Donald Trump’s Mad Pursuit

“Call me Ishmael” is one of the most famous opening lines of any novel ever written. “Call me Donald Trump” is not. Yet.

“Call me Ishmael” (for those who majored in Woke Studies) is the opening line of Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s masterpiece tale (narrated by Ishmael) about an obsessed New England whaling ship captain named Ahab. It took Melville only 18 months to write it, less time than Donald Trump has been on his own quest. 

Both Ahab and Trump went mad: the one looking for a white whale, the other for sufficient proof of a stolen election to return him to the White House. 

The madness of Trump may seem puzzling, at least to those who came to support him while he was president. Many thought in early 2016 that Trump was an outlier who couldn’t possibly win either the Republican Party’s nomination or the general election, in which Hillary Clinton was almost certainly going to be the nominee. In retrospect, and almost immediately after the election, many Republican skeptics concluded that only Trump could have beaten Hillary.

And Trump’s presidency turned out to be good for the country and fairly popular—though not popular with Democrats. The Trump Administration lowered taxes and reduced regulations, which produced what they were supposed to produce: more economic activity, higher labor-force participation rates, and less racial inequality.

The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2020 that “during Trump’s first three years in office, median household incomes grew, inequality diminished, and the poverty rate among black people fell below 20 percent for the first time in post-World War II records.” Also, the unemployment rate among blacks fell to less than 6 percent for the first time going back to 1972. 

What wasn’t to like? Democrats were frantic. President Obama never achieved anything like that! And look at Biden’s economy now.

President Trump also brought home more than 50 hostages and detainees from 22 countries while he was in office. By contrast, Joe Biden has just swapped one of the most dangerous people in the world for a black lesbian basketball player who had been in prison for only a few months—and chose her because she was black and lesbian!—leaving behind a U.S. Marine who has been held by the Russians as a hostage for four years.

For all his successes, however, the Trump years were chaotic—even if that was not entirely his fault. The Left started trying to do him in with their Russian collusion hoax even before he was elected. Not surprisingly, Trump responded: he lashed out at them. It may have made him feel good (difficult to blame him), but it made wonderful anti-Trump copy for the left-wing media. 

Then came COVID-19, and then came the 2020 election, which Trump lost. At least he lost the official count, and the official count is what matters. 

Was the election stolen? Perhaps (you may say “probably”), but Trump can’t prove it. 

Or, to be more precise, what he can’t prove is that the counting of the votes was sufficiently flawed, inaccurate, and dishonest to deprive him of victory. After a year of such fighting (or maybe only six months?), Trump should have moved on. And yet he continues to fight, even to this day, an obviously lost battle. Like Captain Ahab, he’s obsessed. 

Trump’s recent actions show terrible judgment: having to dinner known antisemites and suggesting that the Constitution needs to be—it’s not clear what—amended? Abolished? Whatever. All because of the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story by social media companies. 

But here’s what Trump doesn’t seem to realize: he is fighting, and he has been fighting, the wrong battle, the battle of the ballots. Meanwhile, the real enemy lies elsewhere but in plain sight: the suppression of information that was essential to voters, the Hunter Biden laptop story.

That story is the scandal. It’s so scandalous that the media won’t—can’t—cover it. Yet, inexplicably, Trump has not made it his cause. That is a huge political blunder and shows more bad judgment. But then so many of Trump’s actions as president also showed bad judgment, from the way he selected people to be members of his administration to the way he fired them. And a lot more besides. 

Ballot cheating is not a winning cause. (Millions of Republicans assume Democrats cheat.) But Trump lacks the agility to switch causes. Why?

Probably because he’s old. Biden is old, too. People manifest debilitating old age in different ways. Biden mumbles. He shakes hands with people who aren’t there. He’s not sure where he is. 

And Trump, like a great many men of a certain age, can’t change the subject. He’s stuck on a single story—not, for him, that high school football game, or the time he beat Corn Pop to a pulp behind the barn, or the war, but the election that was stolen. 

The really puzzling question is why the Democrats continue to pursue Trump. 

Many—most?—people now seem to think that Trump would lose against any Democrat. So why don’t Democrats let up on him so he will run again? It’s a mystery.

What anyone who is not woke has to remember is that Democrats and the media have always opposed Republicans. They opposed both Bushes and claimed the younger Bush had stolen the election. They opposed Reagan. They opposed Nixon. They even opposed Dwight Eisenhower! 

And they will oppose Ron DeSantis or whoever is the Republican nominee for president in 2024. They will rig the system in ways you, dear reader, haven’t even thought of yet. Even as you read this, they are talking (again) about lowering the voting age to 16. Why not 14? And they will try to keep the border porous and turn a blind eye to illegal aliens voting in order to disenfranchise American citizens. And they’d like to let resident foreigners vote, too, as the District of Columbia already has!

Where will they stop? That’s just it. They won’t stop. They’ll never stop. Because Democrats seek power, not good government, and certainly not justice.

But someday, the woke madness will stop. When the people have had enough. When they take to the streets. Democrats know full well that the people have the power. They have the means so feared by the Left: approximately 400 million “means” are in private hands for resisting the tyranny of the woke Left. 

You may think that particular course of action would be madness, not unlike the madness of Captain Ahab. But that’s not what Thomas Jefferson thought. He said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.” 

Manure time may be coming. Then will Ishmael have a tale to tell.

About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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