I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ridiculous and juvenile antics of real estate mogul and “reality TV” star Donald Trump, now that he’s joined the Republican presidential primary for 2016. That makes him King Bozo of the “clown car” (WebCite cached article). I won’t quote any of Trump’s comments or rationalizations for them here; their content — aside from their crass, insulting, and rude nature — is beside the point, as is his fierce and petulant refusal to apologize for any of it.
No, my point is something else entirely. And that is that — on the strength of his fiercely juvenile antics — he’s riding even higher than before among the Republican rank-&-file (cached). Most politicos will say this is because a lot of Republicans are tired of political “business as usual” and are gratified that a fresh and unorthodox voice is making itself heard. I’m sure this makes sense to a lot of folks … but it doesn’t fly with me. The reason is very simple: It’s possible to be both outspoken and unconventional, without being unduly insulting. Unacceptable, outrageous, and childish remarks and actions need not accompany a critique of the political establishment. A guy like Trump certainly is capable of taking on and eviscerating “the Establishment” without acting like a two-year-old.
I’ll digress here with a full disclosure: For a decade, through the 90s, I was a Republican activist in my home state of Connecticut. I was a delegate at several district and state party conventions. I assisted the campaigns of several GOP candidates. I’ve dealt with a lot of Republican officials, including some whose names are well-known to other residents of the Nutmeg State (if not to folks in other parts of the country or the world). I wasn’t exactly a “big wheel” in the machinery of Connecticut’s GOP, but I had a lot of contacts and through those years spoke with hundreds of active Republicans, as well as a lot of Republican voters, during the process of campaigning for candidates.
I chose to leave the party around the time George W. Bush was elected, because I didn’t like what I saw in it. There was a great deal of religious ferocity, as well as a rather virulent strain of intolerance for anyone who didn’t think “correctly.” Nasty, vile jokes at the expense of Democrats and minorities were common — and openly traded. Anger was palpable. I’d entered politics in order to make my town and my state better; but many of my fellow Republican activists had done so because they wanted to get “their way” all the time and to vent their rage at whatever they disliked; and they did so with the party’s approval. The GOP worked very hard to instill a certain amount of sanctimonious anger among conservatives beginning in the early 90s, and they’ve been milking it ever since as the chief fuel of the party. That particular aspect of the GOP has endured long after I left, as seen for example only last year.
(It’s possible much the same could be said of some Democrats. I really don’t know, because I didn’t join them and have never dealt directly with any Democratic activists. But even if so, that doesn’t excuse the childishly tasteless words and behavior I saw within the GOP, and it doesn’t make conservatism any less dysfunctional as a movement.)
At any rate, the Republican rank-&-file has embraced Trump, not because he’s unconventional, but because he’s saying things they like hearing. They’re every bit as crude and distasteful as he is, so they happily embrace his angry, juvenile verbal vomit. They see themselves in him — so they happily approve of his every childish move.
Even more than that, though … each time the mass media laugh at his latest juvenile maneuver and wonder aloud when his campaign will collapse, that only further encourages the Right to stick to him. Why? Because they goddamn fucking hate the mass media! Conservatives have despised the media since at least the Nixon administration, which for a while did a very good job of making it appear the Watergate scandal was just a figment of the imagination of the Washington Post and the rest of the “media elite.” Since then, the mantra that “the mass media are biased against the Right” has become part and parcel of conservative subculture. (They conveniently forget that major outlets like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal are decidedly biased in their favor but also very much a part of the mass media. Oh well.) Right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, and the rest of that sanctimoniously-enraged crowd keep reiterating it to them by the moment, which only further reinforces this assumption. Many conservatives blame the mass media for Obama’s election (they were, after all, “in the tank” for him from the moment he announced his candidacy, you see). So the more the media ridicule Trump, the more convinced the Right becomes that he’s their man.
But beyond what’s already happened, the real problem for the Republican party is, it can only get worse. Trump has learned his poll numbers go up the more odious and vile he gets; so he’s sure to keep ramping it up. And the more he ramps it up, the more fiercely the GOP rank-&-file will attach themselves to him. He has no incentive to cool it, and the rank-&-file have no desire for him to do so. This is lethal for the party’s chances in the presidential election, though, because Trump’s disapproval ratings among the overall American population are high. Should he become the GOP nominee — which is quite possible, no matter how convinced many in the media are that it’s not — he’s guaranteed to throw the election to whoever the Democratic nominee is. The same fate will befall them if Trump doesn’t become the nominee and mounts a third-party campaign. So the GOP’s electoral fate may already be sealed.
In sum, Republicans created a monster when they decided to use anger, sanctimony and outrage as the glue that holds conservatives together to support their party. They now stand to reap a well-deserved reward for having done so! I suppose it’d sound nice if I could say I wished them luck, but quite honestly, I don’t. (This is in spite of the fact that I’m not really a fan of Democrats and/or liberals, either, and I’m by no means pleased with everything the current administration has done.) I want the Republican party to go down in flames — electorally speaking! — in 2016. Maybe that will encourage conservatives to fucking grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives and start acting like adults.
P.S. Ed. to add: Well, well, well! Buzzfeed reports that Donald Trump may have paid Breitbart News — an exceedingly popular Right-wing Web site — for glowing coverage (cached). This arrangement — which the site’s management vehemently denies — supposedly goes back to last year, so it predates Trump’s campaign by quite a while. It certainly doesn’t explain Trump’s staggeringly vast lead over his rivals, but if true, it means his candidacy is a lot less impromptu than it had appeared to be. Hmm.
P.P.S. Ed. to add: This morning, Donald Trump admitted his childish act is his way of intimidating everyone into letting him have his way (cached).
P.P.P.S. Ed. to add: Megyn Kelly returned to Fox News after a planned vacation, and Trump wasted no time venting his juvenile rage at her via Twitter. I have no doubt this childish stunt will further pump up his approval ratings within a GOP electorate which clearly views such behavior as “presidential.”
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