Donald Trump
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, MI, in December 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

By John Horst

Some say Donald Trump is a genius for his ability to keep people talking about him. Others run screaming into the night every time he unleashes on Twitter. You have to wonder if they lie awake at night, waiting for that ring tone they have programmed into their phone signaling an incoming tweet. What are we to make of this confusing mess we find ourselves in the middle of?

I am something of a history buff, and like to think of myself as something of a futurist, too. I look back for patterns, and then look forward, wondering how the patterns of the past might help us understand where we’re headed. I think we need a lot of that right now.

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First, I think the electorate at large is at a place where we have decided that the people who have been leading us (from both parties, mind you) either have been lying to us, or simply do not know what they are doing.

I was jolted into this realization almost ten years ago. I had just graduated from Bethel University with my master of divinity degree. My father — a typical stubborn, opinionated man of German blood — began apologizing to me.

I had to ask myself: Who are you, and what you have done with my dad?

John H. Horst
John H. Horst

It turned out mom and dad had planned to pay off my student loans. They had done this for my sister after she graduated from law school. But the financial crisis had hammered their retirement accounts. Dad was adamant about them not ending up at our doorstep in their old age, and he felt they could not afford to guarantee that and pay off my student loans as well.

The financial crisis is still very much on the minds of many. We were told a lot of thigs right before it; all of which turned out to be false. My conclusion? The “experts” who run things in Washington and on Wall Street are not who they claim to be, nor do they know what they claim to know; their advanced degrees and shiny Nobel Prizes are like the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. God forbid Dorothy gets behind the curtain and realizes the truth.

But someone has to take on the responsibility of public policy. Right now, we are groping our way through a changing of the guard in that respect.

Sen. John McCain — certainly a good man and a war hero — is emblematic of the Republican old guard. They have a neo-conservative outlook that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven is crippled by cultural illiteracy. I am less inclined to think they lied us into these wars, and more convinced they fall into a class of people Nicholas Nassim Taleb calls the “IYI” class. Intellectuals, yet idiots.

We are now in our 17th year of war in a part of the world that has never been governed in a way we would recognize. Our way is what Henry Kissinger called the “Westphalian international order.” Borders, in particular, have a meaning everyone agrees on. In Afghanistan, we gave the Taliban an ultimatum: Hand over Osama bin Laden, or we would come in and get him. They refused; we invaded. Bin Laden fled to the south, crossing the border into Pakistan as if the border did not exist. We stopped at that border as if it did — viewing it in our “Westphalian” way.

Nothing more really needs to be said as to why we are still there, 17 years later. And why we will never leave unless a new guard rises to replace the old, finds their backbone in the U.S. Constitution, and takes the money away.

Sen. Rand Paul is emblematic of that new guard: A younger set who are trying to reconcile a commitment to community — helping those who genuinely need help — and a skepticism about the government-centered ideas of the old guard. They yearn for a socially aware, inclusive, and responsible freedom to replace government at the center of American life.

Paul’s approach to the President is important to note. Trump has criticized the Senator for blocking previous attempts to cement in place much of Obamacare. Unlike the old guard, each time the President criticizes him, he brushes off the crassness and seizes the opportunity to articulate his principles of liberty to the 20-odd million people who follow the President on Twitter. Without a doubt, Paul has shown himself to be the principled adult in the room.

So, what about Trump? I am asked that question constantly as a candidate for California’s 52nd Congressional District. Here is my answer:

Donald Trump is the result of an electorate that still cares deeply about their freedom and future. The financial crisis and war-without-end have convinced us that things are badly in need of a major shakeup. We simply want to see the old guard head off into the retirement sunset — and frankly, that is exactly what we are seeing. This is a good thing.

If, however, we can gain a vision of what this new guard looks like — and I think Paul embodies much of that vision — we can then realize who Donald Trump really is in the grand scheme of things. He is an important, but transitional, personality in a generational changing of the guard. In his crassness he is a perfect mirror for how we see the old guard and its establishment. The old guard is retiring, quite frankly, because they cannot stand to look at themselves in the mirror for eight years. And Harvey Weinstein — and the parade of others like him in the Hollywood/Washington/Wall Street Axis — have thoroughly vindicated this view. Donald Trump almost looks like he has a halo over his head in that company.

I am optimistic — very optimistic and excited, actually. I believe the President will be re-elected and serve eight years. They will be tumultuous and somewhat difficult years. But over these eight years the old guard will retire, the new guard will form, rise, and take its place. Freedom is messy and liberal democracy is hard work. But we are adults — and are up to the task.

John Horst is a longtime community volunteer, chairman of the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group and a Republican candidate for Congress in the 52nd Distrct.