(Originally posted on CoM on July 29, 2016)
American politics have long resembled pig wrestling. Our primary process in Presidential elections serves to grind most, if not all, of the integrity out of the participating candidates, with the bright lights of 24-hour commercialized news channels and the lenses of innumerable smartphones constantly shining on them. It's a race to tear down each other in marketable ways and see how many times you can change positions depending on which bloc of the base you need to arouse. With the WWE-quality entrance of Donald Trump into the picture, it's become something entirely different, however.
American politics are now a reality show. In a country where you can't make TV stupid enough to satisfy the desires of the masses, we get what we deserve, I guess.
Trump's got it all - trophy wife to replace the last trophy wife, beautiful daughter, stately sons, money, his name everywhere on everything, gold-plated penthouse on top of Trump Tower, plus he's got the bonafides of being an actual reality TV star and WWE professional wrestling personality. What he lacks is intellect, decency, integrity, and an actual plan. That doesn't faze the Nielson's that are watching his show, though. They love him. He represents them as they are - simple-minded and in some cases outright stupid and bigoted, and he represents what they hope to be - rich, simple-minded and in some cases outright stupid and bigoted.
Truth is, Trump's supporters can't really tell you, in substance, why they're Trump supporters. Outside of the few who'll admit they just hate Hillary Clinton, they don't know in substance. They say he'll "make America great again", without a clue as to the logical ramifications of that statement (i.e. he'll make America white again). They'll say it's because "he'll keep us safe", but outside of his preposterous wall idea, can't even began to tell you how he'll keep them safe. And on and on it goes. Know-nothings. It's time we accept that we live in a not-so-smart country.
Just consider, for a moment, all of the "gaffes" made by Trump during his campaign. Retweeting a Mussolini quote. Making fun of a disabled reporter. Making fun of women. Alienating hispanics - even saying a particular judge couldn't be impartial because "he's a Mexican". Two Corinthians. "There's my African-American!". Referring to the size of his genitalia. His spoiled 4 year-old behavior at the debates. Encouraging his supporters to beat up protesters. Admitting he would use torture. Admitting his policies would include internationally-recognized war crimes. Praising Putin and his leadership, then denying he knows him despite documentation of knowing him. Denying knowing anything about David Duke (KKK leader who endorsed him) despite knowing plenty in a 2000 interview on NBC. And so on, and so on. This is before even considering his non-existent policy proposals and outlandish ideas.
To a rational electorate, any single one of those things listed above would be the end of a candidacy. Any single one. His supporters just love him all the more. Not only do those things listed above make him the worst national political candidate of my lifetime (yes, including Sarah Palin) and disqualify him from High Office in a rational world, but they call into question his basic human decency. Again, his supporters just love him all the more.
To borrow from an idea of Sam Harris, when these folk need medical procedures they want the most skilled and knowledgable professionals and facilities. When they need legal help they want the smartest, most brilliant legal minds. When they send their kids to school they want impeccable faculty and instruction. If they have to pay more than $10 per person for a meal they want a chef with vast culinary skills. They want their sports teams to draft the best world-class athletes. Yet, for President of the United States and Leader of the Free World, they want a goon. A rich, but otherwise unexceptional, reality TV star goon.
What created the Trump phenomenon? Here's my take...
On the right side of the spectrum:
For starters, let's get the uncomfortable but obvious out of the way. There IS a large section of conservative America that's racist and bigoted. Hell, I have extended family members who still use the "n" word - and are too anti-intellectual to be corrected, so don't even try to argue with me that racism isn't a problem in America. For these people, "America" as they knew it ended when Mr. Dark McBlackman got elected as President in 2008. They feel "disenfranchised" and confuse that with being dragged into 21st century, enlightened society. When Trump starts verbally beating up on minorities and Muslims he's right in their wheelhouse and has their hearts. If David Duke endorses him, you know these folk are gonna be in his camp, too. Not because they like David Duke and the KKK (at least not outwardly *snicker*), but because in a lot of cases they're not smart enough to see that they share a boatload of views with people like David Duke and the KKK.
Then you've got right wing radio personalities like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, and many others who spew xenophobic poison on the airwaves day after day and week after week. They have all the same symptoms of the group in the previous paragraph. They just know how to hide the racism slightly better. They've convinced their listeners that they lost their America when Obama was sworn in, and the only way to get it back is to defeat the evil "libtards". "Americans need a strongman, a champion of conservative values! Conservative values [I use that term loosely] are under attack!!!" They've been John the Baptist preparing the way for a political messiah.
They built the platform. Some of them now act surprised that a goon stepped up to the mic.
Then there's Fox News. What can I say about Fox News? They distort, you decide. The go-to news outlet for an older, rural, conservative populace for whom the world has changed too fast and for an evangelical bloc that wants to be told what they already believe, "America is great and has never and could never and will never do anything wrong and God loves us unless we sin and then he sends hurricanes!!!" When you feed distortions, half-truths, and whole lies to your viewership constantly, and most of those deal with something dear to them being slowly taken away from them (Murica), well, the gullible have no filters, and pretty soon no smart people are gonna want to watch blatant propaganda, so you're left with frightened Trump voters. People who believe Obama went on an apology tour for America. People who believe that Obama acts like a king and dictator with his endless Executive Orders that bypass Congress (despite having issued considerably less EOs than his predecessors dating back several decades). People who believe Obama's a Muslim. People who believe Obama raised their taxes even though he didn't raise their taxes. People who believe Obama and Hillary want to take their guns. Why do they believe these moronic things? Because someone told them these things knowing they had a predisposition to believe them. Who would do such a thing? *coughFOXNEWScough*
When you get such a grandiose perfect storm of stupid, you get a Trump nomination for President.
On the left side of the spectrum:
Yes, people who consider themselves "progressive" have also had a large hand in creating the Trump phenomenon. How?
The left can't even discuss Islam honestly amongst themselves without people throwing out meaningless platitudes and terms like "Islamophobe!" to stop all thought and end rational, reasoned conversation. Any criticism of the fundamentals of Islam gets turned into an attack on ALL Muslims. No way, you say? Ok then...
If I said there was only ONE religion involved in the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of all terrorist attacks, is your sphincter beginning to tighten up? Or how about if I tell you that most Islamic countries have horrible, atrocious track records in dealing with women, minorities, and homosexuals? Even beyond horrible.
How dare I say that Islam (as a whole) needs a reformation, an enlightenment, to come out of its Dark Ages the same way Christianity had to?
Because people on the left, including politicians in some cases, won't acknowledge these simple truths (and others) about Islam, people on the right who are already scared of Muslims run to the politician/showman/goon who does. Yes Trump makes up a lot of crap and says stupid things, but not everything he says is made up or stupid - and it all resonates with his developing base.
The left has to stop making friends with anything and everything that the right hates or is frightened of - and just doing it for spite, really - and make friends with fact, reason, and liberty.
Hell, I'm trying to make friends with fact and reason just so I don't lose my liberty, whether to Trump or anyone else.