Is Trump Mainstream?

Well, if enough people voted for Trump to secure the electoral votes needed, then, yes, he’s mainstream.  It’s a thought from many Americans (and others) who aren’t suffering from one kind of mass psychosis or another recoil.

In what sense is his White Supremacy not mainstream, given the “Southern Strategy” of his Party, actions leading up to the Black Lives Matter movement, continuing Jim Crow voter-suppression (abetted by the Supreme Court),  and the bizarre (if predictable) over-reactions to a middle-of-the road, prepared, pragmatic Black President?  Trump want to fire Sessions, not because the latter is a homophobic segregationist but because a proper investigation continues.

In what sense are his excesses, profligacy, proud ignorance, environmental nihilism, greed, and grifting not mainstream American?  Judging from what I hear and see at my nondescript liberal arts college, I would guess more than a few academics, even, are okay with Trump’s anti-political-correctness, anti-Obama, nobody-knows-the-trouble-White-folks-have-seen, misogynist persona.

Why would so many American “Christians” vote for and continue to support Trump if he weren’t mainstream?

The idea that if “we” could just get rid of Trump, then everything would get back to “normal,” may be a necessary delusion; who knows?  But the real problem is that “normal” is Trump and Trump is normative,  if more crudely direct.  After all, the GOP Congress and Supreme Court do his bidding.  It’s not like they oppose him in any meaningful way.

A deeper problem is that the U.S. has never truly addressed its White Supremacist core values, its cultish attraction to unregulated capitalism and the long-con of “trickle-down” economics, its unrelenting baiting of the White working class, its military-industrial complex, and its ultimately self-destructive (in addition to destructive) view of its home, Earth.  Now one reads article after article about how “liberals” (whatever that means) must learn how to appeal to White working class people, which is really a way of saying that we need to pretend what many of these people believe is hideous.  Also, the articles overlook the fact that a majority of White suburban men and women went for Trump, so apparently class isn’t the determining variable.

To me, Trump just looks like a inevitable result of American history, economics, and education.  He is America, particularly White America (and in politics, that’s still mostly what matters).

What people who recoil from Trump need to do is to recoil (and then do something about) all the things that make him American, as opposed to making excuses, minimizing, wilting under charges of “political correctness,” and remaining in denial. From its colonial inception, the country/nation has been as sick as a dog that drank anti-freeze.

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Donald Trump, the Ultimate Affirmative Action Candidate

After I watched the first presidential debate last night, I asked myself how someone as unprepared to serve as president, as ill informed about the world and national policy, and as badly composed could be the nominee of one major political party.   Many citizens must have been asking the same question, and I will add, although I shouldn’t have to, that the question pretty much ignores the politics of it all.  The perplexity has to do with the candidate, not his policies (?) or his Party’s policies.

It then occurred to me that Trump may be the ultimate affirmative action candidate, and here I am using “affirmative action” in the parodied, distorted sense its many critics have used it.  In their minds or in their cynical rhetorical strategies, affirmative action means that unqualified candidates take jobs that White candidates deserve because of liberals and their quota systems.  In reality, affirmative action mostly means this: because racism and bigotry have been at the heart of American history from the get go, perhaps some proactive (affirmative, as opposed to passive) steps to enlarge candidate pools should be taken.  I teach at a university that is “an affirmative action employer.”  All that has ever meant here is that the university advertises jobs so as to attract women candidates and candidates of color.  It has never meant that any department or program must hire person X because of that person’s gender or ethnic background.  Never.

But using affirmative action in the reactionary, parodic way, one may easily conclude that Trump is that affirmative action candidate the White Right has always warned us about.  He is completely unqualified for the job, if we take experience, temperament, knowledge of history, knowledge of global politics, grasp of policy, grasp of economics, ability to handle complexity soberly, patience, etc., into account.  But a mass of “angry White voters” wants him because they must have a White reactionary, and even a White Supremacist, president.  Birtherism is nothing more than an iteration of showing that “uppity” Black man who’s boss.

Trump’s supporters suffer from the cognitive dissonance of there having been a Black president for 8 years.  Even White evangelicals are flocking, so to speak, to Trump’s candidacy. Don’t laugh!   I’m just spit-balling here, but I can’t see evidence of Trump’s representing a Christian view of the world.  He is, for one thing, the Mammon candidate.

Even the media are in on the game.  They tend to normalize the horror he represents. They discuss him as just another Republican nominee, except for his fame and eccentricity.  The appropriate responses–incredulity, perplexity, outrage, urgency, figurative evisceration–are infrequent, at best.

Somewhere between 35 and 40 million citizens will vote for Trump–maybe more. They will do so because they must have a White male president, a White avaricious male demagogue, racist, misogynist, and xenophobe.  Qualifications be damned.  The country be damned.

 

Processing Trump

So how are allegedly rational citizens supposed to process Trump’s political language?  I mean aside from responding with disgust, alarm, and grave concern for the nation and just about everyone in it?

I do think it’s fair, especially after the last couple of weeks, to question his sanity because attributing his speech and behavior to cynicism, creating a persona, appealing to the base, etc., seems insufficient.  Within this news-cycle, he has suggested that President Obama is literally working with what Trumps calls “Islamists [ISIS],” revoked the Washington Post‘s credentials, wondered why the U.S. can’t block ISIS’s use of radios, and called again for a ban on immigration of people who are Muslim.

We may have reached the limits of analysis, so that everyone who is not part of the Trump cult should, although keeping eyes and ears tuned to the campaign, simply concentrate on making sure he is not elected.  That is, why analyze when there’s crucial work to be done?  Of course, we don’t necessarily have to choose between the two.

Would it profit us to approach Trump as the filthy, disturbing outcome of GOP speech, behavior, legislation, and foreign policy?  I don’t know.  He displays the xenophobia, fear-mongering, and willingness to wipe out due process that characterized Joseph McCarthy. He displays the vile racism of George Wallace, not to mention the slightly less subtle racist strategies and tactics of countless other Republicans–Reagan, Atwater, Rove, both Bushes, governors, senators, and representatives. He exudes the religious bigotry of Ted Cruz. He obviously has a disturbed view of women and a reactionary view of most issues affecting them–again, not all that different from other members of the GOP.  Power seems to have warped him badly, as it did Dick Cheney. Like Nixon, he’s obsessed with the press.

But we could also go in a different direction and assert that Trump is different from these GOP predecessors because he knows almost no limits to repellent political language, outrageous policy-suggestions, infantile insults to other politicians, and ghastly mockery of a disabled man. He also encourages violence at his rallies.

At the moment, I’m stuck somewhere between the two approaches.  Since Dixiecrat days, the GOP has been a party of racism and race-baiting, and its economic and foreign policies have been disastrous. That said, I do recall relatively decent GOP lawmakers who reached across the aisle to forge adequate if not excellent legislation, and at least Reagan and Bush I had some decorum. It would be easier to give the GOP a break if current GOP leaders would denounce him, and that might even be not just the proper thing to do, not just the best thing to do for the country, but also the smart political move.

What would Orwell do?  Probably he would attack Trump with his writing and view him as a fascist, and Orwell knew a thing or two about fascists. In the process, he might continue to parse Trump’s political language. But for whom should we parse the language?  I doubt if Orwell or anyone could, by analyzing Trump’s speech,  convince Trumpsters not to support the man.  I plan to spend a lot more time trying to make sure Trump doesn’t become president (writing that part of the sentence makes me a little sick: “Trump . . . president”) than thinking about the phenomenon or studying the language.

My Advice to the GOP

I like to give advice to people who would never, in a million years, take it because then I can’t be held responsible. So, after what seems to have been a mild debacle (oxymoron?) yesterday for the GOP, here is my advice:

1. Vary the haircuts. Seriously. Both GOP men and women have that look–the men’s hair is too perfect, with that kind of Trent-Lott helmet thing going on, and too many of the women have that Texas, big-hair look (which in Texas looks just fine). Nothing like a fresh new “do” to make you feel better and to project the sense that you are not all in lockstep.

2. Realize that President Obama is just a guy. Sure, he’s president, and that has to piss you off. Yes, he’s Black, and that may bug you. Why, who the hell knows. Blacks have been Americans since 1619.

But seriously. He went to high school in Hawaii. He was rather handsome, but still, he looked like we all did in high school: kind of goofy. He married his sweet-heart, and they have two kids. He’s very ambitious, but then so are you. He drinks beer and smokes cigarettes and, like most men, knows way too much about the minutiae of the NCAA basketball brackets. He likes the blues, R&B, and country. He’s a little tedious when he gets wonky, but so are you. He eats hamburgers.

Assert yourself against him politically if you will. That’s entertainment! But just flat-out give up on the socialism, Muslim, Kenya, Manchurian candidate stuff. It didn’t work, for one thing. And it’s silly, for another. Read any definition of socialism. Then check how closely Obama resembles Eisenhower re: policies. He’s just a guy.

3. Don’t elevate guys like Paul Ryan to be your intellectual leaders. Ryan seems like a good politician, but he’s not an intellectual. Nothing wrong with that. He just isn’t.

4. Tell the people who act like they’re Rip Van Winkle and have awakened in an unfamiliar century to chill out or get out. You know who they were. Invite Bachmann to get help, and hint to Palin that the gig is over. Send her to Hollywood. After all, what has either of them done for you lately? End Rove’s long confidence-game. Hasn’t he bilked you enough? Haven’t you bought quite enough vinyl siding?

5. Go back to basics: Make deals and bring home the pork. Be corrupt in the usual American congressional ways; drop the new ways. If Demo Senator X will vote for fixing your highway, then vote for Demo Senator X’s microscopic tax-increase on millionaires. Get in touch with your inner Everett Dirksen.

6. More broadly, fix stuff. The place is falling apart. Highways, bridges, sea-walls, the electrical grid, schools, universities. Your job is not to bore people with Ayn Rand’s philosophy, just as no one wants to read some Dem’s latest book of verse. You’re supposed to fix stuff in your state and in the country. How did you forget that?

7. Get out more. Go clubbing. Hang out with a broader range of people. Have some laughs–laughs that don’t hinge on racist jokes, anti-woman “humor,” or gay-bashing. Surprise yourself. Go to some festival in your state that no one would expect you to attend. Show off that new hair cut.

Is Republican Atavism Becoming a Liability?

Because Republicans seem almost always to know how to beat the Dems, I feel as though the safe answer to this question is “No.” After all, until the Southern Strategy stops working in presidential elections, etc., one would be rash to suggest that atavism of the racist kind were becoming a liability.

That said, please consider this quotation from Rick Santorum, from a TV interview in the past 48 hours or so:

“I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat.”

Obviously, he’s arguing against placing women in combat-situations. Problem: In most war-related deployments, all women and men are already in potential combat-situations. One may be driving a supply-truck in a convoy and get attacked. Is there any evidence that women, because they are women, are performing poorly in the military? I haven’t seen any. In other words: moot point?

Second, such an observation belongs to a broader pattern of Santoromesque views on gender and sexuality: If a woman gets pregnant, no matter the circumstances, she must give birth–even to the extent of being forced to give birth. Two gay or lesbian adults who want to get married must be prevented from doing so . . . because . . . because . . . ? Because Rick’s a conservative Catholic, even though the Constitution isn’t. Rick, go to Mass, but when campaigning, please talk about the economy, nuclear weapons, health-care, foreign policy, global warming (yes, it’s real), clean water, the public infrastructure, and so on.

Third, something may be unique or not. There are no degrees of uniqueness. Fourth, when did “camaraderie” become a problem in the military?

Fifth, all of this seems like tired material (“moot point”). The U.S. is clearly getting more and more comfortable with “gay marriage,” and why wouldn’t it? Who in the hell cares what sexuality the married couple down the street is? They do, of course, but aside from that, why spend any time worrying about it or making “gay marriage” illegal or talking about it in a presidential race? Why not merely ask to borrow their lawn-mower? Rick’s entitled to his personal view on the matter, but that’s it.

Unencumbered once again by data, I hesitantly hereby opine that old-time GOP rhetoric like this–designed to pump up the bass on the base, I gather–seems to be getting much less effective.

But we’ll see. Never underestimate that base, and never overestimate the Dems. Santorum strikes me as dim, boring, and reactionary, in no particular order. But I’m just one data-free person, although not unique.

Take a Letter, Scalia

The Huffington Post (and other outlets, so don’t kill the messenger’s messenger) reports that Justice Scalia doesn’t think the equal-protection clause of the 14th amendment applies to women. His view is that Congress would need to pass a law explicitly stating the discriminating against women is illegal; then the courts, or the Court, could support anti-discrimination measure related to women.

Here’s the clause:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Here’s one person’s view of Scalia’s stance:

Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, called the justice’s comments “shocking” and said he was essentially saying that if the government sanctions discrimination against women, the judiciary offers no recourse.

“In these comments, Justice Scalia says if Congress wants to protect laws that prohibit sex discrimination, that’s up to them,” she said. “But what if they want to pass laws that discriminate? Then he says that there’s nothing the court will do to protect women from government-sanctioned discrimination against them. And that’s a pretty shocking position to take in 2011. It’s especially shocking in light of the decades of precedents and the numbers of justices who have agreed that there is protection in the 14th Amendment against sex discrimination, and struck down many, many laws in many, many areas on the basis of that protection.”

I don’t know why Ms. Greenberger thinks the Justice’s comments are “shocking.” I mean, what isn’t Scalia atavistic about?

Strictly from a rhetorical standpoint, his view seems curious, as the language of the clause refers to “citizens” and “any person.” (By the way, that “any person” bit seems interesting with regard to non-citizens’ rights.) If American women are citizens and persons, then they seem to be protected, in theory, by the clause.

Of course, Scalia no doubt thinks that if a woman comes before a court and argues that she has been discriminated against because of her gender, the court can’t help her because “gender” isn’t specified.

Let’s get more specific–and personal: Some female members of my extended family were talking over the holidays about women’s not being able to apply for loans not so long ago–simply because they were women. –As late as the 1970s, they claimed. So even if a woman were making more money than her husband and enough to justify a loan, the bank was likely to refuse her the loan, so often (or almost always) the husband would apply for the loan. And the banks were more or less clear about why they were refusing the loan.

I suppose, but don’t know, that this sort of think is covered by this or that Equal Opportunity legislation, so that in banking advertisements one hears, there’s the bit about “an equal opportunity lender”–referring indirectly to times when both women and African Americans were denied loans only because of their gender, their race, or both.

Apparently, Scalia’s thinking doesn’t run in this direction, nor of course does he believe that women have a right to get an abortion–even though the Constitution doesn’t state that the government has the right to prevent a woman from getting an abortion.

Obviously, I’m out of my depth here: Wild Bill is he Constitutional scholar. As a layperson, however, I do find it interesting that Scalia’s faux-passive “I just read what the Constitution says and think about what the drafters meant” is too clever by three-quarters. He interprets the words as much as the next person by choosing--rightly or wrongly–not to include women among “citizens” and “any person.” It’s not as if he held a seance and had the voice of the Constitution say, from beyond, “I din’t mean women.”

And after all, aren’t people discriminated against because of something in addition to their being people? I mean, it’s not like chipmunks run banks and have a bad attitude toward people in general. People run institutions and may discriminate against persons because of social categories into which persons “fall.” And it’s not as if stuff hasn’t happened in history to establish vivid patterns of discrimination against people because of gender, sexuality, disability, and/or race. Nope, says, Scalia, not going to apply to women–wouldn’t be prudent.

So, according to Scalia’s way of thinking, why was it okay for the Armed Forces to discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens and persons in the first place? Because there wasn’t a law that said the Armed Forces couldn’t do that? Is the Constitution really that, well, useless? Inquiring laypersons want to know.

And, this just in from our news desk, Stephen Colbert (noted Constitutional scholar) has weighed in on Scalia’s view:

Colbert on Scalia

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