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.

 

Some “Conservatives”!

Some “conservatives!”

Thus I begin where Wild Bill ended his last post, which pointed out the flaws in a “conservative” site’s Latin.

Like Tristram Shandy’s Uncle Toby, I have a hobby horse, and in general it concerns the lock on American politics that two parties, which don’t differ greatly, have; it particular, it concerns the impoverishment of the term, “conservative,” to describe GOPers.

Let us, let me, dispatch the Dems quickly: They are about as Left Wing as Dwight Eisenhower. You could look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say. And even as politicians, they appear to be inept, let alone as leaders or “representatives.” True, George W. Bush’s hacks stole two elections, but Gore and Kerry made them easy to steal. Along comes Obama, who–wait for it–knew how to keep an election not-close, and now “progressive” belly-achers are all over him. Truly, I think Dems love losers, as San Diego and Seattle sports fans seem to do.

Enough of the Dems. They bore me. The “conservatives.” What do they conserve? Not, as Wild Bill point out, traditional learning–or any learning at all. They have made stupid a virtue. “Values”? Please. The Constitution? Hah! They championed the “Patriot” Act–warrantless wire-taps and all that. Indefinite imprisonment. Torture. “The free market”? Yeah, right. They let the markets go rogue until the markets collapse under the weight of greed cubed, and then they beat up the middle class for lunch-money to make up for the mistakes. Separation of church and state? Uh, no. They want to weld them together, as long as the church is protestant and reactionary, that is. About all conservatives seem to want to conserve is racism in many forms: the “birther” excrement, the Southern strategy, and so on. They seem to want to conserve the old parlor trick of goading white working-class folk to regard working-class folk of color as their victimizers. They seem to want to conserve the military-industrial complex against which Eisenhower warned us. They seem to want to conserve secrecy and unchecked governmental powers while auctioning off civil liberties. They seem to want to conserve the Caligula-like, grotesque carnival of unregulated energy companies: grossly unsafe coal mines, nihilistic oil corporations, the lovely, relatively new practice of “fracking,” and so on.

Do they want to conserve “life”? Apparently not enough to keep from sprinting recklessly into war, from wrecking programs for people who are starving, from supporting the Death Penalty (hint: a Death Penalty is not pro-life), or from reaching common ground with the likes of Planned Parenthood to (wait for it) prevent pregnancies. No pregnancy, no abortion: are we clear? No, they’d rather have abortion around to rally people to their non-conservative flag, suckering people into the Big Tent one more time.

The Democratic Party should be re-named the Washington Generals–the stiffs paid to lose to the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Republican Party should be renamed the Profligate Party–reckless and dissolute to its core.

Outlawing Words

Apparently Tennessee’s Senate has passed a bill that outlaws the mention of students’ and other persons’ being gay and that outlaws speaking (and writing?) the words “gay” and “homosexual” in public schools. I wrote “apparently” because apparently I’m still in shock that such a measure would pass, even in the Epoch of Wedge Issues. The passage of the bill brings up so many rhetorical and political issues:

(the story)

1. If you were a student or teacher in such a school or a member of another group in which a word had been outlawed, what would your first move be? That’s right. Invent another word. So you could say, “I just read this terrific novel that concerns happy and thespian culture.”

2. Has the concept, “conservative,” now lost all meaning vis a vis Republicans? I mean, what about conserving free speech? I realize that some forms of intimidating speech and some forms of attire are allowed to be limited on a school campus, but literally outlawing words in all contexts? This seems both legally, politically, and rhetorically . . . absurd. Radical, not conservative.

3. When does a wedge-issue become a self-inflicted wedgie?
So the cynical ethos of such a bill is to attract your base (which may be most base indeed) to you because you are creating a spectacle in which you are appearing to stand up in defense of something. But is there a point at which even the base can recognize absurdity? I guess not. Otherwise, we would not have the spectacle of Palin, Bachmann, and Trump. I can’t think of anyone as (both) popular and absurd on the Demo side, but I’m sure one will come to me. I suppose some conservatives think of Nader as that person, but I don’t think one can fairly accuse Nader of using wedge-issues. A terrier, he seems to pursue issues until the culture catches on and does something about them: DDT and seat-belts, for example.

4. I suppose I’ve left the most obvious for last: why? Outlaw these words, these facts (here’s news: some people are gay) because you want to . . . ? Let’s assume this isn’t wedge-politics. If that’s the case, then those voting for the bill have another outcome in mind. What is it? “If no one talks about gay people and homosexuality in high school, then homosexuality will go away”: is that it? And is there ANY knowledge of teen-age and human behavior in the Tennessee Senate? If you want to insure that human beings in general and teenagers in particular will talk about something, tell them they mustn’t.

Gay, lesbian, homosexual, homosexuality. Outlaw words!

The Scopes “monkey” trial could sustain serious dramatic treatment. I don’t think this particular trial of words could. It calls for Beckett.

Free-Market Economics Vs. Christianity

A few posts ago, I wrote about crucial contradictions among GOPers and Dems that the media needed to expose and to highlight, to focus on relentlessly.

I want to emphasize one that almost no one wants to discuss. It concerns chiefly the GOPers, and chiefly so because they simultaneously wrap themselves in the shroud of Jesus and the flag of unfettered capitalism. Of course, as usual, I must digress.

I was reading an article about former NFL quarterback Kenny “The Snake” Stabler long ago. It was about his time at Alabama, under the coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Apparently Kenny was enamored of hopping in his Corvette and driving from Alabama to Memphis to enjoy himself. The Bear was unamused and was threatening to bench him. Former Alabama quarterback Joe Namath allegedly called The Snake and said, simply, “He [the coach] means it [the threat of benching Stabler].”

I think what many GOPer governors are doing now is serious business. They mean it. They’re out to break unions, ruin school districts, and privatize as much of the public commons as they can. They’re rabid, and they’re stupid, but they have power. What they’re very serious about is unregulated corporate capitalism.

Because they are serious about it, the media need to focus on a key contradiction between unregulated capitalism and Christianity, which most GOPers pretend, at least, to espouse.

The contradiction? According to Christianity, people are sinful and flawed. Thus they need saving–and they need watching. They’re not good all of the time. Some of them aren’t good any of the time. According to capitalism, the don’t-regulate-me and I’ll trickle-down-on-you kind, “the market” will make everything turn out fine because . . . because what? People are naturally good? Because corporations, now dubbed persons by the Supremes, are inherently selfless, out for the common good? The GOPers can have it both ways because no one calls them on the contradictions. Even a Christian broadcasting channel won’t call them on it. Instead, the channel lets Newt insist that he was too passionate about his country and thus worked too hard and thus broke his Christian marriage vows. The interviewer should have said, “Well, since you and every other human being are bound to cave into such temptations, shouldn’t we have a system of government that keeps a close watch on powerful people and entities?” Of course, the interviewer would have had the debacle of 2008 for support. Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, brokers peddling toxic loans, banks tricking customers: how did that unfettered capitalism work out for you?

Certainly, the press could also ask Governor Walker if Jesus would approve of his attack on farmers and working folk and their children, and if Jesus would approve of his, Walker’s, sucking up to the most powerful, like the Koch Brothers. I mean, it’s not even a close call. Jesus would be out there with the farmers, not in Caesar’s gubernatorial office, on the phone with unfettered capitalists.

Media, please do your job.

GOPers’ and Dems: Crucial Contradictions on Which the Media Should Concentrate

I want to identify central contradictions between what GOPers pretend to believe and actually believe; the same for Democrats. More important, I want to urge the media to focus on these breaking-points relentlessly, to the extebt of interrupting politicians when they speak Talkingpointese. (Chris Matthews, not my favorite person, pointed out last night that Michelle Bachman is actually Manchurian-Candidate like in interviews. Her stare goes blank, and she repeats, repeats one talking point. C.M. noted that there is a place in Maryland that trains GOPers on such techniques. Sadly, David Gregory seemed over-matched by the technique in the clips C.M. showed. The video of Bachmann is truly spooky: I have to give Matthews his due).

The Dems may be dispatched quickly: Media-types should keep asking, ‘What makes you different from a more or less reasonable Republican?” Let’s take President Obama as an example: against trials at Guantanamo then, for them now. Was going to close Guantanamo then, keeps it open now. Kept the two wars going. What’s he done about the Black prison population, poor folks, and that sucking sound you hear from the Midwest, owing to manufacturing leaving for parts East. How has he regulated Wall Street so as to prevent the next disaster (which will not be a disaster for Wall Street, of course). How has he regulated mega-lopolies and media conglomerates? What’s he done for the environment? Why is he letting the Wiki-leaks solider to be tortured? Etc. Dems are against invasions until they’re asked to vote (although Obama did vote against the Iraq invasion). Dems pretend to be for the little guy, but they genuflect in front of mega-corporations. Okay, you get the picture. As usual, the Dems are easy pickings. Consider John Kerry, who ran an excellent campaign against himself. The photo of him on a wind-sailing-board enough looked like it had been photo-shopped by Rove. No. It was from Kerry’s own campaign. As my students like to say, WTF?

Now for the GOPers. One word: Christianity. All of them wrap themselves, not just in the flag, but in the shroud. It allegedly drives them to oppose abortion and gay marriage, although neither are mentioned in the Bible. In Leviticus, the Bible cautions against men lying with men, but I always took that to mean that men should not tell untruths to men. (That was a joke, by the way.) Moreover, a few lines down, slavery is mentioned in favorable terms. Paul is repelled by the excesses of Rome (he was from the hinterlands and had hit the Big City), so he groused about promiscuity. He needed a better hotel and a hot bath.

The media must pound away relentlessly on these contradictions: At every crucial juncture, Jesus represented the poor and the oppressed. So why are the GOP, George Will, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Governor Walker, Pat Robertson, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and the rest FOR the following: unchecked, excessive wealth, the God of Mammon; capital punishment (Thou shalt not kill; hereafter, “thou shalt not kill” shall mean “thou shalt NOT kill”); policies that oppress the poor: example–Walker, Wisconsin Cheese-Whiz Ranger, wants to rip up public schooling in the middle of Milwaukee.

Thou shalt not bear false witness: Mike Huckabee lies like a dirty mattress. Shame on him. Newt Gingrich. He looks and acts like one of Caesar’s most corrupt, most unctuous hangers-on.

As you treat the weak, the ill, the disenfranchised,etc. so do you treat me, suggested Jesus. How are the Republicans treating the least powerful, least wealthy, and most afflicted in society? Like shit. On purpose.

The media must pound the GOPers relentlessly on this key rhetorical (logos) contradiction, which also reveals the GOPers’ corroded ethos, their (lack of) character. What charities do the GOPers give to? How much? Do they walk with the poor and the infirm, as Jesus did?

In American football, a venerable technique is to keep running the ball at a defensive line until it proves it can stop you. The media should take the same approach with GOPers and Christianity.

And as the media should with the Dems and their illusory differences from GOPers.

Keep it simple, media: make them explain the contradictions. If they change the subject, tell them the interview is over, and thank you very much. Tell them to go with God.

Is the Republican Party Able to Change?

Thanks to Wild Bill, I’ve read P.M. Carpenter’s assessment of George Will’s attempt to thin the ranks of the Republican presidential nominee-hopefuls. Here’s the gist of what Carpenter had to write, followed by a question or two of mine:

Much of what Will routinely serves are merely crockpot-fulls of warmed-over McKinleyism with lids of polysyllabic respectability, yet today he actually sees and is thereby deeply worried about the future. Of his party. Which is, let’s face it — as Will finally has — a laughingstock.

His concluding, almost clinically depressed paragraph projects a longer-term doom for the GOP than is explicit:

[T]he [Republican] nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

(Polysyllabic McKinleyism: what a great distillation of George Will. Perhaps it should be the new title of Will’s column.)

In the middle of the piece, Carpenter then tears into Mike Huckabee–by means of quoting H.L. Mencken’s tearing up of William Jennings Bryan. The parallel amazes.

And to conclude, Carpenter makes these points (bolding is mine):

“What I do know is this [an allusion to Huckabee’s “knowing” all about Obama’s youth], which also happens to be the greater point I wished to make: No single Republican pol is, or ever will be, capable of altering the GOP’s devolutionary and even apocalyptic course. Such a desirable feat (hey, you libs, you need a conservative party to keep you honest) will instead require a tight collusion among GOP presidential candidates — a willingness free, clear and bold to agree among themselves from the start that in this election (be it 2016’s or in 2020) they will not only distance themselves but vigorously denounce any “careless” and “delusional” bubblings from the foul and corrupted bottom.

Assuming such a collective will (so to speak) exists among influential GOPers to seize back the Party from crackpots and haters, can such a group take the Party back?

To do so, they will not simply have to denounce, in plain rhetoric, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Palin, Bachmann, birthers, and others; they will have to fight with the man who, indirectly, made them king, or at least well placed jesters: Karl Rove.

That is, what worries George Will is a direct result of Rove’s scheming, cheating, and wedge-issuing; it is a direct result of Fox News’s and Rush’s (and others’) going beneath the Planet of the Lowest Common Denominator. I just think Rove and Roger Ailes are too good and too powerful at this game to be resisted successfully.

But I think Carpenter’s point about “libs” needing conservatives (of the Eisenhower brand [?])–except I disagree with the use of “libs.” At their most left, the leaders of the Dems are moderate, and President Obama may qualify as an Eisenhower Republican: look at the tax rates under Eisenhower, and look at Eisenhower’s concerns about the military-industrial complex. If Obama expressed the same concerns today, Fox News would call him a Communist–that’s how far Right the Center has moved.

Dems do need a sane other Party, chiefly so they can make deals in the old political way. The way the system works now, the GOPers promise insane things, ignore the promises, propose other insane things, and pull wedge-issues out of their underwear (like opposing Shia Law in Oklahoma: an example of Cubist politics; one might as well oppose the presence of invisible sharks in Kansas). The Dems can only do what one does in the woods when one sees a rabid skunk: keep a healthy distance.

Currently, to sustain its appeal, the GOP has to keep pushing for things that aren’t, in fact, related to the common good, even the old fashioned sort of common good (like railroad projects) that used to get incumbents re-elected. Wisconsin Ranger Walker’s desire to crush collective bargaining has nothing to do with the budget and everything to do with Rove’s and the Koch Brothers’ Birch-wood fantasies of total control. –Control of a wrecked nation.