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The Balking Dead

PS#38

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As I write this, it’s just a few days until the crucial Wisconsin primary, and the impossible is seemingly in play: Donald Trump trailing Ted Cruz by ten points in the polls there. Is the so-called “Trump slump” real? The so-called Republican Establishment is hoping so, even though the alternative seems to be the even less popular nineteenth-century Ted.

The fear is that Trump will become a zombie candidate—damaged beyond repair (with the general electorate) but unstoppable nonetheless, and thus deadly to the party “down ticket” in November. This I can tell you: he won’t be loitering on the other side of a chain link fence, waiting patiently for Rick Grimes & company to fell him with a length of rebar to the head.

He’ll be screaming foul and his followers will enact a variation of oh-so-many Walking Dead scenes, dragging one foot toward the voting booth to write in his name anyway, should he somehow be denied the Republican nomination.

And as many followers as he seems to have, Trump cannot stop himself from alienating everyone else daily. This time it was stating that once abortions were banned under his presidency, women seeking them in a back alley should be subject to punishment. Yow, even if the baby’s father is also the mother’s father? No wait, that would be Cruz saying that.

Thank you, Chris Matthews, for forcing Trump past his initial simplistic answer.

I even heard simple truth flowing from the mouth of Newt Gingrich: “It’s almost as though [Trump] is so full of himself that he can’t slow down and recognize that being president of the United States is a team sport that requires a stable personality.”

“Almost as though”—why the qualifier? This past week, Trump also suggested that nuclear proliferation be encouraged to address regional challenges, such as those presented by North Korea. This concept borders on the NRA stance that arming everyone in a darkened movie theater would grant them all safety.

Wait, let’s pause this manic march to smell the flowers: the moment when a house finch alighted on Bernie Sanders’ podium during a speech in Portland, Oregon, achieved instant viral status on the internet for its charm and symbolism. I hope that it isn’t the only touch of grace in a presidential season that grows sleazier each day.

But I’m probably wrong. I want to say that we’re now knee deep in sleaze, what with Trump and Cruz surrogates posting ostensibly embarrassing photos of their candidates’ wives. The truth is, it hasn’t even reached our ankles yet.

“There are things about Heidi [Cruz] that I don’t want to talk about,” quoth Mr. Trump on ABC’s This Week, last week. “You could look [for them on the internet], but I don’t want to talk about them.”

That’s a mean girls approach right out of high school. Or am I grading it too high? What a pity that the Secret Service ruled “no guns” at the Cleveland convention this July. Don and Ted could settle their rivalry like real men: onstage with pistols at twenty paces.

But what happened when all three Republican candidates were offered the chance to walk their NRA talk? I watched each of them dodge the question: “Do you support open carry at the convention?” Cowards! Cruz and Kasich deferred to the Secret Service—before their ruling. “I’ll study it,” Trump promised. The entire petition, on change.org, was fewer than 800 words. Hint: the reading goes faster if you don’t move your lips.

Of course, each knew that he’d be a prime target if guns were allowed on the convention floor. But what a missed opportunity for the viewing public! We could learn on live TV about the wisdom of handing a gun to anyone who wants one. This news story offered a truly educational comments section:

Open carry: allowed in bars, schools and churches.
Open carry: illegal in the Capitol building and at the convention.
Do you sense a pattern? Not one of these chicken hawks is willing to back his own cheap talk.

But I digress, back to the sleaze. You didn’t shower already? Nothing like a Trump counterattack to make you feel the need to soap away that oily grime.

Trump friend The National Equirer ran a story about Ted Cruz’s five mistresses with its usual total lack of substantiation. Also without understanding that such excess discourage people from believing you. Five? Really? And Ted would be campaigning when, exactly? Now I read that someone connected with Marco Rubio was behind the tale. Dear god, am I actually defending Ted Cruz?

Of course, Trump immediately promoted the story, proclaiming that the tabloid has “a very good record of being right,” pretty funny considering all the ridiculous stories they published about The Donald himself during the 90s. Maybe that was before they began getting things right?

And of course, Cruz disavowed the photo that started it all: his superPAC released a GQ photo of Melania Trump during her modeling days, mostly nude. It’s the old trial lawyer trick of making a damaging statement that is immediately objected to, and the objection sustained. “The jury will disregard that statement,” instructs the judge. But of course it can’t be unheard.

Thank you, Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court: their Citizens United ruling empowered superPACs to spend unlimited (and untraceable) funds on anything they want. It’s a genius way for campaigns to attack foes with the worst trash imaginable—and for the candidates themselves to maintain deniability while reaping the benefits.

Trump’s response to attacks is not “Your honor, I object!”—it’s to fire back with one hand and threaten a lawsuit with the other. He has threatened to sue Cruz over legal “theft” of Louisiana delegates to the convention. You might think the results of an election, even a mere primary, would be obeyed. But you’d be wrong.

Through backroom dealing, Cruz managed to pull down ten more delegates than Trump, even though Trump won the election. Ron Paul used that maneuver repeatedly during the 2012 campaign, until the party realized what he was doing and put a stop to it.

…all of which is a good lesson on how party politics works. The party, and I include Democrats too, can change their convention rules at any time. And do. And the infighting preliminaries have reached a crescendo: Trump, Cruz and Kasich all reneged on their pledges to support the eventual Republican nominee.

In truth, the party has not supported Trump, so I wish him all the luck with his third-party run.

It’s no news that the Republicans have spent years earning this electoral rebellion. I’ve written previously about the half-century of speaking in code that began with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Trump turned that on its ear by dispensing with the code altogether, in favor of plain English.

W cultivated the evangelical vote and then gave back absolutely to them during his terms. The Party of “No” used Senate rules during Obama’s first term to block every appointment and policy that they could, even when Obama had borrowed those ideas from Republicans. And in doing so set records for filibustering and fewest accomplishments.

Probably most indicative, the Republicans have owned the House and the Senate since 2010 and have managed to break their own recently set record for non-productivity. No one should wonder for a moment why the masses finally decided that the people they put in power don’t deserve it. It was Donald Trump’s good fortune to appeal to these very people at exactly the right time.

Stephen Colbert—the liberal CBS talk show host, not the lovable conservative idiot he portrayed on his Comedy Central show—appeared on Face the Nation in December and praised Trump for his understanding of his audience (not for his politics).

In a nutshell: Trump not only understands the concerns of blue collar workers, he understands everyone’s desire for simplicity. “I’ll fix it, it’ll be great,” he tells us, and that’s really all they want to hear. So much for the informed voter. And whether he actually intendends to help these people is another matter.

Trump’s not so much a liar as he is a bullshitter. An article I’ve since lost track of explained the difference at length, but I’ll summarize with a single excerpt: bullshit springs from various forms of contemporary skepticism “which deny that we have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are.”

I.e., the world is like the movie Rashomon, where each character has his own version of what is happening in front of us all.

The problem with the versions that Trump spews with so much regularity, and in such volume, is that you can’t call him on them. (Unless you’re Chris Matthews.) If you do, he just says, “excuse me,” reasserts the lie and keeps going. If the interviewer stops him and hammers away at the lie, the interviewer loses.

There’s no way for the interviewer to win the argument. And worse: too many voters out there are in the Sarah Palin mode of willful ignorance. Trump tells them the fantasies they want to believe in, for instance that a wall will prevent illegals from entering the country. Or that starting a trade war with China and Mexico would be beneficial to the U.S.

This time around has been a real slog through the mud. We gotta end with a little fun: compare that earlier “Birdie Sanders” video with what other birds think of Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush.

 

 

Political Survivor #38

 

 

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Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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