Do Emotions Trump Facts? Part II

Thomas Sowell
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Posted: Jan 23, 2016 12:01 AM
Do Emotions Trump Facts? Part II
Former governor Sarah Palin is an intelligent person, contrary to how liberals have tried to portray her. So it seemed to me that, if anybody could explain why they were promoting the candidacy of Donald Trump, it would be Governor Palin.

But I listened in vain for any evidence or logic that would provide a reason to vote for Donald Trump for the office of President of the United States. There were lots of ringing assertions, just as in Trump's own speeches, but no convincing facts or demonstrable reasons.

After all these months, no coherent plans have emerged from the rhetoric of "The Donald"-- just sweeping boasts about all the things he says he will achieve. But boasts about the unknown future are hardly reassuring.

However puzzling the fervent support for Donald Trump may be today, given how little basis there is for it, such blind faith is not unique in history. Other dire or desperate times have produced other charismatic leaders to whom desperate people have turned, with hopes of deliverance.

Trump is certainly different from establishment Republicans, but it that enough?

Things were appalling in 1917 Russia, when people turned to Lenin to try to get them out of a disastrous war abroad and a bitter economic situation at home.

The fact that Lenin was quite different from the czar who had led the country into catastrophe might have seemed promising to some people. He was also different from the ineffective Kerensky government that failed in its brief months in office. But the totalitarian government that Lenin established proved to be even worse than its predecessors.

The idea that someone quite different from those who led a nation into disaster can be expected to produce an improvement is a non sequitur that has seduced many people in many places and times.

Germany's Weimar Republic was nobody's idea of an ideal government but Hitler's reign that followed was far worse in every way. Many Americans denounced the rule of the Shah of Iran, but he was never a worldwide sponsor of terrorism, like those who replaced him.

A pattern that would appear in many other places and times was one in which people's hopes became focused on someone new, charismatic and with ringing rhetoric-- but utterly untested for the job of governing a nation.

That is where we are today.

The Republican field of candidates has had a number of people with experience governing at the state level, so that they have a track record that we could scrutinize. But the media obsession with Trump has left little time for weighing the pros and cons of those governors.

Some of them have already had to withdraw before we learned whether their qualifications were good, bad or indifferent. This may be a misfortune for their political careers but it can turn out to be a disaster for the country, if it leaves the field open only to people whom we must judge solely on the basis of their rhetoric.

There are still some governors left in the running, but they are not among the candidates who have the highest support in the polls, where most have received the support of fewer than 10 percent of the voters polled.

Former governor Jeb Bush looked like the front runner at the outset, especially with his impressive amount of money in his campaign chest. But it is not nearly as easy to buy an election as some commentators seemed to think, so perhaps we can take some solace from the discrediting of that notion.

We might also take some solace from the support received by Dr. Ben Carson, despite the media-fed notion that conservatives are racists. Even after his brief time leading the candidates in the polls has passed, Dr. Carson remains the candidate with the highest favorability rating among Republican voters who were polled.

But there are few other things to feel positive about as the primaries approach. Common sense by the voters may be the best we can hope for. And that can save the day, after all. In fact, they may be all that can save the day.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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