Trump and “The Dumb”


Remember her?

There is a real split amongst liberals, intellectuals, and even intelligent conservatives about how to respond to Donald Trump’s candidacy. For some, he’s worth dismissing. For others, he’s an issue. For some, he’s a gift from God. For me, I’m thrilled to see him succeed. He is completely validating my world view for me, and making it more likely that someone I tend to agree with will be the next President of the United States. I want him to continue onward.

Let me start by saying I am not much more troubled by the anti-intellectual drivel coming out of Trump’s mouth than I am the drivel coming from Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or Marco Rubio. No, I’m not saying Trump can do as good of a job as President, as say Bush, i’m saying he’s only slightly more ridiculous to me. People who are arguing for the war in Iraq, destroying unions, against needed infrastructure improvements, or against normalized relations with Cuba, amongst the many follies of this group, are not people I have a ton of intellectual respect for. While John Kasich perhaps comes across as a more sane-sounding human than the other people I’ve named, he’s a full-blown supporter of “trickle-down economic” tax policy, which is about as sane as believing you’ll find a unicorn hanging out in Downtown Brooklyn. Yes, Trump is damn near inciting people to say and do stupid stuff, and that makes him crazier than these guys, but the difference in outcomes from a Trump Presidency to a Kasich one is only a little bit “more bad” in the grand scheme, because all of these guys agree on more than they don’t, some are just less willing to package their stupid talk as stupid.

However, others are more worried about Trump’s rhetoric. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone writes:

Trump is probably too dumb to realize it, or maybe he isn’t, but he doesn’t need to win anything to become the most dangerous person in America. He can do plenty of damage just by encouraging people to be as uninhibited in their stupidity as he is.

Trump is striking a chord with people who are feeling the squeeze in a less secure world and want to blame someone – the government, immigrants, political correctness, “incompetents,” “dummies,” Megyn Kelly, whoever – for their problems.

Karl Rove and his acolytes mined a lot of the same resentments to get Republicans elected over the years, but the difference is that Trump’s political style encourages people to do more to express their anger than just vote. The key to his success is a titillating message that those musty old rules about being polite and “saying the right thing” are for losers who lack the heart, courage and Trumpitude to just be who they are.

Trump is absolutely hitting the dog-whistle pitch-perfect to bring out the freaks and crazies in America to support him. I get that. I just don’t see the issue with that. The reason others do see the issue is that they see Trump as somehow special in his rhetoric, and I don’t. I see him as par for the course, simply the latest in a line of Republicans from the time Reagan married big business, military-industrial complex forces, religious zealots, and “white” culture together to blend into the modern Republican Party. I don’t see him as worse than Sarah Palin a few years back. I don’t see him as worse than the other Republicans in the field. Mike Huckabee says a ten year old girl should have to carry her rapist’s child. Ben Carson says we should use drones at the border. There is somewhat broad agreement throughout the field that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “birthright citizenship” is a bad thing. None of these people is saying much that is sane or right. They’re all dangerously anti-intellectual.

To me, you could substitute other Republicans for Trump in this passage from Taibbi:

People are tired of rules and tired of having to pay lip service to decorum. They want to stop having to watch what they say and think and just get “crazy,” as Thomas Friedman would put it.

Trump’s campaign is giving people permission to do just that. It’s hard to say this word in conjunction with such a sexually unappealing person, but his message is a powerful aphrodisiac. Fuck everything, fuck everyone. Fuck immigrants and fuck their filthy lice-ridden kids. And fuck you if you don’t like me saying so.

Those of us who think polls and primaries and debates are any match for that are pretty naive. America has been trending stupid for a long time. Now the stupid wants out of its cage, and Trump is urging it on. There are a lot of ways this can go wrong, no matter who wins in 2016.

I don’t have any issue with calling out Trump for hate-speech, I just don’t think he’s all that unique. Do you really think he’s worse than Rick Santorum? Rick Perry? Bobby Jindal? Do you really think that Carly Fiorina would pursue a more sane Presidency, policy for policy? I don’t. Trump is simply more honest in his rhetoric than most. He’s the chickens coming home to roost.

It’s important to understand that the GOP has been moving this way for decades now, as I said, since the Reagan era. For a brief moment in the 1980s, it worked for them. Since 1992, they’ve won the popular vote for President once, as the country has become demographically different, and moved away from what they want. Trump isn’t really that far advanced beyond the spectacles that were Sarah Palin or Herman Cain. He’s the latest example of someone driving the clown-car off the rails.

And yes, that’s fine to me. We’ve seen this play before. This kind of nut-job rhetoric pushed “establishment” Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney to deny even their somewhat more sane view points on a few issues where they may have been electable. Trump will push the eventual Republican nominee, some stiff, out-of-touch, would-be disaster of a President to take some of his insane rhetorical statements as their own, and that person will then have to wear those in the general election. Is it possible that the Democratic nominee could screw this up, and lose the election next year? Absolutely. Trump is helping our odds though. Furthermore, I don’t feel particularly worse about a Trump win than a Bush, Kasich, Rubio, or Fiorina win. Their policies would be largely the same, so who cares? If Trump stumbled to a victory, frankly the country would be marginally more screwed than if an “establishment” Republican won and refused to institute a fair immigration system, insisted on cutting taxes for the rich, lead us into another war in the Middle East, or instituted religious zealot law on women, LGBT people, or children.

So yes, Trump is unleashing “the dumb” on America right now, and it’s kind of scary to watch. We all prefer to believe we have far less of “these people” than we do, and so it’s unsettling to hear Americans cheering on racist, stupid, and ignorant rhetoric. Maybe my tolerance is a bit higher for this than many others though. Trump isn’t something new. He’s not even something special in the American right-wing. As long as his stupid talk increases the chances of even a moderate-left victory in this country, i’m all for this lunacy continuing.


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