Staging a brawl is a sure-fire way to draw a crowd
By MICHAEL W. DOMINOWSKI
Waving a fat sheaf of poll data to bolster its case, the New York Times recently solemnly announced it knows “Why Donald Trump won’t fold …” The Times is probably right that the bombastic boastful billionaire will stick around Campaign 2016, perhaps through the Republican National Convention, or maybe longer, if he loses the nomination and mounts a third-party challenge. But he is not connecting with people on the issues. The secret ingredient of Donald Trump’s popularity is plain old political sludge. What makes it work, this time around, is his personality.
Despite his many bankruptcies and his house-of-mirrors finances, The Donald apparently does have the money to do carry on for a long time. But simply playing to the grandstand and pandering to the disaffected does not a president make. Or at least, historically, it hasn’t.
Something old is something new
Trump has breathed new life into something that is as old as politics itself, but has never before worked so well on the national American campaign trail: Open, unabashed bigotry, racism and misogyny – toxic things that would have instantly doomed any other candidate in the race today.
A casual reading of the Times’ take on Trump is likely to leave the impression that America has become a nation of angry bigots, ready to tear up the Constitution, build a border wall to rival that of ancient China (which didn’t work, by the way) and deport the equivalent of the population of Ohio.
Indeed, Trump’s rallies have grown to the double-digit thousands, attended by people who bellow “white power!,” and applaud when he refers to women as “disgusting creatures” and “fat pigs.”
They embrace his insufferable boorishness, which they mistake for disdain of political correctness.
They admire his willingness to bully and to fire people simply because doing so amuses him.
Trump fans love this stuff. They lap it up and cannot get enough. It is not that they are all bigots (though some doubtless are). They respond to Trump because they have thought these things themselves, but there he is, on a national stage, getting away with saying it out loud!
The charismatic Trump is skillfully using mass media to cast himself as an idealized, even heroic manifestation. He is emerging from the magma of his rhetoric as a worshipful, almost divine figure.
If he persists, and if he succeeds in his political quest to any large degree, get ready for the Cult of Trump.
Antagonism as a sport
Trump admits he pursued his “birther” antics – which included heckling President Obama about his birth certificate (which he had provided) and sending a team of investigators to ferret out the “truth” – because they were fun.
The rally crowds seem unfazed by Trump’s gift for gratuitous provocation (imagine a foreign policy to rival that of North Korea).
His adoring fans are untroubled by his philandering, his serial approach to marriage, or his success in gaming the nation’s bankruptcy laws – something everyone, including those waving a Trump banner helped pay for.
The crowds go wild with enthusiasm when, in a fit of rapid-fire buzzwords railing against “illegal immigration” and “anchor babies” and “birthright citizenship,” he calls for repealing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
It is doubtful even one of those flag-wavers has a clue what that amendment provides, let alone the damage such an act would do to the nation and its legal system.
They cheerfully settle for an utter lack of details and accept the false coin of platitude.
Beating the war drum
They lustily roar when he says he wants to “bomb the hell out of Iraq’s oil fields” as a way of striking at the Islamic militant factions our bombing the hell out of Iraq helped create.
He would have the U.S. confiscate Iraq’s oil. “We’re going to have so much money!” he exclaimed. As if the rest of the world would let us get away with such a crime.
Iraq, by the way, has never attacked us.
Trump loves making people sweat. Lately that sadistic talent has been focused on the GOP and his fellow candidates.
It is a measure of their shallowness that, after watching news clips of the response to his theatrics, so many of Trump’s superficial Republican rivals quickly adopted his tone and talking points.
But none of them can pull it off. They are not genuine like Trump, or even passable imitators. Any who try to out-Trump the master risk casting themselves into the pit of political obscurity.
Many otherwise intelligent people in government and the media, and the population at large, who should know better, are, like the Times, outwardly baffled by the Trump phenomenon.
Swayed by the bluster
For example, one local politician of my acquaintance, who is generally regarded as bright and savvy, recently opined in a bit of disjointed discourse that “people are pissed” over governmental gridlock in Washington.
I will not mention her name, on the possibility that her rambling remarks were inadvertently diluted by too much fermented grape juice. I only mention this by way of illustrating how easily even rational people can fall under the thrall of a demagogue.
Her remarkably simplistic line of logic holds that nothing gets accomplished in Washington because if something is resolved, it loses its value as a political wedge issue and fund-raising tool.
She decries what she sees as a “Political Industrial Complex” of political consultants growing wealthy over mismanagement of America.
Never mind that the fire of rage that Trump delights in stoking by throwing political gasoline is not about lobbyists.
A false equivalence
My lawmaker acquaintance says the anger welling up at Trump rallies “should serve as a wake-up call to both national parties.”
The notion that “both parties do it” is an intellectually lazy and dishonest canard. It is a false equivalence, patently and provably wrong. The obstruction of government was a deliberate and cynically calculated Republican strategy to recover from their losses in 2008.
The sad thing for America is that it worked.
The relatively few voters who showed up at the polls during the 2014 mid-term elections, along with the many who did not, all expressed their approval of the GOP mischief.
The Management 101 textbook says rewarding a behavior will get you more of it.
Many in the roaring Trump crowds really do buy into his amazingly un-American rhetoric and would actually welcome turning their government, their interests and their future over to a narcissistic, tyrannical one-percenter.
Trump, for all his fire-breathing showmanship, does not address a single issue of real importance to the average citizen, let alone nation’s well-being. He panders to the low-informed and plays to their bogeyman-under-the-bed fears and their ignorance. They, in turn, relish the political red meat Trump tosses.
For others, encouraging Trump is a means of discomfiting the grid-lockers. They indulge in the delusional hope that their show of support is “sending a message” that may have some effect on guiding the debate to a beneficial outcome. It is a feel-good exercise without immediate consequences, and without any possibility of success.
At this stage of the game, opinion polls count for nothing. They are, at least for the front-runner and the pundits and the debate-schedulers, useful for creating the illusion of strength.
As a functional matter, early polls are a bit like curb feelers on a lowrider, an aid in detecting whether the candidate has strayed too far to the right of the political mainstream.
Meanwhile, despite the dazzle and magnetism he projects, Trump is currently polling in the mid 20s – a lackluster number in a crowded field, and certainly not enough for him to win anything.
Buying into the scam
The corporate media know this, of course, but they pretend not to. After all, they have quarterly numbers to meet: market share to protect, page clicks, downloads of mobile apps to gin up, and other metrics.
Besides, who would watch news coverage of a campaign if it didn’t include a circus, a horse race or a brawl?
By the way, have you ever seen Donald Trump shaking hands as he worked a crowd? No, you have not. Because this man of the people thinks you are unclean. He’s not one to get his hands dirty because he is a germophobe; he has an abnormal, indeed pathological, fear of germs.
This is a president for all of America?
Michael W. Dominowski is a contributor to Not For Hire Media.