Monday, August 29, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Are We Too Stupid To Live?

As we slouch towards September, there's still almost a month before the first debate and early voting in some states.  So the media is all about speculation--is Trump done?  Or is there time? Is Hillary overconfident? Are the polls tightening, or is Trump's base eroding?

And now all this speculation on what Trump is going to say about his immigration policy.  At least some of  the media believes a slight change in Trump's doubletalk bullshit is going to convince some people that he should be President after all.

Trump has garnered a plethora of appropriate descriptions, "psychopath" being the latest.  But what does his nomination as the candidate of one of only two major parties say about the rest of us?

Let's separate the underlying factors that leads some people to a desperation that expresses itself as anarchism.  In more general terms, is Trump more disconcerting evidence that we're culturally decadent?  That in a moment of existential crisis--perhaps the greatest crisis of human global civilization--humanity is too stupid to live?

If the evidence is the television we avidly watch and the popular culture it expresses, TV expert Michael Rosenblum says oh yeah.  Unfortunately he did so at the excerable Huffington Post, which blocks the copy feature, and what he said isn't so profound that I'm going to type it all out.  Basically his evidence is  the devolution of TV--notably the cable stations like Bravo!, A&E and the History Channel that once actually did programming that expressed the purpose inherent in their name but now traffic in the same reality show sewerage as the networks.  This is Trump's America, and why he will win, Rosenblum says.

A transatlantic view in UK's Telegraph focuses on credulity there and in the US:

American and British politicians at the highest level appear to be engaged in a competition to see who can utter the most defiantly ill-informed, aggressively ignorant statements about precisely the issues that governments have traditionally regarded as life-and-death matters. Somehow, this brazen guilelessness – the shameless display of the failure to understand even the basic meanings of significant words – seems to be offered as a bond with the common man, as if not understanding complicated things was a measure of authenticity."

There's a chicken or egg problem here--is the electorate getting really stupid (clueless about even recent history, heedless of real world consequences) or are our political leaders?  I think the second proposition is easier to prove.  Donald Trump is the most ignorant human ever to be a major party nominee for US President in at least my lifetime, which is something I could have said (and probably did say) just 12 years ago when G.W. Bush ran.  Yet Bush's knowledge could run rings around Trump.

That perhaps the most ignorant available candidate (and remember, Rick Perry was among them) got the nomination throws suspicion on the electorate, at least in Republican primaries, but also on the cynicism of party leadership.

It seems the cynical ignorance is broader and deeper--and perhaps institutionalized.  The cynicism and lack of responsibility to the country permeates the Republican political leadership.  Arthur Vandenberg in the 1940s, Everett Dirksen in the 1960s, for example, were Republican leaders, partisans and conservatives, but they had major moments of statesmanship that helped their country through great crises and improved the lives of Americans and others.

It's worth noting now, so near the March on Washington anniversary, that Dirksen's greatest moment as Senate Republican leader was supporting Civil Rights legislation.  He did so using a quote that has since become famous--I remember when he said it (I was in high school), and it's the reason I know the quote at all:

 "Victor Hugo wrote in his diary substantially this sentiment: 'Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.' The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied."

Can anyone seriously hear Mitch McConnell saying something like that?  McConnell, currently the Senate majority leader, is 100% cynical partisan.  The name "statesman" can't conceivably be applied to him in any circumstance.  McConnell also appears to be a dim bulb, though with a tunnel vision cunning.  Lots of those in politics, but he's the Majority Leader.

Democrats lack personality in their leaders, and there's nobody I know of who is at Obama's level of combining personal force and vision with knowledge both broad and deep.  But statesmanship is not yet dead in the Democratic party at least.

Both parties suffer from a political system in which members of Congress and other officeholders spend much if not most of their time raising money for their next election, and can't bother to even read (let alone write) the bills they occasionally vote on.

Still, voters gave us Trump, just as they gave the UK the catastrophe of Brexit.  Not comforting.

Otherwise: the New York Times suggests that particular Donaldalian vulnerabilities encourage Dems to pursue a House majority, and publishes a feature that's really worth looking at--a timeline of Trump's Greatest Homegrown Hitler Hits together with the dates on which Republican leaders announced they were abandoning him.

Polls: A new Monmouth U. national poll of likely voters has Hillary up 7, though their previous had her up 13.  Emerson has a confusing bunch of state polls, which show Hillary up 10 pts. in Ohio (more than others) but only up 3 in PA (less than others.)  Josh Marshall suggests Emerson's methodology isn't reliable. Polls by other outfits show tie games in Arizona and...yes, South Carolina.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice allusion to the Second Coming.