We are all Donald Trump now.
In 1963, JFK went to the Berlin wall and said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). Following 9/11, many people around the world said, “We are New Yorkers.” Now former National Lampoon writer P.J. O’Rourke has stepped forward to tell us, “America is Donald Trump“. Or wants to be.
And dear god, he’s right.
The Donald is rich. We want to be rich. The Donald is on TV. We want that too. The Donald is powerful (just ask him). People listen. Who doesn’t want power? He’s got serious competition for the Biggest Blowhard title: Antonin Scalia and Chris Christie. And although both of them are good at being blowhards—very good!—they run a distant second. Trump’s the king of that shitpile. Seems like a lot of people want to be Donald Trump. Scalia and Christie, not so many.
All three are famous for speaking their opinionated minds, but Trump is the one being called the Id …of Republicans, of Conservatives, of the Right. Why would the poor and powerless would support such an icon of everything they’ll never have? They do, and it’s not a trick answer.
It’s a behavior described in Thomas Frank’s 2004 book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”—they believe that someday they WILL be rich. And so they are against any laws that would disadvantage their imagined future selves. In doing that, they vote against the interests of their current selves (and against their actual future selves). I’m simplifying, of course—this is a thoughtful book that I’ve summarized in just a few sentences. Read it, or at least read the author’s own summary.
Poor Chris Christie, poster child for anger management counseling, finds himself playing Robin to Trump’s Batman. And it’s not only Republican voters eating it up. Trump hasn’t been off the news cycle since he declared. Reporters are now asking him why he doesn’t make campaign stops. He doesn’t need to. Look, people: you’re interviewing him right now. He doesn’t even have to try, to get on TV.
That much exposure has led to immortality even Trump might wish to avoid: the Twittersphere is hilariously littered with cats wearing Trump hair. No, he likes ANY attention; there’s no other way to explain the hair.
The man is a living, breathing cartoon. And we’ve become one too. Hollywood knows this. How else to explain so many movies these days, with cartoonish heroes? Arnold’s ba-a-ack and so is Mad Max, both leading us on impossible two-hour chases. Again. The Marvel universe is at least honest: these live-action creatures began life in comic books.
Ironic that today’s animated flicks are edging in the opposite direction: toward reality.
Republican woes are no reason to feel superior, Democrats. You are hardly immune to election year jiggery-pokery. AND you’re basically stuck with just one viable candidate who has issues that the Right is working hard to exploit.
The 2016 Presidential election is Hillary’s to lose, but that is not an impossibility. Ask Barack Obama.
Not Speaking in Tongues
There’s some wonderfully dark irony to Trump’s candidacy. He’s a master bullshitter, at least when it comes to self-promotion. And he certainly conflates his ability to govern: “I’ll be the best jobs president ever!” So far so good. What usually gets candidates into trouble on a campaign is accidentally telling the truth—and in this case I mean the truth as they see it. Speaking without filters or code in a closed meeting, which was once-upon-a-time highly effective, may have lost its allure permanently after the Mitt Romney “47%” video of the 2012 campaign. But that’s the kind of “truth” I’m talking about.
Forget trying to catch Trump saying something outrageous in private. He hides nothing; he has no public filter. (Or notes.) What comes out, much to the trepidation of his fellow candidates and Republican strategists is this: the ugly truth. He speaks, out loud and in plain English, those dirty little opinions that Republicans have whispered to each other, and spoken to the public in code, ever since Nixon claimed the South with his “Law and Order” campaign in 1968.
And so, an article in The Week argues that the problem really isn’t Donald Trump. It’s the retrograde fringe that now forms the base of the Republican Party. It’s a fact of democracy that everyone is supposed to be represented—even bigots. If you can mobilize them on an emotional issue like race, you can claim the entire block. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” worked.
The South, either by voting in a Republican or a son of the South Democrat, won the White House every year after Nixon until Obama came along. Republicans can’t elect a president without those votes. They’d lose both houses of Congress as well.
This is the sausage that they’ve have been making since 1968, and must now eat in nauseating quantities. They face the same abyss that the Democrats faced during the Sixties. How will it turn out this time?
You know what happened in 1965: Democrats did the right thing by passing the Civil Rights Act. And the cost, admitted by LBJ at the time, was indeed losing the South. A generation of voters flipped their allegiance. Hell, two generations going on three.
Will Republicans do the right thing now: disown Trump’s bigotry? Some want to: Lindsey Graham warned of the “demographic death spiral” sucking down his party. The lack of other candidates’ quick responses does not bode well for their ability to do the right thing.
As backward as Graham sounds on occasion, he’s practically prescient on this. Republicans are terrified of “betraying” the South’s unrepentant conservatives. But those people are dying off. Republicans will lose the demographics battle by attrition, unless they do something right now…
…such as comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, it was carefully crafted and passed by a bipartisan Senate in 2014, allowed to die in the waiting room of the House because the man nominally in charge has no real control. And these people have gerrymandered the House until at least the 2022 midterm elections.
Political Survivor does make for strange bedfellows: Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, who cannot agree with each other on much, have both publicly agreed with Trump and called him friend. Not so much because they actually do, but bowing to another political reality: with fourteen declared candidates (Scott Wilson announced last Monday), you gotta do something to stand out.
Flat Earth Still Popular, Somewhere
You worry too much. Oh wait, that’s me. As of this writing, Trump leads with 15% of a national GOP poll. While it’s true that every other candidate has a lower percentage, consider this: A national poll in 2012 found that 25% of the population—that’s one in four, folks—believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Really, look it up. That’s five percentage point higher than in 2000, when a survey found that only 20% of Americans believed the Dark Ages’ geocentric theory. So it’s getting worse. But not even all of those people like Donald Trump. He’s got just a tad more than half. So stop worrying.
You know that the universe doesn’t revolve around you, right? It revolves around him, silly.
Here is why the Republicans can’t dump him. Politics is sausage making, you’ve read here more than once. Did you ever take a close look at the inside of a sausage? All those fat nodules and unidentified bits? To the Republicans, that’s Donald Trump. He’s their Confederate battle flag.
Come Join the Christie Roast
Last time, I promised you some fun with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who became the 15th candidate to announce for the Republican nomination. Here we are! No fat jokes. Who needs ‘em?
For starters, I saw a news story last week that had New Jersey legislators offering him the choice of governing or running for president. But not both. In response, Christie assured them that he could run the state from his cell phone. And state law makes the road to recall or impeachment a rough one indeed.
Christie’s campaign kicked off with a 2-minute “Tell It Like It Is” video
that details how his mother taught him to speak his mind. Apparently, she also taught him to be rude to others. The problem Christie will have with many voters is not his honesty, but the fact that they don’t like a bully.
Here’s a great juxtaposition: YouTube’s “watch-next” list of videos next to “Tell It Like It Is” is an eight-part series with the same name, by Bill O’Reilly …whose mere mention ought to remind you that “Tell It Like It Is” really means “How I see it”—often far from anyone else’s reality.
Christie’s coming-out party generated a flood of stories about his transgressions as a public servant. The New York Times weighed in, but most damning was a piece by someone who personally covered Christie for years: Star-Tribune editorial board member Tom Moran.
Even with the ponderous evidence Moran presents, he acknowledges a respect for the New Jersey governor’s political skills. During a TV interview about the book, Moran described how he could walk away from a Christie town meeting thinking that all the bad things he knew to be true were actually wrong. But fortunately for the news, this false halo effect would wear off in half an hour.
The Devil’s Horns effect is what Christie may have achieved when he visited embattled Maine governor Paul LePage. On his first campaigning day! I can see Christie visiting rival candidate Bobby Jindal next, the only governor in the race who has a worse approval rating in his home state. Perhaps Christie has an interest in people who make him look good by comparison.