Sunday, March 20, 2016

WSJ Provides A Reality Check For Trump And His "Paranoid-Style" Groupies

Trump screams at his followers to "punch the hell out of those bums" at a recent rally.

 Let us accept the proposition that Donald Trump (aka Donald Drumpf) is roughly the equivalent of a five year old pitching a fit in order to inflate his self esteem as Bill Maher portrayed him Friday night. As a corollary we can regard his supporters as also five year olds, or perhaps as Peggy Noonan  recently described them in her WSJ 'Declarations' column (March 19, A13):

"Maybe, to be charitable, a lot of Mr. Trump's supporters are 14 year old boys acting out on their mom's computer while she works her second shift"

Which occurs when you behold their over use of f-bombs and the like in their assorted blog screeds and tweets and especially the need to find scapegoats wherever they can, whether in immigrants,, "rag heads", Obummer "apes", "Bernie's  Gestapo", "Killary Feminazis" or sundry others they blame for wrecking Trump's assorted rallies. But funny thing, they never ever blame their Hitlerite hero himself for drawing this negative blowback by the use of violent language and even regarding it as some kind of "entertainment". ("This is fun! A lot better than a boring ol' rally!")

Thus Noonan's subsequent comment (ibid.):

"America is an imperfect country populated by imperfect people, but there would be a reason Mr. Trump draws the particular kind of garbage he draws, what is it?"

Well, it was once accurately described by historian Richard Hofstadter in his book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics as a streak of nasty, angry, scapegoating paranoia that's been seeded almost from the time of the nation's founding.  Many believed it had reached its apotheosis in the McCarthy commie witch hunts of the 1950s. (See the excellent movie 'Trumbo', starring Brian Cranston, to gain an insight.)

At that time the American Right was so paranoid about commies infiltrating the country and hiding under bedroom community beds that it even led to  TOPPS "Know Your Communists" trading cards, e.g..


 The aim was to inculcate ‘Communist Recognition’ in children  from 8- 10 years of age and get them to hate this system even before they knew what it was about. The garish depictions, such as that shown of Mao Tse-Tung with ghoulish green face, helped to reinforce the propaganda.   Hysteria grew as an admixture as grade schoolers - like I was in 1952 - had to duck under desks in regular drills to "escape the fallout from Communist atomic bombs". Oh, and btw, did you know commie H-bombs were much more devastating than the 'Murican variety?

"Commies" then - like Muslims now-  were the "devils" of the 1950s and even the 1960s as the term was unloaded  - usually by John Birchers - on any relatively liberal person and even John F. Kennedy. He came under suspicion first on account of making a hidden deal with Nikita Khrushchev to end the Cuban Missile crisis in October, 1962. (That was to remove all the Jupiter missiles from Turkey six months after the Russians removed theirs from Cuba.)  Then, in August, 1963, Kennedy signed a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, also with Khrushchev. The Right went ape shit because it included bans on anti-missile defense systems. Third, JFK signed NSAM 263 to pull all personnel out of Viet Nam by 1965.  That definitely put him in commie territory as he ignored the "domino theory" circulating at the time.

But Kennedy's biggest faux pas - certainly to the then CIA and security state- was initiating a rapprochement with Fidel Castro. That probably sealed his fate as a "commie'" that had to be killed, by the same CIA that learned of it (the public didn't until decades later).

All this, as Hofstadter noted, served to spur on the "paranoid style". As he wrote then (ca.1964):

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority.


 But unknown to him, that presumed apotheosis was a mirage. In fact, it was postponed until the much later incarnation we're seeing now with the rise of Trumpism. No longer is this breed of paranoia confined to a radical right nut like Barry Goldwater - who had zero chance of winning the WH in 1964 anyway-  but to a brash, loudmouth demagogue who has already compiled so many delegates in primaries he could well nail the Reep nomination and also gain the White House.

Hence, it was gratifying to read a WSJ editorial ('A Trump Reality Check', Mar 18, p. A10) that put Trump's so called successes in perspective, not only for this wannabe Hitler but for his groupies too. Imagine if the Weimar German press, ca Jan. 1932, had delineated such a reality check on Adolf Hitler and his rabble rousing anti-Semitic, anti-Socialist, anti-Communist rants, and how that might have altered the outcome of the German elections that year and the next. Hitler, btw, always boasted he had used Weimar Democracy itself to gain power, after which he destroyed that democracy via the 1933 "Enabling Act" ( Erm√§chtigungsgesetz ) that dissolved the Reichstag and turned all its powers to the newly formed Reich government.

The WSJ editorial notes for example, that despite his claim to be "unstoppable" his actual numbers to date show him to be the "weakest Republican front runner since Gerald Ford in 1976."

For example, the Journal notes that by mid -March of 2012,  Mitt Romney "had carried the popular vote in 21 states and won 57 percent of the delegates."

By comparison, Trump "has 18 states and 47 percent of delegates" - not very unstoppable when one does the comparison. So one has to wonder how it his that the Trumpsters are so worked up  - even dissing on Mitt now - when their own guy is still three states behind and ten percentage point in delegate differential.

Are Trumpies' paranoid delusions messing up their brains? The argument of a divided field sucking up Trump's extra votes also doesn't wash because, as the WSJ notes: Romney "was in a three way race with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich with Ron Paul also nabbing votes"

Adding:

"John McCain in 2008 was even more of a consensus pick ...by this point the Senator had won 24 states and 59 % of allocated delegates."

The WSJ goes on to point out Trump "has fervent support but equally passionate opposition among Republicans", noting his "net favorable rating in the  GOP is only 22 percent" (That is, the share of people with positive views minus those with negative views).

Going on to single out the Real Clear Politics polling average which shows twice as many adults have negative views (61%) as positive (32.5%).  Meanwhile, "Gallup reports he has a higher unfavorable rating than any other nominated candidate from either major party dating back to 1992".

And that includes that socialist guy Bernie Sanders, who the Trumpites believe is dispatching  guerrillas  to disrupt their stupid rallies. (Note: the main protest organizers, Moveon.org, have no relation to Sanders's campaign.)

Of course, none of this ought to make the Dems feel too smug. The reason is that Hillary has negatives almost as high as Trump's. While TIME's Joe Klein often gets things wrong because of his Neoliberal lens, he was correct that Hillary has to be a much better, more nuanced (and less rote - and screaming) persona if she faces Trump in the election (Mar. 28, p. 41).

Her planned appearance at the Israeli lobby (AIPAC) convention this next week (Mar. 20-22) is also not going to help her with the Dem left base, which is already leaning to either staying home on Nov. 8th, or writing in Bernie's name if he concedes or loses out to Clinton.   I mean, the mere sight of her appearing along side the likes of Trump, Cruz and Kasich is not designed to appeal to Left core supporters that she will need in the fall - assuming she still is the nominee.

Hillary in one forum (Town hall)  response conceded she isn't the political charmer who has the "poetry" of those like hubby Bill or Obama. But as Klein put it, "she's our own quinoa and kale salad, nutritious but bland. The human embodiment of the Establishment Trump is running against." In addition, she harkens back to the politicians of 20 or more years ago with "too many oratorical switchbacks"
"Our very own quinoa and kale salad, nutritious but bland". (Joe Klein, TIME, Mar. 28, p. 41)

Klein concludes that if she and Trump square off she will have to grow into a modern politician - with modern oratorical skills beyond that screechy loud voice ("only used if you're angry"), and in a hurry. That has to start now with  her remaining Town halls with Sanders, and also avoiding the wrong optics - especially to Sanders's supporters. (Hint: Stay away from that AIPAC meet which will be seen as blatant pandering for the Jewish national vote.)

Colorado Springs Gazette columnist, Barry Fagin, has described (Mar. 8)  politics as an "accepted form of violence between tribes of voters" in our society.  Charles Krauthammer in his recent column  says "politics is the civilized substitute for settling things the old-fashioned way- laying your opponent out on a stretcher".   He goes on to write: "What is so disturbing today is that suffusing our politics is not just an air of division but an air of menace"

 Indeed, and that menace may well spill over into more overt violence in this election cycle. This worry is real and so long as Trump incites violent memes with his rhetoric we are at risk. But don't look for his lackeys to support that because as one observer noted, he is channeling their Id - like Hitler did of too many Germans in 1932--33.

The problem is, reality check or not, who in the candidate field has the courage, principles, and ferocity to stop his advance and provide a real choice to the American people? I see no one other than Bernie Sanders, but alas, too many of my countrymen are too cowed to vote for him - as opposed to the much worse candidates (including one under current FBI investigation) they do know.

If we are cowardly (or ignorant) in our choice we shall have to live with the consequences after January 20 next year.

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