Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A RUMINATION ON TRUMP, THE MIDTERMS, AND VOTING FOR OUTRAGEOUS MEDIOCRITY

Every few days now, President Donald Trump gets up at some rally somewhere, bathes in the glory of his disciples, steps to the microphone, and opens his mouth.  A switch inside his head clicks to "GO!", a cog turns, the gears catch, and out of that tiny mouth spout torrents of insanity: unscripted, unplanned, grade-A nuttiness that, often as not, relates to no earthly time-line the rest of us are following.  He lashes out against his opponent Hillary Clinton, whom he fought in an election campaign two years ago  and who has retired since, berates the New York Times of the 1970's, lapses into reveries about the wonders of the coal industry (gone now lo these many decades), and nails home a salient point about Justice Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court last week.  For ninety minutes, he says anything and everything that comes into his mind, clearly unscripted and clearly invented on the fly.  Even in mid-sentence, thoughts get rewritten and revised with a kind of contortional glee that you have to admire.  "I am -- I think -- it's possible -- some say --you know, the more I think about it -- what the hell -- I'm not!"

In response, the Democrats snap into action and do absolutely nothing.

Nobody from the Democratic Party elects to speak as the voice of reason.  There are little carpy self-servings kitten mews from the halls of Congress or a few town halls, but for the most part, the great Democratic Party is letting Trump hold a love-in on live broadcast three times a week, emitted at  Springsteenian decibel levels, which goes out to the nation to say, "Don't worry, I've got this."

And more people believe than you think.  And more people across this country are going to vote for the GOP than you think.  So be prepared for a big surprise on November 6.

It might be different if there were a Democratic Titan up there to shout back, someone CNN could cover.  But without a Congressional leadership or a Presidential Inevitable (a la Teddy Kennedy in the 1970's) or a Senior Emeritus (which Bill Clinton should be but for his general creepiness), there's nothing.  So Trump gets the stage to himself, and folks watch.

Let's be clear: not everyone who is going to vote GOP watch.  A lot turn way, because they don't want to be reminded that the source of their economic joy and judicial satisfaction is a babbling asshole.  They like a booming economy and they like hitting back at all those standards of tolerance and statesmanship that the USA has accepted as Holy Writ since 1945, but they don't want to be reminded that the Deliverer with whom they associate themselves  is this blowhard, racist, embarrassment.  But they're going to vote for him anyway.

(I'm assuming we all accept the fact that mid-term elections are all about Trump.  So when I say "vote for him" I mean "vote for the GOP" candidate, a truth that Trump embraces.)

They are going to vote for him either brazenly or in secret, but a lot more of them in secret than you think.  The Secret Trump Voter is uncountable.  They might not even tell their spouse.  But they are going to vote for him for a whole bunch of reasons, all of which, when you put it together and when you don't look at the broader picture, make sense:

They're going to vote for him because Obamacare was never explained properly and forced Americans to buy a product for the first time in the history of the country and because in general it "felt wrong", and the Democrats didn't recognize that.

They're going to vote for him because the Democrats just force too many regulations on regular people, farmers in particular, and anyone who has tried to build a house, start a business, or pave a road.

The're going to vote for him because he doesn't care about looking foolish asking questions about foreign affairs and economics anyone might ask.

They're going to vote for him because they suspect they will make more money next year than they did this year, and certainly more than the year before.

They're going to vote for him because they don't want to hear about gender equality, safe spaces, and trigger warnings.  It isn't just that they find it absurd, it's that they think all that talk makes their kids and their communities and their towns weaker.

Mostly, they're voting for him because he doesn't make them feel stupid, or ignorant, or less than.  Because he says out loud what they've been thinking for years (why do we send money to these other countries when our communities are falling apart?; why can't we just bully for what we want from the international brotherhood, and what is this brotherhood shit anyway?  And so on...)

These Trump supporters are not the crazies at the rally yelling "Lock her up!"  Those folks are Trump's necessary fringe, or his brownshirts, if you will.  The Trump supporters I'm talking about are rural people or suburbanites.   Rational people who help their neighbors and are all working.  People who feel belittled by the champagne liberalism of the Democratic elite and the ultra-sensitivity of their social agenda, those Democratic smooth talkers who knows what's best for everyone.  Far too many smooth talkers.

This all makes sense to me, and I put the blame one hundred percent at the feet of the Democratic Party, which was overtaken by zealots and social justice warriors and the righteous gang who have no more relation to FDR and the New Deal's social pragmatism than the GOP has anything to do with Lincoln's liberalism.

The crying shame is that this same Democratic Party is the only thing standing between us and the other side of Trumpism, the one we ignore at our peril, which is out-and-out fascism.  Trump is a fascist, and a fascinating one at that; he's a fascist by absolute instinct and not design.  Worse, he has molded the Republican party into a reflection of himself, so it too is now a  fascist entity.  As they talk in lock-step about Democrats being a "mob" and secret conspiracy theories and work to degrade our social safeguards against authoritarianism, Goebbels would smile.

So while there is a lot of reason for a lot of people to embrace Trumpism, in the end the country is going to have to do something that is hard for it to do, which is see beyond griping and "what feeds me" and vote for a party that doesn't deserve anyone's vote.

This greater good philosophy isn't a new thing for America to do.   The country's best moment have almost always been when it rises above "what feeds me."  When American boys went overseas to fight the greatest humanitarian and political threat in modern history, they weren't thinking about "what feeds me", they just did it.   When General George Marshall decided we were going to rebuild the shattered lives of the people of Europe, it wasn't "what feeds me".  Some would argue, but I believe there was 100% core American decency behind it.  The exploration of space, the wonder of its industrial invention, and the incredible amount of humanitarian aid sent by regular folks, community groups, and churches -- this is not America acting only on "what feeds me."

The country is going to have to do this again.  See beyond its instinctive wishes and needs and remember that there are greater issues at hand.  Issues involving justice, reason, and the history of the nation: not necessarily succeeding but at least trying for greatness every time.  Trump and the GOP represent none of this.  They are now a "deal" party rather than "ideal", and they will deal with anyone and anything.

The country seems to have loosened its grip on virtue, or the idea of virtue itself, and it needs to tighten up its grip or it is in mortal peril.  However... However...

The miserable truth is that the only car that will get us out of this moral ditch is so weak and so blinkered and so dismissive of what most of us live that it's hard to hitch your wagon to them.  On November 6, most people won't.  Certainly not happily.   But we're going to have to do it, and then kick their asses to wake up to reality.  I hope the country grasps this idea, but I fear not.

The blowhard TV show that goes on three times a week simply gets too much airtime, and there's nothing to counter-balance it.  How we got to this is kind of amazing.  It's an evolution the history books might marvel at.  I wonder, however, if they will be American or European history books.

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