Watching Trump bluster about, making America sound like a post-apocalyptic wasteland run by deluded, spineless bureaucrats, evokes something like pity. There’s no doubt his rhetoric is deadly, totalitarian and irresponsible. His whole campaign: America will be better served by insisting on respect first, in any and all situations; free trade is a scam; allies are waste of money; his chief political opponent should be jailed; teeming brown masses, whether in the inner city or streaming across the border, steal jobs and kill innocent people; respect for women is PC garbage; crime is out of control and the police are powerless; the last administration has done nothing but lose.
On the one hand, this is racist, hateful, a complete disregard of the truth, a lack of respect for authority, expertise, competence, divisive to the point of making neo-Nazis a major player in American political life. On the other hand, this is crazy uncle talk, the kind of thing you roll your eyes at, coming from a huckster who would cheat a homeless man out of a dollar. Donald Trump is a pathetic, sad human being, and I’m actually not saying that to be mean. A large part of his appeal is that he’s goofy, unpolished, a loser who has to insist he’s a winner, and for too many of us, seemingly harmless when he’s vindictive. By far his most effective line on the campaign trail was the “greedy” line:
“Now, I’ll tell you, I’m good at that – so, you know, I’ve always taken in money,” he said at a rally in Iowa. “I like money. I’m very greedy. I’m a greedy person. I shouldn’t tell you that, I’m a greedy – I’ve always been greedy. I love money, right?
“But, you know what? I want to be greedy for our country. I want to be greedy. I want to be so greedy for our country. I want to take back money,” he added.
It doesn’t hurt that formally, this sounds like testimony. No wonder evangelicals and the GOP base are flocking towards him. Some people probably think underneath the bluster, he’s asking for redemption. He is natural, all too human; while it’s part of his con, it’s more fundamental than his con.
And then he gets up there with his family, and they’re running the show, and I’ve got to wonder. They’re polished, accomplished, too versed in the family business. They speak like CEO’s, being presidents and vice presidents of various ventures. They make deals: Donald Jr. offered Kasich the chance to be “the most powerful VP in history;” Ivanka was the driving force for getting rid of Lewandowski, his previous campaign manager. They don’t seem like bad people, even though they just engineered the takeover of a major political party and are utterly clueless just how much they’ve bitten off, how much harm this whole undertaking has already caused.
If the Trumps got on a plane and moved to Australia right now, the country is still the mess they helped foment. You’ve got people proudly showing their swastikas to African-Americans; the “alt-right” throws as much hate as they can when they can, knowing activity finds followers; life is being made hell for Muslims, who are being persecuted for their religion; life is being made hell for Latinos, who somehow have to answer for every “crime” Facebook feeds claim an undocumented immigrant did. There’s so much more to add, but I’ll add this. Two years ago, it looked like America was making serious progress on criminal justice reform. It was widely acknowledged that the drug war had failed, that we had the world’s highest incarceration rate because our laws were insane and racism was systematic. Many Americans were correctly worried about police militarization, drones, domestic surveillance. Now you can pass a “Blue Lives Matter” law in a state that is known for overwhelming racism, meet peaceful protestors with full body armor, rifles, and armored trucks, and come out as beyond question for a significant number of people even before a self-proclaimed “Sovereign Citizen” committed a heinous, terrible crime against the police.
Look, I can’t stand the arrogance of liberal elitism. I hate how I get on Twitter and there’s this bubble of opinion within which the professional class dwell. Bush was wrong about everything, guns are always bad, change starts with retweeting this meme, etc. I know better now, though. We know better. We’re watching neighbors turn on neighbors, communities upon communities, the majority claiming the right to be more fearful than anyone else, the creation of a situation where no one can be willing to let go of that “right” for a second. And what’s funny about this, what’s funny about what looks no less than the origins of totalitarianism, is that it isn’t happening because there’s a master manipulator with the demagogic skills of Adolf Hitler. No, there’s a broken, two-bit huckster who can’t get his reality show back, and a family that can only understand the value of their brand, thinking complicated problems can be solved simply by hiring the right people at the right time. I never for once imagined, after years of reading books and writing badly, that I’d be qualified to lead, but in one way I am. I know what not to do, what not to get involved in, because it is far beyond my competence.