disdain of the promoters of gender neutrality. Mr. Trump’s resistance to political correctness, however, has the coarseness of a male. Or what used to be the coarseness of a male. Now that women are practicing to swear like sailors, Mr. Trump is a reminder of male superiority in the department of vulgarity. Surely no woman would have run his campaign.
Those of us who hanker for the return for some part at least of the gentleman are in a fix. We are caught between distaste for a man who is not a gentleman and dislike of the political correctness that he so energetically attacks—yet whose effect he illustrates.