One of the more frustrating American dilemmas emerging over the last few years has actually been evolving for several decades. That is the conservative initiative indoctrinating constituents into blind loyalty to an often simplistic, mostly superficial series of dogmatic bromides that feel as though they mean something important but — in and of themselves — are mostly Sound and Fury, signifying nothing. But taken together, they have come very close to achieving their objective, which should be troubling to normal people.
Why do people vote as they vote, putting scoundrels in positions of power while consistently compromising their own best interests? The question has been asked over and over, yielding much speculation but providing little in the way of satisfactory answers. The election two years ago of Donald J. Trump was the culmination of a decades-long, GOP initiative, that, if anything, so exceeded expectations that the very voters they had so carefully cultivated departed the reservation, behaving as though they actually believed the fictions being peddled.
Trump was nobody’s first choice. A New York B-lister, a failure at just about everything he tried, infusions of daddy’s money coming to the rescue again and again. A blowhard “mogul” who grifted into the public eye selling everything from his signature loin-cloth-length ties to sheets, pillow cases and even meat; creating a charity to benefit he and his family; and founding Trump University: promising everything, providing nothing, and eventually paying $25 million to defrauded former students.
Through the Republican primaries and a series of candidate debates, Trump, completely and transparently out of his element, came off as absurdly unprepared; frighteningly ignorant, criminally misogynistic, and utterly tone deaf: trashing various minorities, mimicking a disabled reporter, demeaning the late John McCain and engaging in a vicious, public squabble with the parents of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.
We collectively snickered as this self-aggrandizing New York chucklehead consistently demonstrated he knew next to nothing about practically everything; a complete and hilarious joke ... until he began winning primaries. Other candidates including GOP favorite sons Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio began falling by the wayside, having no plausible rejoinder to Trump’s persistent stream of middle school insults and name calling. It seemed that the worse his behavior, the stronger his support.
Blunder after blunder culminating with the notorious “grab them by the pu--y” moment, written off as “locker room talk,” had seemingly no impact on Trump voters, who rationalized it as boys essentially being boys. That the moment — which everyone believed wrote Trump’s political obituary — passed without discernible, permanent impact on the race, provided perhaps the strongest evidence that the viability of his candidacy was either rooted in something other than objective reality, or that reality no longer mattered.
We subsequently came to the achingly slow realization that Facts themselves had become negotiable.
As the GOP incubated a base so vulnerable to suggestion for their own purposes, the Trump campaign jolted the party’s long term plans by tipping the political petri dish and taking advantage of a constituency numbingly unaware that reality television was an oxymoron and Fox News wasn’t news. Enough of the people, enough of the time, were carefully nurtured to panic on command; maintain a consistent fear of the “other;” and disproportionately concur with the self-serving fantasy that they belonged to an oppressed white minority whose very existence was under constant threat.
All Trump needed to do was show up spewing hate, racism, xenophobia and dire warnings, like a Roundup-poisoned seed, blown into an already fertilized field from the Monsanto farm across the road. While most Americans gagged, the Republican base, already malleable from years of propaganda, were taken in by the illusion of a highly successful businessman who not only believed as they did but said so, loudly and clearly in language they could easily understand. He was seen as their (and America’s) savior. His rallies were like evangelical revivals. And because belief canceled reality, all his lies became true.
So here we are, 30 months and more than 9,000 lies down the road with Donald Trump’s base still largely intact; most congressional Republicans consistently genuflecting; and the rest of the country reeling from one manufactured crisis to the next, the president pinging from pathetic self-aggrandizing to pugnacious bully, whatever suits his pathology of the moment.
While the Mueller investigation and the midterm elections provide some solace and a few hopeful rays of light, the president’s capacity for darkness has become, if anything, alarmingly recharged, heedlessly exploiting old divisions and creating new ones.
In just one small, WTF example during a week chock full of them, Blowhard Trump emerged during a fawning Breitbart interview: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump — I have tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, then it would be very bad, very bad.”
The truth, Mr. President, is that most people outside the GOP-Fox echo chamber, that is, the majority, think it’s been “very bad ... very bad” since January 2017 and will only begin to get better when you’re “very gone ... very gone.”
Walt Amses lives in North Calais.