Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trump Cards and Clown Shows

The Short Version

If you really want to know why everyone is freaking out and un-democratically demanding that a perfectly valid, qualified candidate (and being an offensive moron is obviously not a disqualifier -- see the rest of the field) drop out of the race, read this fake Donald Trump Op-Ed from The Onion. 

The reason is simple: we (the media, the people, the government) have so totally fucked up our politics, culture, and coverage of all of the above that we (the media, the people, the government) can't stop watching and commenting.

And that terrifies the establishment used to stage-managing these events. It's all finally out of their control, They don't like what that means, and don't want to reckon with the consequences.

Old Media, Outrage

The Des Moines Register managed to make itself briefly newsworthy by running a misguided and bizarre Op Ed demanding that GOP/Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump drop out of the race. The DMR is using Trump's remarks about John McCain as a flimsy justification for demanding his exit.

Hmm. Nasty comments about a war hero? Hey media? Remember when you ran unsubstantiated and debunked lies about an actual war hero who was even running for President? Against a guy who dodged combat himself and had a draft-dodger for a running mate? Where was your collective outrage then?

The Des Moines Register implies that Trump is electable but not qualified. And they're half-right. Trump is qualified, per the Constitution:
Age and Citizenship requirements - US Constitution, Article II, Section 1
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States. 
Term limit amendment - US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 - ratified February 27, 1951
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.
Trump's a "natural born citizen" of the United states, and he's over 35, and been a resident long enough. And (mercifully) he hasn't been president twice before. So technically, he's qualified.

In fact, he's as qualified as any of the other 14 15 goofballs aligned with the GOP and currently running for President.

The sins of Donald Trump stain all of the candidates, if you ask me. The Des Moines Register says of Trump:
"...more focused on promoting himself and his brand than addressing the problems facing the nation". 
That's every candidate out there, son. You're telling me any of the other 15 are really "addressing the problems" and not just promoting themselves? Besides, the Donald, in his clumsy and awful way, is talking about The Issues That Matter to some people: The economy. Immigration. National security.

Is he talking smack about other people? Which candidates aren't?
"[offensive and disgraceful comments] that...threaten to derail not just his campaign, but the manner in which we choose our nominees for president. By using his considerable wealth, his celebrity status, and his mouth to draw attention to himself, rather than to raise awareness of the issues facing America, he has coarsened our political dialogue and cheapened the electoral process."
I'm tempted to just leave that there and let it speak for itself, but c'mon. You're going to pick on Trump for that, and not, I don't know, anyone who ran in the last 10 elections? Newt Gingrich? You don't even have to look too hard to find outrageous statements by other people farther along in the current race and less "qualified" who didn't merit this kind of editorializing. (subject of outrage and former presidential candidate McCain himself is hardly an angel here, by the way).

And let's point out that this is just for some stuff Trump said. It's not like he sneakily passed a law dismantling protections for unions, or petulantly disrupted traffic, or acted to preserve discrimination.

Then again, if we just want to go by words, there are plenty of other awful things other candidates have said. Where's your Op-Ed yellow card for these people?

Hell, Trump himself said awful things just a few weeks ago. But you didn't freak out then. You ran the story. You fed it. You told everyone to pay attention.

There's something un-democratic about demanding any particular candidate not run, and something bizarre about using a large media platform to talk about how a candidate isn't serious enough to talk about, and could he please just go away so they could stop talking about him without having to transparently show that the media and establishment make arbitrary decisions about who is worth talking about "seriously" and who isn't.

Perhaps the most laughable part of the Des Moines Register's outrage is claiming that these "hard-fought campaigns...involve staggering personal and financial sacrifices." Yeah, let's talk about that.


The 16-strong roster of current candidates is already being sorted and ranked by the only metric that really matters in America anymore: How much money they have.

Current campaign finance "law" effectively encourages and allows candidates to raise massive sums of money in unaccountable ways via SuperPACs, and it's all above-board as long as the candidate takes care of all of this before formally declaring they're running for president. it's a hilarious and sad bit of Kabuki theatre.

This results in things like the charade of Jeb Bush hemming and hawing and pretending like he hasn't already decided to run, and then coming out of the gate with $100 million in backing.

That's money that's just going to get burned up on awful advertisements and leaflets and flying and driving and creating nothing beyond making sure people know that Jeb is running for president, and here's sort of what he believes (but not really).

Since the media and those who read it are lazy, we now have a convenient score for each of the candidates: How much money they have, which now becomes a proxy for how "electable" they are, with the thin justification that "money is what wins elections".

This further reinforces that money isn't just speech, it's the only speech that matters.

This kind of thinking is an accelerating, self-reinforcing loop. Nobody wants to back a loser, so new money clusters to where the money already is. "See? Money is what matters." Followed by "it takes so much money to win (not run, not participate in) elections now, please give more or your guy won't make it!"

This approach in the media (encouraged by the candidates and their plutocrat "backers") turns the election into something like Fantasy Football -- it's not even a real sport with individual effort, it's just numbers, abstracted from any actual achievement.

Best of all, it takes all the unpleasant cognition out of the picture -- nobody has to think about what any of these clowns are actually saying, or what they've done, or what they're proposing to do. It's just a number: What's their score? Are they up or down? Are they rich?

This is part of what ultimately stunned Romney and co.: "But we had so much money!"

Oh, and these days, the only candidates that walk out of a campaign in poor financial shape are idiots who don't know how to work the system. Seriously.

The Fear

Many of the accusations being fired off against Mr. T could just as easily be levied at a number of the other 16 players. And certainly should have been called out against previous candidates. So why, suddenly, is the media rising up against a candidate? Why Trump?

Well, Trump has his own money (more than Ross Perot). They can't just knock him out of their bracket now. Trump has no mysterious backers or Koch brothers pulling strings. If Trump is fer or agin' Big Oil, it isn't because they are writing him big checks (yet).

Also, Trump doesn't have to take any of it seriously...and that's also terrifying for people who keep insisting to themselves and us that all of this Very Serious.

Perhaps all of this is just a game for Trump -- his "worst" outcome is arguably that he wins, and then actually has to govern for 4 years, and his second "worst" outcome is that he drops out at a time of his choosing, with a bulletproof narrative about how he spoke truth, was threatened by the establishment, and stood up to everyone and did what he wanted on his own terms.

And then Trump cashes in on all of that and goes back to being another rich doof who occasionally threatens to run again. You know, like Mitt Romney.

But that's the least of why people are freaking out. What really worries all of them in the short term -- the media, the candidates, the puppet-backers -- is not what Trump is saying. It's that they will all be asked what they think about what Trump is saying, and have to respond to it.

One could already point to media coverage and note that it's already focused on the furor around Trump's remarks, and not the remarks themselves. And the difference from the other guys and their ridiculous and offensive statements is that there was less furor around the remarks (though many times, as noted above, they were just as awful in different ways).

The problem for the other candidates is not what Trump is saying. Because what Trump is saying is not substantively different from what they're saying. It's just that The Donald is saying it loud, proud, and uncouth. He's not dog-whistling properly. He's blowing their cover.

This leaves them in an uncomfortable position. Do they flat-out disagree with Trump, and get kicked out of the race, the party, and their offices? Do they agree with him, stripped of the cover of euphemism, winking, and nudging and be revealed for the awful people they actually are (albeit awful people with, apparently, big electorate support)? Or do they try to walk between those things, and come across as overly political and without conviction?

Clown Show

There are already plans to whittle down the current crop of 16 bozos to 10 for the "first GOP debate". This is less picking winners than culling what the media and powers that be have determined to be people who, if not exactly losers, will make the designated winners look uncomfortable, hypocritical, or just less special.

10 is still far too many for people to keep track of, and nothing substantive will come of the "debate". Since the candidates won't get to say much, every word will be scrutinized. And how they say it -- how they look, sound, dress -- will get as much or more coverage than what they actually say, which, given time constraints and management, will be vague, platitudinous, and platform-calculated.

Look at the 24(!) faces below. Some of them we can immediately DQ because they've already dropped out (Romney, thank god) or are clearly non-starters or are likely to not get far due to past failures (Rick Perry, those glasses aren't fooling anyone. Mike Huckabee, doubling down on "awful" is the wrong approach. Rick Santorum, look around you. Leave now and keep some dignity.).

They'll probably leave Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina in for a while, but those two have got to realize which party they're running for, and what that means for them.

Who are they kidding? It's going to be Jeb. 
The debate producers must be in agony. Trump = ratings, and no Trump = "who are these boring people?" (can you even name all of the other 15 candidates?) But the longer they keep Trump in, the more the GOP's tent turns into a circus, the more the thin veneer of credibility buckles and peels.

I'd actually love to see Trump on that debate stage, eyes twinkling smugly, firing off non-sequiturs, insults, and accusations at the others.

In Trump's mind, he's already won.


If Trump is the winner, we're the losers. Because what I'm worried about -- and what I think the Des Moines Register is afraid to admit or acknowledge -- is that Trump personifies the axiom about "getting the candidates that we deserve." Remember, polls are just asking people who they want to vote for.

Trump is famous for being rich and rude, and he can be the latter because of the former. And in America, people mistake (or are encouraged by the media to mistake) boorish rudeness for bold honesty. Trump's awful trifecta (famous, rich, and rude) is arguably the American dream of the moment, for at least some of the population.

Trump is a mirror, reflecting how some of America sees themselves as they are or long to be.

To be clear, I think Donald Trump is an awful person and would make an awful president. Trump has terrible ideas, a terrible reputation, and no real experience. And he's the GOP's current leading candidate.

Yet Trump says terrible things and his lead increases.

If that's what the American voters want, what does that say about Des Moines? And Iowa? And the GOP? And all of us?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well said, they made their bed, now it is time to lie in it!