It’s a strange, new world. I may be older, but surely that doesn’t explain why I fail to understand what is going on in our national politics today. Perhaps it is my fault, for I am not white, or poor, or poorly educated. Is that a fault?
In simple terms, I see our politics imploding a little bit more each passing day. Here we are in 2016, when things are looking so much better for the US, as compared to anywhere else in the world. Yet all around us hatred and bigotry are blooming in the national discourse, on a scale unseen perhaps since the unrest of the 1960s. But that civil unrest was about issues greater than the those who protested on the streets – war in a far-away country, political freedom and civil rights for African Americans, self-determination for young people and women’s rights over their own bodies. Today it is about the destruction of everything that has made this country into the world’s most powerful nation.
In truth, today America is greater, more powerful, more diverse and more accepting of different sexual orientations, than ever before in its history. Today is a brighter day in America than it was in the 1960s, the last time a dangerous, populist demagogue was able to hijack the entire political process of the nation. I speak of course of Senator Barry Goldwater.
Today the entire political scenario has taken on a surreal tint. Center stage is a man, a blustering bully, best known prior to this for his reality TV show where he ‘fired’ people. He is an unashamed bigot, a racist, an ugly sexist and above all a narcissist of epic proportions. Yet this is the man who has captured the imagination of the poor, poorly educated, white folks, who have smoldered for years in an imagined siege mentality.
We have in Donald Trump,a man with the best education his daddy could buy, but he still speaks in the language of an elementary school yard bully. He is a shameful rich-kid draft dodger. He is a man without any ideas who has galvanized a marginalized segment of the population, who have for decades voted against their own interests. He is a man who has reached down and roused the most bestial instincts in people. Yet this is the man who the poor and the poorly educated imagine speaks for them. It is a bewildering display of a mass delusion.
And who is to blame for this sad but terrifying situation? I lay the blame squarely on the GOP and to a lesser extent on the US media.
For at least two decades now, the Republicans have railed and decried the imagined weakening of America. They have repeatedly called on their party faithful to denounce and denigrate Government as an institution. They have called for their followers to fight against the liberal bias of the Supreme Court decisions on such issues as women’s health rights, gay marriage etc. They have forced government shutdowns as a vanity project for powerful leaders. They have spent the last 7 and a half years trying to swallow the bitter pill of a black man in the White House, by proudly proclaiming themselves the ‘party of no’.
I ask the GOP establishment, did you not think there would be consequences to all of this? Here is your biggest consequence, and his name is Donald Trump. This is the future and it’s not pretty. Now they are in disarray, wringing their hands and scratching their collective head, wondering what strategy to employ to stop him from winning the party’s nomination. I am afraid you may be too late.
A long line of leaders must take responsibility for creating this Frankenstein’s Monster, all the way from Newt Gingrich and the hubris of his unstoppable ambition, to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and yes, even Ted Cruz himself. Remember the old saying, ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. Well as a party you chose to sow the wind for decades, now you reap the whirlwind.
Why do I blame the media for the rise of Trump? For over a year now we have had blanket coverage of every outrageous statement that spews from that man’s mouth. Just the fact that it is played round the clock has given the man so much free publicity, he has probably spent less in campaign ad buying than any candidate in recent memory. The media is first and foremost lazy, undisciplined, and condescending to boot. They started off the primary season covering Trump almost exclusively, because it was just so fanned easy. This worked to the disadvantage of every other candidate. They, the media, precipitously thought his outrageous speech amusing and it made for easy headlines and ratings. They have highlighted the ugly antics of the one candidate without a policy platform (unless you consider “I’ll build a wall, it’ll be yuge (sic)”, to be a platform). They have gleefully reported and re-reported ad nauseum, every ugly word spoken about the size of body parts and women menstruating as if it were discourse of the highest order. When they do have him on-air, which is constantly, no journalist insists that he clarify any of the weird, false statements that he makes. This is not how an unbiased media works.
So yes, the media have helped create this ‘yuge’ mistake, who is the presumptive nominee of the Grand Old Party. No amount of hand wringing or fiery speeches by the likes of Mitt Romney can change that now.
This, brothers and sisters, is the strange new world we live in now.