Saturday, September 26, 2015

Trump, GOPers and the Future: Quaking With Laughter?

"After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends."
Wallace Stevens
opening lines "The Well Dressed Man With a Beard"

In American politics and government, things seem to be moving towards the Big One, the earthquake that changes the landscape.

 There have been smaller quakes for years, but the land has always settled into looking reassuringly as it did before.  There were important changes in that landscape, but they weren't obvious to everyone.  A major quake is of a different order.  We don't know how long it will last, or what things will look like when it's over.

The latest indicator is the resignation of John Boehner as Speaker of the House (and therefore the last time I'll have to look up the spelling of his name.)  He was the trembling finger in the dike of rabid right anarchy--even as he loudly advocated for the anarchists.

This is what a Republican member of Congress told the New York Times:

“There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania."They can’t get to yes. They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself.”

And when they are not paralyzing the entire federal government, they are weakening its ability to meet crucial challenges, which sows chaos down to the community level.  Now that they have gotten rid of Banal, they (and we) will have no place to hide.

And then there's Donald Trump.  In a New York Magazine cover story, Frank Rich poses and answers this question: How could a crass, bigoted bully with a narcissistic-personality disorder and policy views bordering on gibberish “defy political gravity,” dominate the national stage, make monkeys out of pundits and pollsters, and pose an existential threat to one of America’s two major parties?

Rich finds his answer not in politics but in fictions about politics: "His passport to political stardom has been his uncanny resemblance to a provocative fictional comic archetype that has been an invigorating staple of American movies since Vietnam and Watergate ushered in wholesale disillusionment with Washington four decades ago."

He's Bulworth (the Warren Beatty movie), Pat Paulsen, Guy Grand (The Magic Christian) and the character Steven Colbert played on his first show.  Except he's a real candidate.

 Among the outrageous things he says (some perceptive, some nuts, some brave, some craven), "Trump embarrasses the GOP by saying in public what “real” Republicans keep private....Republican potentates can’t fight back against him because the party’s base has his back. He’s ensnared the GOP Establishment in a classic Catch-22: It wants Trump voters — it can’t win elections without them — but doesn’t want Trump calling attention to what those voters actually believe."

Trump's trumpery appears spontaneous, which this year's "serious" candidates (from Jeb Bush to Hillary) do not. "It’s as if Trump were performing a running burlesque of the absurd but intractable conventions of presidential campaigns in real time. His impact on our politics post-2016 could be as serious as he is not."

"The best news about Trump is that he is wreaking this havoc on the status quo while having no chance of ascending to the presidency," Rich concludes. "You can’t win the Electoral College in 2016 by driving away women, Hispanics, blacks, and Asian-Americans, no matter how large the margins you pile up in deep-red states. Republicans who have started fretting that he’d perform as Barry Goldwater did on Election Day in 1964 have good reason to worry."

But his gift to American democracy (in Rich's terms) or at least his effect, may be as the fracking operation that starts the earthquake:

"Far from being a threat to democracy or a freak show unworthy of serious coverage, it matters because it’s taking a much-needed wrecking ball to some of what has made our sterile politics and dysfunctional government as bankrupt as Trump’s Atlantic City casinos. If that’s entertainment, so be it. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign or the Republican Party is reduced to rubble along the way, we can live with it. Trump will not make America great again, but there’s at least a chance that the chaos he sows will clear the way for those who can."

I'm not sure I can identify any longer with 1960s style up the revolution joyousness that in other words likely means a period of chaos and destruction.  It would be nice if just the fat cats, the pompous politicos, the well-paid cynics and the vicious haters were the only ones hurt.  But that's not how it usually works.  Still, the logic of an approaching earthquake is compelling.  And clearly we need to get beyond the pious nihilism, the rigid denial that has reached insane proportions.  We need to get to working together to solve the considerable problems we face, to save the future.  We need to get to yes.