I’ve noticed a big drop off in one sort of Facebook meme lately. Although lefty and progressive people are still posting funny videos of presidential candidate (and continued GOP front-runner) Donald Trump, these have been replaced in large part by serious, sober-sounding analysis of what to do if he becomes the GOP presidential candidate. Specifically, people are watching Trump do what was once politically unthinkable in this country. He was called on his recent rant that Muslims should not be allowed in the country, and instead of walking back his remarks, he doubled down. This is on top of his ‘get rid of illegals from Mexico’ rant that has probably sealed the deal on the GOP getting a plurality of votes from Latino voters for a generation.
The unwinding of Donald Trump’s mouth has also kept a lot of other, more pertinent stories out of the news cycle. For one, the discussion we should have about firearms and what happens when bad people get hold of semi-automatic assault weapons has been enveloped in the whole issue of deporting Muslims, even though Muslim shooters are less than a rounding error on the 355+ mass shootings the US has seen in 2015. The rest of the industrial world saw large protests in concert with the opening of the COP21 meeting on global warming in Paris. Paris had banned large protests after a terrorist attack, so Parisians left 10,000 empty pairs of shoes (including one from Pope Francis) at the protest site. In stark contrast, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, there were no more than a thousand or so demonstrators at the one NY mass protest prior to the meeting. We’re not talking about climate and human extinction in the US; we’re talking about Donald Trump.
I think people should have known from this posting that I’m not a Trump fan. I’ve been waiting for someone to start skewering the man on his many bankruptcies, his association with organized crime, his prevarication about his actual wealth, and other perfidies. Nobody seems to be willing to ask Trump any of the 21 questions about his past that were compiled by David Cay Johnston. And to be fair, Trump hasn’t given anyone a chance. He has worked diligently to keep his positions in the news cycle, which means that reporters are always playing catch-up. And the Fourth Estate is paying attention to Trump. The Daily News is hardly a left-wing rag. this is their cover from today, December 9. And inside, they’ve photoshopped The Donald as an armband-wearing Nazi.
So why should people (especially liberals or progressives) be grateful to Donald Trump?
His statements and general demeanor over the past few months have done what nobody on the left could do. Donald Trump has validated characterizations of the GOP as a backward and racist party. The last six-plus years of Obama bashing have always been a giveaway, of course. There has been a mean-ness about some of it that goes far beyond the normal US political scrum. But now we have someone (in the form of Trump) publicly saying the things that many of us suspected were always said by Republicans behind closed doors. I’m reminded of the surreptitious video taping of the 2012 Willard Romney rant about the 47% ‘takers’. Romney and his advisers knew such unguarded statements were political poison for his run. Donald Trump has embraced the crazy. And the fact that the GOP base is putting him #1 in polling reveals that the base is everything the left ever said about the GOP. There has also been a lack of condemnation of Trump’s bigotry. Noam Chomsky has agreed with that particular assessment, but establishment GOP types from the Country Club wing of the party are condemning Trump as well. Retired Senator and former GOP candidate for president Bob Dole has gone after Trump and primary rival Ted Cruz. Even Dick “Darth” Cheney is jumping ship. This sort of GOP fraternal infighting has been unthinkable over the years. It isn’t now. The question is whether the GOP defectors are reviling Trump because he’s wrong for America or they’re castigating him because the success of his candidacy (so far) reveals the dirty secret of the GOP’s own xenophobia. Trump has also (in his own way) made the uber-wealthy even more unpopular than they were in 2012.
One last point: One of the issues that makes The Donald stand out to disaffected Americans is something I’ve blogged about before. Trump in many ways represents the mythical Man on Horseback— the hero who can ride in, right every wrong, and ride back out again. One of the difficulties in the gun debate is that what should be a fairly straightforward question–“what’s the best way to stop gun massacres in the US?”–is not going to be decided by logic but by emotion. And the biggest obstacle to resolution of this problem is possibly the archetypal Trump supporter, the beleaguered middle aged white man, who hangs onto his guns because they’re the last vestige of control he has. His pension is gone and his 401K looted, his job doesn’t pay his rent, his elected officials don’t pay attention to him, but at least he has his guns. And maybe someday he will be called on to use them to right wrongs. That’s a model for real mayhem in this country, and people who aren’t supporters of the Trump ‘vision’ should be ready to deal with the ugly meat that Trump has stirred to the top of our oleaginous national stew. Regardless of what happens with Trump (who will probably never be president), the rest of us should be ready for a wave of anger (including armed insurrection) that has been building since the Lehman meltdown.
In the meantime, thanks for the heads-up, Donald.