Friday, July 22, 2016

The Red-Faced Menace

The Hitler side of Trump won out over the appeaser in his acceptance speech, which should be taught in any self-respecting class on demagoguery.

The speech is built on the three pillars of demagoguery:

1. Assert (with lies) that everything is dangerously falling apart, and everyone else in authority is in on it.

2.  Assert that "I" am the only one who can fix it.

3.  I will fix it as the voice and the servant of the humble masses, who no one else is listening to or understands.

Jeff Greenfield: In this speech, we have finally seen the answer to the perplexing question of just what political philosophy Donald Trump embraces. It is Caesarism: belief in a leader of great strength who, by force of personality, imposes order on a land plagued by danger. If you want to know why Trump laid such emphasis on “law and order”—using Richard Nixon’s 1968 rhetoric in a country where violent crime is at a 40-year low—it is because nations fall under the sway of a Caesar only when they are engulfed by fear. And the subtext of this acceptance speech was: be afraid; be very afraid."

Caesar was about the kindest comparison.  Jonathan Alter and Bill Maher referenced Mussolini, as much for style. Other words used to described this approach include authoritarian, totalitarian, or more plainly, dictator.  There are nuances of difference in all these terms, but there's no nuance in Trump.

"This is the classic theme of an authoritarian seeking to manipulate the masses by raw emotion," wrote conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin.

What else can you say about someone who misidentifies the problems, then offers absolutely no solution but electing him, without any idea of what he will do to, for instance, end crime on the day he takes office, or create full employment?

I've been calling him Comrade Trump, partly as irony for the Red-baiting tradition of (among others) Trump's mentor, Roy Cohn; partly to emphasize Trump's ties to Putin and the resulting and disquieting possibility of Russian interests trumping American; partly to emphasize Trump's totalitarian tendencies. I suppose there's further irony in that there don't seem to be any functioning Communists even in Russia.

(Speaking of Russia, A  roundup of global reaction to the speech--not exactly laudatory-- included two tweets from former chess champ and dissident Russian political figure Gary Kasparov including: "I’ve heard this sort of speech a lot in the last 15 years and trust me, it doesn’t sound any better in Russian." Maybe that's why most official Russian response was positive.)

But it's Trump the dictator, with the racist message of a Hitler, that comes across most clearly in this speech.  It's all out there now.  

GOP pollster Frank Luntz is among those who think Trump's acceptance speech worked, and he'll get at least a temporary poll bounce.  Friday morning's talking heads will doubtless include others.  Andrew Sullivan thought so based on the leaked text, but changed his mind after seeing and hearing Trump's delivery.  Filmmaker Michael Moore believes Trump's message as expressed will resonate.

Even excluding consideration of the dark content and the accuracy, others felt it was a lost opportunity.  Both GOP and Dem vets thought so in this NYT piece that began: " It was Donald J. Trump’s best chance to escape his own caricature. He did not."

Doyle McManus at the LA Times agreed. "The general election Trump is no clearer, and no more disciplined in his thinking, than the Trump of the primaries was. What you saw then is what you’ll get – in both the general election campaign and in the White House, if Trump should win."

  It was long--the longest since Nixon in 1972--and at nearly 80 minutes went longer than prime time and perhaps a lot of attention spans (I'm surprised Trump managed to read a teleprompter for that long.)  How many viewers stayed tuned for the balloon drop?

Trump yelled the speech, getting redder in the face as he went on.  That plus his apocalyptic message may have been too much.  How many children will have nightmares?  Not to mention adults.

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