swiftboat

The Donald Trump Show (Artless)

Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, 18 July 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Among the challenges presented by the mere proposition that anyone should take the Donald Trump Show seriously are, first, that such considerations should be necessary, and also that as such spectacular pretenses of scandal swirl around the Consummate Clown’s candidacy, few will attend these aspects:

For a variety of pundits, this effectively marked the end of Trump’s campaign – it was the ultimate flame out, the argument goes, for a narcissistic candidate who simply can’t control his impulses.

And those assumptions may very well prove to be true, but I wouldn’t bet on it just yet.

Keep in mind, right-wing hostility towards McCain is quite common, despite his conservative voting record, so Trump’s classless rhetoric may not necessarily be a deal-breaker with the GOP base. Indeed, at the Iowa event, after Trump made his remarks, he left the stage to a standing ovation – if the party activists in attendance were offended by what they heard, they didn’t show it.

We’ll have to wait for the next round of polling, but it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that Trump has burst his own balloon.

As for the larger context, I remain eager to hear Republicans explain the selectivity of their outrage. When Donald Trump relies on racism to advance his ambitions, GOP officials tolerate his antics, but when Trump criticizes John McCain, that’s a bridge too far? By what standard is that acceptable?

For that matter, if Republican leaders want to argue that attacks on Americans’ military service are simply beyond the pale, perhaps party officials can take this opportunity to apologize to John Kerry, who was smeared by Swiftboat lies in the 2004 cycle – lies that were celebrated at the time by 2016 candidates like Jeb Bush and Rick Perry – and who saw the spectacle at the Republican National Convention of party activists mocking Purple Hearts. While they’re it, Republicans can express some regret for related smears directed at former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).

(Benen)

Perhaps this is Donald Trump’s greatest service to the Republican Party. That it will hurt is its own question. For while some might rush to Mr. Trump’s aid and suggest he has some sort of point, be it about Mexicans or McCain or whatever, it is also important to take note of why so many conservatives would rather take a middling path.

It is easy enough to suggest Mr. Trump’s candidacy represents the height of Republican anti-intellectualism, but that would only be to date, in any case. And there is much talk this cycle about the FOX News debate, which is virtually accepted as winnowing the field from seventeen candidates to ten according to national polling in such a manner they might as well simply draw lots; and it does seem true that instead of playing to state-level concerns as we have traditionally seen, candidates are passing on those issues and aiming to make headlines in order to boost national polling numbers. And while far too few make the note about the fact that these are conservatives shifting poiltical power within their ranks from state to national considerations, perhaps it is because that sparkling gem is actually beside the point. That is to say, enjoy it, but such incongruity can wait for another day; there are more important issues afoot.

The real problem for Republicans is that Mr. Trump’s reckless rhetoric is nothing more than an ill-expressed distillation of American conservatism. The arrogant, vicious bigotry is unwieldy even in its most artful expressions, and much like an old saying, it might be hard to define art affirmatively, but its absence is clear about Mr. Trump.

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Image note: Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, 18 July 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Benen, Steve. “Trump has no regrets after smearing McCain’s service”. msnbc. 18 July 2015.

Election Reflection

It seems a vicious cycle.

One party, usually the Republican Party, stoops to a new low in campaigning. The people validate the maneuver because negative ads, argumentative fallacies, and outright lies are much more entertaining than boring policy details. Now it’s on the market. The other party must play along, or else get waxed yet again. And that’s when voters start complaining.

Detail of cartoon by Matt Wuerker, via Daily Kos, 6 November 2014.It’s been this way at least since Atwater.

Who remembers 2004?

With John Kerry on the Democratic ticket, a pack of angry conservatives who showed up for basically any election he was involved in unleashed their fury on the nation, denouncing him as having received combat awards he did not deserve. It got so bad that a man named Paul Galanti denounced truth as un-American. But the ringleader, named Larry Thurlow, swore up and down that he had eyes on Kerry and the future Massachusetts senator and U.S. Secretary of State did not do what the reports earning his medals said he did.

One of Kerry’s awards was for pulling a man out of the drink under fire. This is an ironic setup, of course, because life provides great punch lines.

Larry Thurlow himself received awards for that day.

And there was a third medal. Eventually a reporter figured out who received it and obtained the relevant reports.

That medal was for pulling Larry Thurlow out of the drink, while under fire.

You would think that would pretty much end the fake scandal. Except it didn’t.

The accusations continued to erode Kerry’s credibility, despite the fact of being untrue.

So the question is: In a competitive marketplace, why would what works not be adopted by competitors?

So every time Americans reward that kind of vice with votes, they are simply setting themselves up for more viciousness.

And then they complain about the wretched state of our politics.

There seems to be a contradiction in that outcome.

It is almost as if we are enacting a modern variation on the ancient scapegoat ritual, and elect politicians specifically to complain about them. And while that might seem an entertaining sport of some kind, it also has real, living consequences.

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Wuerker, Matt. “Poli Sci”. Daily Kos. 6 November 2014.