Naked in the Clown Car
The punditocracy is watching the wheels fall off their clown car even as they continue to point to the Trabant filled with water-squirting flowers, over-sized shoes, wigs and red noses that Donald Trump seems to be driving. The foolishness of their Dickensian posturing is becoming more and more apparent each time they predict Trump’s political demise or, once more, dismiss him as no “serious” candidate.
Some of the fallout of the disaster is positively delightful. Watching can only amuse when all of those who, for so long, chose to fancy that “they” were not like “them” (“them” being Fox News) now make common cause with Fox’s Megyn Kelly. Trump is making so many be honest, even if inadvertently so… like Erick Erickson, who “disinvited” Trump from an event because, he said, of Trump’s misogyny. Erickson’s pandering to the old Republican (monied) power structure is laid bare, his own strident right-wing hectoring proving no more than a schtick, especially when his own past comments concerning women are pointed out. Like the Republican Party itself in relation to Fox News… and vice versa. Their close connection and their competition to lead the conservative movement is now past denying. So is the fact that neither really cares about the Tea Party or any of the other grass-roots right-wing movements beyond using them for their own ends. What they both care about is money and political power–not the viewers or the electorate.
Rand Paul may claim that Trump is the emperor with no clothes, but it’s really Trump who is the child in the crowd without the filters in place to stop him from shouting out that all of Washington is naked. Including Paul.
Trump would be nothing without the real-estate empire his father left him. Without that, he would be a Tea Party blowhard in a tricorne hat. Like many of them, he was once a liberal but started to resent everything and everyone when he discovered that he is no better than anyone else.
This is why he is so popular, and it is what the pundits cannot see. He insults McCain, but so what? McCain was a hero half a century ago; what’s that got to do with today? He trashes Kelly, but that’s only good (in the eyes of his supporters). Women have been keeping men down since the rise of the women’s rights movement a century ago (again, in the eyes of Trump’s supporters). Trump may be a billionaire, but he is also, on the level of emotion and resentment, them.
They aren’t rational. They don’t have positions. Or, if they do, they go out and create a rationale for them after they’ve already established them, even if it takes them to the point of making things up. David Barton, a self-styled “historian” is a case in point. He’s not after “truth” in his “research,” but justification for what he already believes. If he can’t find it, he creates it. Why not? He knows it’s true, so he’s not really hurting anything (or so he thinks). Trump is much the same.
Trump appeals to the Christians who get drunk on Saturday night and show up to church the next morning, hung over but righteous. When anyone points a finger at them, they react in anger… just as he does. Revenge is their succor: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe in “The Cask of Amontillado.” That Trump cannot rise above it comforts them in their own fantasies.
The Washington pundits made the mistake of assuming that Trump was one of them, that he shares the basic illusions that make it possible for them to laud the habiliment of a naked man. No matter how much they may have loathed or loved him, they saw him as one of them one of the insiders, the real people, not the unwashed of the Tea Party.
It’s not just the pundits. The Clintons have long embraced him as part of their world, just as Roger Ailes still does. They have yet to understand that he does not share their assumptions, but that he really believes as the Tea Partiers do. That these beliefs are not based on knowledge but on desire and ignorance is something they cannot process–so they keep wanting a logic to Trump and his supporters.
The American political class is clueless about history, even though they talk of it, claim to read it and (in the case of Bill O’Reilly and others) even pretend to write it. Godwin’s Law notwithstanding, there’s a real connection between Trump and Adolph Hitler, circa 1931. Hitler’s real support never approached a majority, but he became the leader of Germany anyway. His core was fanatic, their stridency based on perceived slights and not on considered study. In terms of public image, Benito Mussolini or Ferdinand Marcos might be closer to the mark. None of these, or any of the others who ascended to power similarly, cared a whit for the mores or systems of the ruling class. They were out for themselves; what made them so popular was, in part, that their followers saw in them just how they, themselves, might act, were they given a similar public platform and power.
Naked Washington doesn’t get it. Trump and his followers are laughing at them–and with reason, for the political class has had its pretend clothing stripped away but is still pointing at little boy Donald, as if the laughter is all his fault, as if they truly are well dressed.
“Trabant usata come scenografia dagli U2” by Pmk58 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trabant_usata_come_scenografia_dagli_U2.JPG#/media/File:Trabant_usata_come_scenografia_dagli_U2.JPG