Trump is a trailing indicator.
The first thing to point out about Trump, at this point, is that his support, like his sales pitch, isn’t essentially ideological. As usual, Matt Taibbi gets this exactly right. Trump’s dangerously consistent 30%+ support cuts across all demographic and ideological lines within the pool of GOP primary voters, and as a late-February poll shows, a surprising number of Trump supporters actually take mainstream candidates like Jeb Bush as their second choice.
Trump weds populist rhetoric with strongman appeal: the problem with America is out-of-touch elites, corporate predators, and a willingness to sell ‘real’ Americans downriver for profit — and the solution is, of course, to give Trump absolute authority and hope that fixes everything. That he is himself a hopelessly corrupt plutocrat, a trust-fund narcissist who’s worked hard to have nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘common man’ who is his campaign’s primary target…well, that doesn’t bother his voters.
Because the second thing to point out about Trump is that he’s not asking the American people for money. He plans to take it, of course — he’s a grifter, which the party of Sarah Palin is evidently comfortable with — but all he’s asking of voters right now are their votes. The Trump circus is ‘free-to-play,’ as the Farmville assholes put it.
And over the last few decades, our votes have come to be worthless to us.
Which is the third thing to say about Trump right now, and the scariest. He’s not going to win the general election. He’s not creating a toxic stew of nativism, denialism, and ignorance on the right wing — that goes back a half-century and more. And when this campaign is over, few people will take him seriously ever again. But the Trump Moment is scary because it shows just how little regard Americans have for their votes.
For millions, voting for Trump is the same thing as ‘liking’ Trump — in the ‘social’ media sense. It’s so easy. You hardly feel a thing.
That’s what we should be scared of: not the brief rise to prominence of a vicious delusional moron, but the utter devaluation of the once-sacred process by which we choose our leaders and hold them accountable. It’s too aesthetically neat that the major background issues of this election are ongoing climate disaster and the Senate GOP’s unprecedented refusal even to hold courtesy meetings with Obama’s SCOTUS nominee. A Congress with even the vaguest sense of its responsibility to the American people — to the human species! — would see to it that the SCOTUS vacancy is filled ASAP, and would be working hard right this instant to make sure that the US government can respond effectively to its unusually large number of serious ongoing crises. One big reason Trump plays so well right now with Average Joe and Jane is that Congress is bought and paid for, Supreme Court appointments and approvals are now almost entirely ideological, corporate predators do pull the government’s strings on so many major issues…and Trump’s happy to say so. Trump might be a congenital liar, but a big part of his campaign pitch is that he can be candid about terminal government dysfunction.
Of course, he’d probably nominate Howdy Doody to the fucking Supreme Court. But that’s only to say, again, that Trump himself is the least interesting thing about Trump’s candidacy.
(Sidenote: It’s stupid to keep calling the next Supreme Court Justice ‘Scalia’s replacement’ — the seat was occupied long before Scalia was born, you know. Pundits are well paid to play into the GOP’s hands, of course.)
If he makes it to the general election — which isn’t certain, if you believe the recently popular ‘Party Chooses’ thesis — Trump will get stomped. He’ll embarrass Clinton in the debates, as she’s a corporate sellout and entitled habitual panderer and he’ll rightly call her on those things, but Clinton will ‘win’ the debates by being a sane, experienced, competent adult every bit as ruthless as he is. But it won’t matter. An extremely well funded decades-long campaign to convince Americans that ‘government is the problem’ has (surprise!) quite effectively done its job, and now several generations of Americans sincerely believe that the Feds not only aren’t effective and trustworthy leaders but can’t ever be. That’s deranged, of course, and it comes of willful ignorance. But the damage is done: in a time of deep despair and dashed hopes, there’s always an audience of folks (who think they’re) at the end of their rope — and they’re ready to cheer for the villain and convince themselves he’s the truth-talking antihero.
Which is why I’m not paying too much attention to Trump, but I’m increasingly worried about the landscape the day after the election. Clinton the boomer-dynast will win (c’mon guys, even I called that eight years ago), and a hell of a lot of people will have been carefully instructed for a decade or more to think of her as illegitimate solely because she’s…well, take your pick: a libtard, a dyke, a castrating bitch, BENGHAZI!!, whatever. (At least she’s white though, amirite?) This madness doesn’t just afflict the lost generation of Fox News-watching senior citizens, either. Contempt not only for our totally corrupt present-day Congress but for the idea of governance has trickled down to younger voters. This has gone on for a long, long time.
The Trump candidacy is a trailing indicator of some extremely dangerous low-level problems with our republic. You can treat the symptom, but not affect the cause…