Politics

Trump and the Maximum Security Metaphor

May 6, 2019
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Maybe you missed it, but they ran the 145th Kentucky Derby on Saturday and the favorite, Maximum Security, won the race. Except that afterwards, two other jockeys filed a protest. And the stewards of the Derby unanimously agreed that Maximum Security had broken the rules.

The horse was stripped of its victory.

And you’ll never guess whose side President Trump was on:

The arcane rules of the fancy-pants sport of kings, evidently, are all about “political correctness.” Who knew?

This prompted a note from an astute reader who noticed that of course Trump would be on the side of Maximum Security:

What better metaphor for what’s happening today with the American presidency is there than Saturday’s Kentucky Derby finish and the president’s position on it?

There are rules for games and sports. The rules are the game. At the Derby a rule was broken that clearly impacted the order of the finish, in this case through no apparent malice or intent by Maximum Security or the jockey. The rules disqualify the horse that breaks the rule. The stewards disqualified Maximum Security. Nobody likes to see the results of a great sporting event decided this way, but it happens.

Laws are the rules of the game in representative democratic societies, too. The laws of the country are the country; the norms of behavior and rhetoric towards these laws make up the culture of the country. When you have laws, but the norms of behavior and rhetoric disregard those laws, you have lawlessness.

People of character living in civilized countries respect and follow the rule of law. Gangsters, outlaws, gang members, crooks, and other assorted bad guys don’t. There is a lesson here regarding our attitudes toward all law breakers, including illegal immigrants.

The U.S. President’s position on Saturday’s Derby ruling as communicated through his tweet illustrate as clearly as anything his lack of respect for the rules. Why this is an important metaphor for the man in general is that his position on the Derby ruling reflects his attitude towards all rules: Essentially, that they’re for suckers. All that matters is that you cross the wire first. It doesn’t matter how you get there.

The stewards were right to disqualify the horse that finished first. Maximum Security’s move outward violated a rule and altered the order in which the horses finished the race. It made a difference on which horses placed and showed, and if you had a wager or owned one of the other horses, it made a difference to you.

But for Trump, winning is the only thing that matters. If it takes disregarding laws and norms to do it—what he euphemistically calls playing it “rough and tumble”—then so be it. The end of winning justifies the means of breaking a rule or law.

It’s all part of the corruption of Trumpism. Of course Trump has to be against a rules-based disqualification of Maximum Security, because he has to be against the enforcement of rules, period. That’s his modus operandi. And so, Trump’s people have to be against them, too. That’s why we have Rudy Giuliani also taking a stand against enforcement of the rules:

For the record, I have no opinion on Maximum Security, because the Kentucky Derby is nothing but a party for globalist elites and I’m a man of the people, so the Preakness is my race and Kegasus is my horse.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is executive editor of The Bulwark.