Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ante of Evil

The ephemeral nature of political news, most of it disgusting anyway, is prime motivation for not spending precious time writing about it.  That impulse clashes with the almost cartoonish importance of the 2016 presidential contest, shaping up to be a battle of good (sort of) against evil so grotesque that it tempts self-parody and caricature.  But there it is.

Everything coming out of Trump's mouth ups the ante of evils.  The latest is his so-called energy policy that is so reactionary even the fossil fuel industry has gone past it (even though it was blatant pandering to a North Dakota coal country audience), but with the likely outcome of destroying the planet we know.  And if efforts to define that evil can clarify the nature of horrors and especially motivate voters, there are plenty of such attempts to delineate Trump and the consequences of his terrorizing potential reign.

Some old hands at this have made new efforts.  Adam Gopnik wrote again in the New Yorker about the dangerous consequences: "One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is." Etc. at length and with eloquence.

Jonathan Chiat defined the anti-nuanced man further. "Donald Trump is a wildly promiscuous liar. He also has disturbing authoritarian tendencies."  Maybe in Trump they are the same thing: "His contempt for objective truth is the rejection of democratic accountability, an implicit demand that his supporters place undying faith in him. Because the only measure of truth he accepts is what he claims at any given moment, the power his supporters vest in him is unlimited."

So apparently he can get away with, for example, blatantly praising the dictator of North Korea--for being a dictator.

But does he actually have a chance of being elected?  By the demographics, no.  But recent polls show him nearly tied with Hillary or ahead.  Besides the futility of such early polls in terms of election results (especially since, in my view, the debates are going to make a big difference), they are currently skewed by the ongoing Bernie v. Hillary thing.  Some analysts see the difference in the polls being that GOPers have "come home" to their candidate, while Dems haven't yet.

So will they?  Past experience and more nuanced polling suggests most of them will, and that include Dem-leaning independents.  Bernie's major appeal is to the young (some of whom don't normally vote) and Hillary will have at least a couple of allies who can appeal to them: Elizabeth Warren, who even if she is not v.p. is doing the v.p. candidate's job of needling the opponent; and President Obama, who is popular with young Dem voters (64% approval) and almost as popular with Bernie voters (82%) as with Dem voters in general.

And while some remain alarmed at the possible damage the aggressive and acerbic Sanders campaign is wreaking on Hillary (though Hillary is proving again she's fully capable of damaging her own campaign), others believe it's being inflated, and that Sanders has signaled plenty of times that he'll support Hillary vigorously against Trump.

Meanwhile Trump keeps finding new outrageous acts to bait the headlines, like suggesting he'd debate Bernie before the CA primary--for $10 million (to be paid by the network broadcasting it, to charity. Later he said he was joking about debating Bernie at all.) Yet there are also pieces stating that this is Trump's high point and that he's going down fast and hard in the near future (this is one among several which I selected partly for the title: Soon it will suck to be Donald Trump.)

But Trump's quick demise into inconsequential disgrace has been predicted before, including here.  It's hard to believe it won't happen, but everything about Trump and his success is hard to believe.  In fact it's impossible to believe.

But it's happening.  And several commentators--including Charles Blow at the NY Times-- warned that even if defeated, the Trump triumph to this point will have repercussions for years to come.  Or as Blow wrote: "He has given his Republican supporters permission to vocalize their anti-otherness rage, and that will not easily be undone. As a Louisiana boy experiencing a confounding sense of déjà vu, let me assure you: There is no way to un-cook the gumbo."

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