26 July 2015

The adventures of Donald Trump

In the run-up to Presidential election years, you can usually count on the Republicans doing something to screw themselves over.  You never know in advance what it will be, but they'll do something, or more likely an escalating succession of somethings.

In the current campaign, of course, it started with their monstrous regiment of candidates, turning the usual clown car into a clown bus.  But that was just a prelude to their involuntary re-enactment of Robert Louis Stevenson's under-appreciated little literary gem, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

"Respectable" Republicans like to paint Donald Trump as a buffoon, an un-serious figure who has come out of nowhere and inexplicably attached himself to their party to its detriment.  In fact, he's the dark side they've been cultivating for decades under a veneer of decency -- he's the Republican id, made flesh and set loose upon the world.  And like Dr. Jekyll, they're finding that they can't avoid the blowback from their alter ego's increasingly erratic and repulsive behavior.  If there's one thing Trump knows how to do, it's hog the limelight.  The other candidates have been elbowed off the stage.  Trump is sucking up all the oxygen the rest of the flaming nutballs need to keep going.

Since the great re-alignment -- of the 1960s when segregationist Southern whites fled the Democratic party and joined the Republican coalition, and the 1970s when the party made its fateful alliance with Christian fundamentalists surging into politics out of fury and alarm over the sexual revolution and the nascent gay movement -- the Republicans have been the party of those who resisted any progress in the rights of those who were traditionally kept down.  Over time that element has become the core of the party.  Republicans are instinctively, reactively hostile to every advance of gay rights, to black anger and protests at police violence, to women's access to abortion and even contraception, to any formal recognition of the equality of non-Christians, and on and on.

But there's always been that veneer of respectability.  Minority vote suppression was whitewashed as fighting "vote fraud", a problem whose salience was proclaimed in the face of lack of evidence.  Opposing gay marriage was couched as "defending traditional marriage".  Anti-gay discrimination has become "religious freedom".  Et cetera.

The problem is that the base is exasperated with that kind of subtlety.  They're waving their torches and pitchforks and looking for a castle to storm.  They're in no mood for nuance.

Enter The Donald, a man whose background is not in politics but in entertainment -- casinos, beauty pageants, and the like.  He's not offering serious policy prescriptions (it's said that his books do, but these people don't read books).  He's offering Howard Beale and Rick Santelli, primal screams of frustration that express and legitimize the base's inchoate rage in place of solutions.  Wall off the border and make Mexico pay for it!  Bomb ISIS's oil fields!  These aren't solutions and show no understanding of the problems, but the base doesn't care.  That's not what Trump is about.  He's Palin with testosterone.  He's ditching the veneer of respectability and validating their temper tantrums.

And for that, they not only love him but will forgive him almost anything.  If serious Republicans grumble that Trump in the past has donated to Democrats, expressed pro-choice views on abortion, and otherwise shown signs of not being a pure conservative, the base doesn't know or care.  If they denounce him for attacking moderate Republicans, the base cheers him on.  Any reader of rage-right sites like RedState knows that the base is even angrier at "squishy" moderate "RINO" Republicans than it is at liberals.

After Trump insulted John McCain (and by extension prisoners of war in general), some thought he was finished, but a new poll after that incident shows his support among Republicans increasing to 28%, twice as high as that of the next-highest candidate, the hapless Jeb Bush.  More clearly than ever before, he's the front-runner.

If insulting less-extremist Republicans works for Trump, will it work for others?  Ted Cruz has been giving it a try, and it seems to be getting him brownie points with the rage crowd.  Just imagine what the party will end up like if this really catches on.

The first candidate debate is less than two weeks away, and as front-runner by a big and growing margin, Trump can hardly be excluded.  Can you envisage guys like Jeb, Walker, and Rubio trying to "debate" a screeching, poo-flinging orangutan (who is actually smarter than they are)?  Whoever wins, it's going to make a mess, and likely a hugely entertaining one.

Another source of Trump's support is his defiance of "the media" and "political correctness", which the base blames for conservatism's succession of defeats in the culture wars.  He doesn't back down or apologize when he's called out on saying outrageous things.  After the respected Des Moines Register vigorously denounced him, he simply banned the paper from covering his events.  Most politicians know they can't afford to alienate too many people, but Trump's ego won't let him back down and his admirers think he's the one guy who's finally got the guts to speak truth to power.

They're wrong, of course, and so is he.  If he somehow actually won the Republican nomination for President, he'd lose to Hillary by a bigger margin than any other Republican.  He almost certainly won't win the nomination -- Jeb is the establishment's candidate, and the establishment usually gets what it wants.  But there's a problem.  If a spurned Trump ran as a third candidate, he'd almost certainly bleed off enough of the knuckle-dragger vote to doom any chance of the real Republican nominee winning.  Last week Trump explicitly promised not to do that, then just two days later explicitly threatened that he would do it if the establishment doesn't treat him "fairly", however he judges that.

He's got the party establishment over a barrel.  They have no leverage over a man who really doesn't care what anyone thinks and has so much money of his own that he could pay for a third-candidate run without being beholden to donors.

I think he will do it.  He's made so much money in business that that pursuit has probably started to pall somewhat -- when you've got ten billion, how much difference does another few billion make to your life, really?  He's 69 years old and I suspect he yearns to try an even bigger adventure while he's still vigorous enough to pull it off and enjoy it.  To be a mere also-ran for the Republican nomination, especially after leading the pack?  I can't believe his ego would be content to let it all end like that.  A third-candidate run would give him another year at the center of attention and controversy, and make him a key figure in the politics of the mightiest nation on Earth.  He wouldn't win, but third candidates never do -- no disgrace there, and I doubt the responsibility and hard work of actually being President appeals to him anyway.  He'd trash the Republican party in the process, but he clearly thinks it needs a good hard shaking-up (and a lot of Republicans seem to agree).  He'd help elect Hillary, but she'd almost certainly win even without him, and they're personal friends (she was an invited guest at his most recent wedding).  He'd win himself a place in the history books at least as prominent as Ross Perot.  It's the kind of bang that The Donald, in his own mind, deserves to go out with.

And the Republicans?  This is the end of the road they set out on when they aligned themselves with Jerry Falwell and the segregationists back in the sixties and seventies.  It should have been foreseeable, even then.  They did this to themselves.


Blogger Sleestak said...

To paraphrase John Stewart (about McCain and the Tea Party) Dr Frankenstein isn't allowed to be surprised when the monster he created wrecks the laboratory

27 July, 2015 08:43  
Anonymous Blurber said...

I guess the big hope for the Republicans is that it's still early and by the middle of next year all the crackpots will be gone and the damage done will have faded enough for them to win. We shall see.

27 July, 2015 09:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sleestak: Yep. And then proceeds to wreck the whole castle.

Blurber: I'm sure they are hoping that, but the problem is less crackpot candidates than crackpot primary voters. Trump doing so well in polls of Republicans (even while he does so badly in polls of the broader public) argues that he won't be easy to get rid of.

27 July, 2015 19:27  
Anonymous AWJ said...

Infidel, have you seen this article?


I would assume you've seen the charming neologism "cuckservative" a few times on that horrible BBS you read. Well, "cuckservative" has apparently been dragged from the swamps of the white-power BBSes and subreddits into the mainstream by Trump's fanbase, and the "respectable" Republicans aren't happy about it.

And it's not just one slur that's leaking from the creepy "alternative right" into the mainstream. In the comments to that New Republic article you can see Trump fans self-identifying as "neoreactionaries", talking about "destroying the Enlightenment", and decrying the "poisoned fruit" of "Suffrage, Equality, and[...]Rights". And I've seen similar comments on other Trump articles.

28 July, 2015 00:45  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

You make good points here about Trump and the GOP, I been hearing alot about this, and my first thought was Trump is indirectly (maybe intentionally?) helping the Democrat Party ... but yeah guy ... no solutions, no blueprint, etc. The point you made about some republicans being like instinctually anti race, gayz, and such ... I have alwayz wondered that myself?, if it was like instinct, because some of it dont make any damn sense ... unless you FOLLOW some kind of cult mentality, like on the issue of gayz or race ... how would a race of folks or gayz have any effect on them? ... you know? ... it dont make any sense, like having actual "reason". This whole thing Infidel has been a freak show of sort and got me burned out like "quick", just having to hear all the GOP whining about Trump like a bunch of PC pussies, or like a bunch of sparrows chirping in the trees, it was irritating listening to their whining in a way. I got to give it to Trump though, if he is really sincere about what he sayz that is, for at least speaking what he actually feels, and at the same time it shows what a large portion of republicans actually feel that are cheering him on, yet the establishment of the party wants them to hide their feelings out of political correctness? ... I dont know man ... this shit is really some political looney tunes though ... enough from me ... later Infidel

28 July, 2015 05:18  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"Most politicians know they can't afford to alienate too many people, but Trump's ego won't let him back down and his admirers think he's the one guy who's finally got the guts to speak truth to power."

Except the fact-checkers, Politifact and Fact-Check.org, found that the massive majority of Trump's so-called "truth to power" is completely fact-free.

Best assessment I've read on Trump and the inevitable result of the GOP's embrace of rancid demagoguery and bloviating narcissists.

28 July, 2015 05:33  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Latest news today is that Trump is eyeing Sarah Palin to either join his campaign or, who knows, maybe be his running mate? Could we be that lucky?

28 July, 2015 14:57  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

AWJ: .....on that horrible BBS you read.....

Which one? :-)

Thanks for the link. It's not surprising. Fascists tend to fetishize extreme masculinity, and commonly hurl emasculating insults at those they deem "weak".

I'm actually glad to see them talking about "destroying the Enlightenment". Let's get the real deep issues here out into the open where everyone can see them.

Ranch: I think it's people who are stuck at the sociological bottom of the barrel needing somebody they can feel superior to. They got by with blacks in that role for a century, until the blacks got fed up of taking their crap and revolted. Nowadays they can't even beat up on the homos without getting in trouble. Mighty frustrating for them.

Shaw: Yes, it's more like speaking bullshit to power. It works because he's validating the teabaggers' simplistic delusions and they think he's speaking the truth.

I heard that Christie recently said something about offering Palin the VP spot if he gets the nomination. I guess Trump won't allow anyone to out-crazy him. Besides, Palin still has some fans on the loony right, even if far fewer than there used to be.

28 July, 2015 18:24  
Blogger Pinku-Sensei said...

In your Sunday links, you included one of a Libertarian calling Trump a Fascist. That meme is starting to go mainstream with a writer at Salon calling him an actual Fascist.

As for "cuckservative," I'm seeing that all over the net today. That ugly word has broken loose!

28 July, 2015 19:26  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Pinku: "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out" (I, Claudius). Maybe Trump, as the apotheosis of what conservatism has become, is what we actually need -- a poultice that will draw all the poison and filth out into the open where it can no longer be denied, and we can deal with it.

28 July, 2015 21:01  
Blogger Ema Nymton said...


"The problem is that the base is exasperated with that kind of subtlety. They're waving their torches and pitchforks and looking for a castle to storm. They're in no mood for nuance."

Trump 2016! 50 State Sweep! Trump 2016! 50 State Sweep!
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Trump 2016! 50 State Sweep! Trump 2016! 50 State Sweep!
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Oh ya! Oh ya. Trump 2016! 50 State Sweep!


Yes. It really is GREAT to see what Trump! 2016! 50 State Sweep is doing to the Republican'T Party. It really is. This could not be happening to a better political party.

Trump! 2016! 50 State Sweep brings out the absolute worst in the absolute worst type of people. And the spectacular show is embarrassing to the elite establishment Republican'Ts. (And this is all soooo beautiful to watch gleefully!)

So what exactly does the Republican'T Party have to offer?

Republican'Ts cannot hope to win a national election without appealing to the scum who are attracted to the worst kind of vile hatred of President Obama and USA. Once Trump 2016! 50 State Sweep flames out, the chumps who have been played for the fools they are are going to go home and not vote.

Guess the voters can be offered Jindal/Graham as the next Clown Car candidates to lose to Bernie Sanders ...

Full disclosure: Ema Nymton supports 'Feel The Bern' Bernie Sanders.

Ema Nymton

31 July, 2015 04:58  
Blogger Tim McGaha said...

Dammit. I was about to write something like this. Now I'm going to have to write something else.

05 August, 2015 11:02  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ema: They can't win without their loonies, and they can't win with 'em.

Tim: Great minds think alike (and I do consider you a great mind).

05 August, 2015 18:37  

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