Donald. Fucking. Trump.
Fred Clark over at Slacktivist really captured the zeitgeist when he pointed out:
Dave Gushee has just written the 10,000th think-piece lamenting and struggling to comprehend white evangelical enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. (Balloons and confetti drop, music plays, Dave is presented with an oversized check and a gift certificate for dinner for two at a local steakhouse.)Well, here's my attempt at writing the 100,000th.
But before I begin, a question for you to mull over: what do you do when you're playing a rigged game – Monopoly, say, since that reaps the requisite crop of bitterness – and you know you can't win, but you can still make sure everyone loses? Whaddaya do, hotshot, what to you do? Keep that question in mind while you read this piece, and then right up until the end of November. It's important.
The Way It Should've Gone
- NeoCons – The chickenhawks of the American imperial machine. They want the U.S. to kick arse and take names, and are permanently all out of gum. Dubya was a NeoCon president, all tough talk and carpet bombing, egged on by old NeoCons like Cheney, Rummy and Wolfowitz, who had to pried off the piping with a crowbar the first time an Iraqi Scud landed near his hotel in the Green Zone. Their aim is to unite the people of the U.S. against a common enemy – Iran, say, or I.S.I.S. – so everyone'll turn a blind eye to the 1984-type shit they're doing at home.
- Corporatists – Self-explanatory. If there's money in it, they'll back it. Often marching in locked step with the NeoCons, as there's no money hose quite like the Military-Industrial Complex, so they backed the Iraq War so they could make a killing with brands like Halliburton and Blackwater. Mitt Romney would've been a Corporatist president.
- Libertarians – The Ayn Rand fanclub. The smallest and weakest sector of the party, but they still have some pull, and even Doug Muder admits they have the coolest rhetoric. Which is actually their real value to the party anyway – they give the Corporatists a way to cut wages by making it sound like a principled stand for independence and personal responsibility rather than pure greed.
- Theocrats – Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority viewed through the lens of policy. Their participation is the result of the weird team-up Reagan's handlers made with the then-underground Evangelical wing of Christianity in 1979, which had been in the background since the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the 1920s. They were tempted into Reagan's new coalition because both they and the NeoCons seemingly wanted the same thing, a strong nation with a firm moral compass. They became the foot soldiers of the Republican Party in return for promises to stand firm against the godless atheist Soviet Union, and (much later) to make abortion illegal, block gay marriage, and protect Christians from "persecution" like being forced to hear Happy Holidays at Starbucks. Without these religious fanatics acting as their pawns the Corporatists and NeoCons never would've had the numbers to win office.
Of all the four flavours the Theocrats are the section of the party that really doesn't belong with the others, which is where we get pushback like this:
So, with four flavours of Republican, the aim for each candidate is to convince one of the four wings you're their guy; do that, and your next aim is to convince the other three to shrug and say, "meh, good enough" and back you rather than divide the party; do that, and you win nomination, and are ready to go for the Presidency. Ergo, we should've got four big names out of the Republican nomination process: Jeb Bush was the Corporatist candidate; Ted Cruz is the Theocrat, Marco Rubio the NeoCon and Rand Paul the Libertarian. Of these, you could dismiss Paul and Rubio pretty early on, as I said the Libertarian wing is pretty small and can't realistically win on its own, and since Iraq the NeoCons are still too discredited for their candidate to win (although they might make a comeback soon – by 2019 we'll be getting our first voters who don't remember September 11, and I.S.I.S. doesn't seem to be going away...). That should've left Jeb and Cruz to slug it out for the Republican nomination.
But This Ain't 2012
And something's gone very, very wrong. To realise how wrong, you need to consider another of Muder's points – that because they have access to the Scrooge McDuck money bin and Rupert Murdoch's media empire (so, so sorry about him), the Corporate candidate always looks stronger than he is. Except that's not what happened this time. The Jeb campaign was a gift to the internet's comedians from day one, from the moment he unveiled the Jeb! logo right up until that final, desperate cry for help. Jeb never once looked stronger than he really was; on the contrary, it was easy to forget he was raising and spending far greater sums than anyone had ever seen before. Jeb should've been a Corporatist super-candidate; instead he was an expensive flop.
And yet, at the same time both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were rising into serious contention without a shred of support from the Establishment, Bernie breaking Obama's 2008 records for small donations, Trump not having to spend a cent of his own money. It was almost like people on both sides were fed up with Washington's bullshit and were now immune to the usual propaganda. And indeed, that's just what an insider tells us.
In March of 2015, Ben Carson formed an exploratory committee to consider running for president. Barry, who headed up this committee, was tasked with the job of determining if Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon with zero political experience, could win an election. His research included:I recommend taking that with a grain of salt: if the source above was formerly behind Ben Carson, then they're probably a grifter extraordinaire. But their findings are still fascinating: people are over Washington, so previous political experience is a hindrance. Doesn't that go a long way to explaining both sides of this whole circus? Hillary should've wrapped up both the nomination and the presidency back at the Benghazi hearings, where she got to sit there looking all presidential while shooting down every conservative attack dog sent her way. She ran rings around them and made them look ridiculous. But now, rather than a shoo-in, she's busy holding off Bernie because the things that would make her such a good president – she's a Washington insider who understands the game, she has the connections, and she seems to be made of teflon because twenty years of Republican smearing have yet to stick – now count against her. She's still ahead thanks to black voters, who quite reasonably prefer her promise of incremental progress and hanging on to what Obama's achieved over Bernie's high risk/high payoff deal. But what should be a done deal isn't.
"Focus groups where we'd ask people, 'Describe what you're looking for in a candidate.' And then you tell them about Ben Carson to see if it matches up. ... What you're looking for is messaging, not any kind of numerical data ... and what we found was exactly what Donald Trump is doing right now. ... People are not angry at Washington; they are totally over Washington. They don't feel Washington can do anything to make their lives better."
The conclusion Bennett and his fellow electioneers came to is that American voters no longer care about electing a candidate with any kind of established political record. In fact, they see that record as a liability. Before the primary started, Bennett wanted to do a focus group of Jeb Bush supporters in Des Moines, Iowa. But the people he hired to do it couldn't find 12 supporters, he said.
According to Barry, that said to them: "There's lots of room for an outsider. And the question became: Will the lack of experience be a hindrance? And then Donald Trump and Ben were No. 1 or 2 for six months." – Cracked, 5 Ways We Got The Trump Campaign Wrong: An Insider Explains
It might seem weird to think of Bernie as the Democratic Party's Trump, but the parallels are all there: an outsider running without the support of the usual kingmakers, financed by their fans in the general populace masses, both with a reputation for speaking their minds rather than giving the same polished soundbites. Except where those Feeling the Bern are mostly leftist idealists – spoilt white kids whose degrees priced them out of the job market, basically – Trump's base are something rather more dangerous.
A Brief History of Racist Dogwhistles
I indeed walked away from the (brilliant) movie Lincoln with a bit of cognitive dissonance: in 1865 it was the Republican Party that was progressive and the Democratic Party that represented reactionary slavers. It took for me to read Muder's A Short History of White Racism in the Two-Party System before I cleared that up; companion piece Not a Tea Party, A Confederate Party drove the point home, and Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor finished off the carpentry job with a nailgun. Seriously, go and read those three. They'll change everything.
The short version is that Reconstruction was the second phase of the American Civil War, and the South won, re-instituting slavery via various legal loopholes – after all, changing the law won't do a damn thing unless people abide by it. This state of affairs lasted right up through the whole miserable, sadistic history of American labour relations, until we arrived at the Civil Rights era with Martin Luther King. Up to this time the southern racist vote remained with the Democratic Party, with southern Republicans competing for the black vote and consequently staying out of office. The Civil Rights Act was eventually passed by congress in 1964 – with bipartisan support – but as President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law he said, "We have lost the South for a generation."
More like two generations and counting, LBJ. The southern racist vote flopped around for the rest of the 60's, was wooed by Nixon's "Southern Strategy," then finally attached itself to the Republicans when Reagan started hinting that southern racists were welcome in the coalition he was building – the four-faceted Republican Party of today. It was the start of the dogwhistle era, as Reagan strategist Lee Atwater famously outlined:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”- that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, “forced busing”, “states’ rights”, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”So with their numbers behind him Reagan swept to a colossal victory in 1980. The dogwhistle era has arguably remained with us ever since – Republicans still use terms like "inner city" and "food stamps" and rely on the listener remembering what kind of people tend to live on food stamps in the inner cities (nobody will hire you when you look like a thug, and when nobody will hire you the only option is to be a thug). Arguably these aren't dogwhistles anymore because everyone knows what they mean, but they're still being used, with one shining exception – Donald J. Trump.
The chattering classes like to say “the GOP base is frustrated because conservative leaders let them down so they are turning to Trump as a protest.” This misses the point. They did let them down but not because they didn’t fulfill the evangelical/small government/strong military agenda. They let them down because they didn’t fulfill the dogwhistle agenda, which was always about white resentment and authoritarian dominance. Trump is the first person to come along and explicitly say what they really want and promise to give it to them. – Salon, The GOP machine can't touch Trump: Why his heretical 9/11 claims won't even slow him downThat's why the Theocrat candidate Ted Cruz could lose even South Carolina to a thrice-married New Yorker who can't even recite a Bible verse. Having been the Republican Party's Useful Idiots for over 30 years, white racist evangelicals are the section of the Republilcan Party that's now breaking away to follow Trump.
So that's it, is it? It's a racist thing? Well, not just that...
Deal With It, Loser
These mass movements are never about just one thing, are they? Like blind men debating the nature of an elephant, one journalist will hold their nose and stick their head outside their comfy office and shoot a quick glance at the unwashed masses and decide it's a race thing. Another will do the same and conclude Trump is a bully for us nerds. Another, more intelligently, will point to tribalism, a fundamental human trait – my tribe, right or wrong – while still others will point out that Evangelicals have been losing a lot lately and Trump is their chance to be winners again. Marriage equality was never supposed to get this far, after all – only a few years ago, in the Bush era, they managed to make it illegal in multiple states, then all of a sudden the Supreme Court looks at the matter and decides it's already constitutional? How did that happen? I mean, come on, have we forgotten the victory lap we did after Obama's reelection in 2012?
The religious right is frightened and angry after Tuesday’s election.We saw this and celebrated...
That’s not really news, since the religious right was frightened and angry before Tuesday’s election. Frightened and angry is pretty much what the religious right is like every day.
But this quasi-religious political movement is back on its heels now. After decades of lucrative success that transformed America’s politics and deformed American evangelicalism, the religious right was confronted Tuesday with evidence that its strategy is no longer working...
The problem for the religious right is not that they lost, but how they lost and why they lost... They lost because they are no longer perceived as having the moral high ground.
That claim is still being asserted, but it is no longer being accepted. The political opposition used to be a form of “yes, but…” – yes, these political preachers are correct about morality and immorality, but other factors need to be considered, or other complications have to be accounted for, etc.
Opposition to the religious right’s agenda on Tuesday did not take the form of this “yes, but…” argument. It was simply, “No.” – Slacktivist, The white evangelical religious right can no longer presume to claim moral superiority
...they saw it and heard war drums. And rightly so, if I'm honest. Funny, only a couple of years ago I swore I was no longer going to be a foot soldier in the culture wars; now, here I am, fixing my bayonet and ready to go over the top for the other side. They were damn right it was a declaration of war; I'm out to destroy a whole worldview here, and so is Paul Bibeau. But it's going to get worse before it gets better, because honestly, were we really naive enough to think our glorious revolution could be accomplished without pushback? Seriously? This has been brewing from the moment Obama was elected (a black president? What is this, Blazing Saddles?). Like an earthquake off the coast that sets off the tsunami, election night '08 seriously rustled some jimmies, and they aren't going to be un-rustled any more than that tsunami will turn around and head back out to sea. All that bile has to work itself out somehow.
Here's the thing though: they know marriage equality is a done deal that isn't going to be repealed. Despite 50+ attempts, neither is Obamacare. And making them jump through ridiculous legal hoops and even the freaking murder of doctors isn't slowing the spread of Planned Parenthood clinics. Sex ed is trending away from abstinence-only, and science classrooms are rightly teaching that a literal six-day creation is Biblically illiterate horseshit. The world is slipping from their grasp and they know it, because they aren't stupid.
Yeah that's right, I said it: conservatives aren't stupid. We progressives love to imagine ourselves the last enlightened, thinking people in a horde of brainwashed zombies, but it just ain't so. And it hurts me to admit this, because I've had a lifetime of usually being the smartest person in the room, and with my dead-end job and no girlfriend being smarter than you is all I've got. But there it is: if you think all right-wingers are suckers who just need to have the right facts shoved under their noses and they'll slap their foreheads and wonder why no-one told them this before, then you're the moron. They might not be academically inclined, and they might prefer to spend their weekends driving their trucks and shooting things, but they're hardly mindless dupes. They've just absorbed a whole different set of facts to you (facts that don't happen to be backed up by reality, but don't get too cocky – I bet your Facebook feed doesn't give you a lot of dissenting opinions either).
So if they haven't been conned, and they don't actually care about their party's policies, then why do they vote against their own interests? Because of something far more basic than policy or hope for the future, my dear.
We, The Spiteful
And so we turn to Mark Ames, a protege of the War Nerd and one of the best – and bravest – journalists out there today. Just quietly, I think he's a better writer than Brecher too, tighter and more coherent, though he lacks that cutting hilarity that makes Brecher's work so enjoyable... Anyway, in 2004 Ames wrote a fanastic piece called Spite the Vote, which was republished in expanded form in 2011 as We, The Spiteful. And there you'll find the last, nasty little piece of the puzzle that is Donald Trump.
Spite can be a very productive emotion. Tractor magnate Feruccio Lamborghini, for example, bought himself a new Ferrari once only to find the clutch was knackered. Taking it back to Ferrari, he asked for it to be fixed please, only to be told to go drive his tractors if he couldn't drive a car. Fuming, Lamborghini took it apart and realised the faulty clutch actually came from the same supplier as his tractor clutches, so it was an easy matter to order a replacement and whack it in himself. Realising he was good at this, Lamborghini set out to shoot Ferrari down in flames by building even better supercars. Today Lamborghini is a legend all its own.
Other times, spite is all about destruction, not construction, and that's how it is with the Donald's supporters. Our lives suck – I'm one of you guys as far as lifestyle, okay? See job/girlfriend comments above – and we know we can't win, not ever.
Spite-voters lack the sense that they have a stake in America’s future... non-millionaires who vote Republican know all-too-well that the country is not theirs. They are mere wage-slave fodder, so their only hope is to vote for someone who makes the very happiest people’s lives a little less happy. If I’m an obese 40-something white male living in Ohio or Nevada, locked into a permanent struggle with foreclosure, child support payments and diabetes, then I’m going to vote for the guy who delivers a big greasy portion of misery to the Sarandon-Robbins dining room table, then brags about it on FoxNews. Even if it means hurting myself in the process.Why not hurt myself? It's not like our lives matter, especially to ourselves; to us another war at the arse end of the world isn't a catastrophe, it's a chance to get the hell out and do some serious damage before we turn 25 and the empathy glands kick in. You only need to look at a video game to know what's on a guy's mind. "Who says those millions of farm boys who joined up as soon as a war came along didn’t make a logical decision?" wrote Gary Brecher. "'Duh… fifty more years of scratching at my lice and shoveling cow shit… versus a quick glorious death if we lose, and lotsa enemy villages full of implied consent if we win?' I know how I’d choose."
Oh yeah, much as we don't want to admit it, there's the sex thing too. Or rather there isn't. "Happy Alentine's Ay," said one e-card this year, "For those who aren't getting the V or the D this Feb 14." Yeah, thanks for fucking reminding me.
If you didn’t know anything about how America’s propaganda worked, you’d think that every citizen here experienced four-dimensional multiple orgasms with beautiful, creative, equally satisfied partners, morning, noon and night... The flat truth however is that despite all of our desperate attempts to convince ourselves otherwise, America is an erogenous no man’s land. Most white males here (at least the straight ones) have either dismal sex lives or no sex lives at all. No sex, no dates worth remembering, no romance worth reliving – even though a majority of Americans experience this barrenness on a daily basis, officially, consciously, it doesn’t exist.So we don't really care whether Trump can deliver on his ridiculous promises. We're not interested in hopeychange, we just want someone who can fuck it up for everyone.
For the longest time I refused to believe that this is what's behind it. "People aren't that bad," I told myself. "They're just insane, because America. You haven't even seen any clear evidence yet." And then Paul Bibeau posted this.
And immediately I knew how Ian Malcolm felt: right all along and hating it.
I can promise you, I don't go a single day without being reminded how that guy feels. One of my friends has the kind of life I'll never, ever have, as much because it's contrary to my nature as because it's beyond my means – which doesn't stop me wanting it, of course. And I have to see it every day because, like an idiot, I'm on Facebook. She's a working psychologist – the same degree I dropped out of – and she lives and works in the Whitsundays, which is like Bali only without the sleaze. Did I mention she's a six-foot blonde bombshell with a family that dotes on her and a dreamy man-toy? Yeah, I can't help reading a smug obliviousness into every one of her smiles, even though – thinking about it – I don't really know what her life is or has been up to this point. All I know is every time she posts another snapshot from her annoyingly perfect life, I scowl and wish for something to happen, like a Category 5 cyclone or some disease that leaves the doctors stumped, just to burst her bubble for a while. Then I snap out of it and remember the only thing worse than my pathetic life is not being magnanimous about my pathetic life.
But let's imagine I was the highly-motivated type and felt like getting proactive about bringing her some misery. What if the only means I had to do that was one of the few privileges I have over minorities – white skin and a vote? And what if I lived in those United States? How long do you think it would take someone like me to warm up to the idea of President Trump? Just imagine inauguration day, sitting in front of the TV with a bag of Doritos and a two-litre bottle of Diet Coke, watching the Beautiful People flee screaming as the Donald takes the oath, then takes the first wrecking ball to a country I have no stake in... damn, that's gonna feel pretty good. I'm getting hard just thinking about it, and I'm fighting for the other side.
Reversing the Polarity
Sounds awful doesn't it? What do we do about it from here? Well first I gotta remind you – again – I'm no expert. I'm a dude who couldn't even be bothered paying for a domain name for his blog. But I can tell you what I think, and let you decide what that's worth for yourself.
First, don't worry so much about Trump himself. The Donald isn't the centre of this (despite his own views on the matter), he's just a chronic attention whore. If he drops the baton someone else will pick it up, because he's shown how to energise a huge section of the voter base. In fact, he isn't even the worst option as Republican nominee this year (that would be Ted Cruz, dominionist, goldbug and religious fanatic where Trump's only a con artist. At least the con artist isn't high on his own supply).
That said, be ready for it to get ugly. Because it will. Read that Goblinbooks post about flushing the rat again. These people have deluded themselves they're locked in an inevitable, losing battle with the Antichrist, and there are no cheap shots with the Antichrist. That means it'll get nasty, and you should be ready to get nasty yourself if need be.They'll never respect your position on the issues, but they'll sure respect your fighting spirit. So get out there and fight. Get angry. Get mean. Fuck some shit up.
John Paul Jones said, "I intend to go in harm's way" and coined a boast that generations of Americans, and even Bugs Bunny himself, repeated with pride: "I have not yet begun to fight." John Brown killed and died to provoke a final conflict over slavery. When American liberals can appreciate, encourage and manipulate the violence of such people, maybe you can talk to your fellow Americans again.Thankfully there are hints you're already doing it, because the Malheur thing resulted in some interesting pushback against the Oregon militia nuts. I'm so proud of you guys: the Right seemed genuinely shocked when the Left revealed they could be actually, honest-to-God, pissed off.
...Try smacking your South Park countrymen in their deluded heads with some bumper stickers of our own, just as down and dirty as theirs. Wanna get them out of their gas-guzzling Dodge extended-cab semis? Stop whining at them and try putting these four little words on the back bumper of your hybrid: "Big truck, small dick." Yeah, you might get yelled at at a stoplight; you might even get hit. You might even consider hitting back.
Liberals have always been good fighters, once they get going. – Alternet, How to Humiliate – and Convert – a Right-Winger
I've been reading your responses to the outpouring of anger and vitriol that has greeted the news that a bunch of self-identified pals of yours had "occupied" the vacant headquarters building at Malheur NWR out in the lesser paved portions of my home state.What the Bundys actually did was awaken something that hasn't been seen since the darkest days of 1865: the Left rousing itself to strike back with righteous vengeance and furious anger. They'd forgotten we could be like that; it took them 150 years to forget it, in fact, after Sherman did the business on them. Shame he didn't finish the job, turn the South over to the freedmen with the the full "forty acres and a mule," but the Lincoln administration always was soft on treason. You know, Jefferson Davis was on his way to Texas when he was captured, where another army was waiting that could've continued the war. Let me remind you Texas was a state liberated on the U.S. taxpayer's dime, and one of the officers in that army was a certain Ulysses S. Grant. He came away without much love for Texans (a particularly heinous breed of jerkwad, it seems), an impression that only would've been confirmed when they showed their gratitude by seceding just twelve years later. I wonder what might've happened had Grant followed Davis and ended up back in Texas with the Army of the Potomac at his back? Dixie loons wouldn't be whining about Sherman anymore, that's for sure.
You were angry yourselves, and scornful, that the "libtards' heads were exploding" over this. You seemed incredulous that these scruffy seditionists had aroused such ire on the Left, apparently as much because it is the Left as the subject of that furor. After all, we're supposed to be all "tolerant" and "squishy" about taking stands, except when we nag you about your hatred for things like homos marrying and Muslims... well, being alive... as "intolerant" and "rigid". You don't get it.
...Once again, the news media is fucked up like a football bat about this and giving your screwhead pals all sorts of free airtime to blarb their nonsensical screeds and, once again, you're giving, and going to give, us nothing but shit about it.
And we're really, really, really fucking sick and tired of it. – Graphic Firing Table, Dear wingnut... (an open letter to "conservatives" on the Malheur morons)
L'Armée du Rhin, the Army of the Potomac, the 3rd Guards Tank Army and You, Tomorrow... surprising and destroying right-wing nutjobs since time immemorial. It's only the scale that varies.
We have a huge opportunity here, a chance to really slap the bastards down. As we speak it seems they've finally found an anti-Trump slur that sticks – that he's a conman, and worse, he cons white people. But make no mistake, Trump can win: he's roused the white spite vote like nobody's done in a long, long time. Come November, the Republican base will be swinging hard, voting in massive numbers. And what you can do, liberal America, is put a Democrat in the White House anyway. Because with your diversity, once you finally fucking agree on something, there's an awful lot more of you than them. Hillary or Bernie, it doesn't matter which, as long as it's not a Republican. Not because you'll avoid a Trump presidency (although that would be nice), but because it would show the fuckers that they've been marginalised once and for all, and the world they're dreaming, where the white man sips julep surrounded by admiring southern belles, while brown people pick the cotton and pack the shelves at WalMart (without pay), is never, ever coming back.
They won't take it lying down – they might even push to the point of armed resistance. Sooner or later it'll come to that or going quietly into that gentle night, and they're not the sort to go quietly into anything. But so what? You've defended yourselves before and you'll defend yourselves again if need be, and if it comes to it you can make the memory of yourselves so fearful it'll be another 150 years before they'll breathe this treasonous shit again.
Because a better world is in sight. Not over the horizon, in sight. All we have to do is achieve it.