Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Trumpanzee Fantasy World-- A Peek Behind The Curtain


Protesters holding up pocket constitutions are now a signal for enraged Trumpanzee fans to start booing and frothing at the mouth. It had to come to that eventually. Several sitting Republican congressmen have publicly told their constituents they will not vote for Trump. Richard Hanna (R-NY) has said he'll vote for Hillary. Scott Rigell (R-VA) endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson on Friday evening. "I’ve always said I will not vote for Donald Trump and I will not vote for Hillary Clinton," Rigell told an interviewer, "I’m going to vote for the Libertarian candidate... When [other Republican officials say] own conscience is seared by some statement that Trump has made, I have encouraged them to be direct and also, in a timely manner, repudiate what he said. People will respect it if you have a reason and you put it out there."

Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns reported in the NY Times yesterday that "for Republicans in close races, top strategists say, the issue is no longer in doubt. One House Republican [Colorado's Mike Coffman] has already started airing an ad vowing to stand up to Mr. Trump if he is elected president, and others are expected to press similar themes in the weeks ahead." Paul Ryan has already done this but they reported that "in the world of Republican 'super PACs,' strategists are going even farther: discussing advertisements that would treat Mr. Trump’s defeat as a given and urge voters to send Republicans to Congress as a check on a Hillary Clinton White House. The discussions were described by officials familiar with the deliberations, several of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity about confidential planning. For now, some of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents are simply hoping to avoid what they see as the taint of association with their standard-bearer."
Plans for ads that distance congressional candidates from the top of the ticket have accelerated. “You will see them by early to mid-September now,” even before the first debate on Sept. 26, predicted Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the United States Chamber of Commerce.

...What stops Republicans from disavowing Mr. Trump en masse is that they fear alienating his voters, who may be crucial to the party’s efforts to retain its congressional majorities. In an era in which fewer voters split their tickets, it is important to Republican leaders that Mr. Trump at least run competitively with Mrs. Clinton to avert a down-ballot wipeout.

“Do we run the risk of depressing our base by repudiating the guy, or do we run the risk of being tarred and feathered by independents for not repudiating him?” asked Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster working on many of this year’s races. “We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

...Jay Bergman, an Illinois oil executive and major Republican donor, said Mr. Trump’s clash with the parents of a slain soldier had been a sharp reality check. Mr. Bergman said he had previously viewed Mr. Trump as a “loose cannon like a fox”-- calculating his inflammatory comments to drive his message. That view was harder to sustain after Mr. Trump’s latest eruption, he said.
Worse yet, focus groups show that that particular eruption against the Khan family has so unalterably turned off persuadable voters that they will no longer hear any of his messaging. They're done with him. Republicans talk about Hillary's big gains in recent polling changing. That's not far-fetched-- but it is probably as likely that the changes will increase her lead over the Trumpanzee than even it out.

The widespread and instant fact-checking on his latest ad-- fact checking that found it completely untrue and purposely deceptive-- isn't going to matter to delusional Trumpists but delusional Trumpists aren't even going to swing the election for Mr. Trumpanzee in deep red states like Georgia, Utah and Arizona. But normal voters see Trump in action with his staff willing to alter a tape to twist the facts changing "we aren't going to raise taxes on the middle class," to "we are going to raise taxes on the middle class." PolitiFact, which hired forensic phonetics specialists to study the tape for tampering, rated it a "Pants On Fire" lie. Trump has more Pants on Fire ratings than any other American politician in history.

Worth reading Andrew O'Hehir's essay at Salon tonight about Mr. Trumpanzee's suicide mission, a suicide mission he wants to bring the rest of us along on. "Trump,' hr wrote, "is on a suicide mission, acting out a deep-seated national desire for self-destruction that runs alongside America’s more optimistic self-image and interacts with it in unpredictable ways."
Trump traffics in pseudo-uplifting nostrums about making America great again and how much “we” will “win” once he is president. But he has never offered any specific ideas or policy proposals, only incoherent fantasies that combine isolationism, protectionism, a police state and total war against amorphous enemies. I have never believed that even his most passionate supporters take his proposals about the zillion-dollar border wall, the deportation of all undocumented immigrants or the exclusion of all Muslims at face value. Those things represent a yearning toward the imaginary and the impossible, and a nihilistic rejection of all reality. No candidate who proposes such things-- or who asks why we can’t use nuclear weapons, since we have them-- is actually selling hope or optimism.

Donald Trump’s suicide mission is not personal, first of all. If I had to guess, I would say that he wants to be president but doesn’t know why, and has no idea what he would do with the office if he wins. Trump wishes only for his own glorification; he isn’t intelligent enough or complicated enough to yearn for his own destruction. Whether that translates in practice to a desire to lose the election, with the side benefit of endangering democracy by claiming that the system is corrupt and the results were rigged-- well, that sounds like a pretty good guess, but as I said earlier I don’t know and I don’t really care. Trump’s suicide mission is ultimately about something much larger than his own presidential campaign, and also much larger than demographic clichés about the declining white majority.

America is experiencing a health crisis on an enormous scale-- a crisis that is simultaneously physical, psychological and spiritual and is hardly ever understood in holistic terms. If Trump is the most prominent symptom of this systemic disorder at the moment, he is not its cause or even its leading indicator. For starters, this crisis encompasses epidemic rates of obesity and epidemic rates of suicide, dramatic evidence of a wealthy country that is literally killing itself. It’s about a nation of worsening social isolation and individualized info-bubbles and pathological delusion, a nation that spends more per capita on healthcare than any other major Western power to achieve worse outcomes, and where Baconator Fries are $1.99 at Wendy’s.

More than one-third of American adults are obese, and close to 70 percent are overweight. Rates of obesity and associated ailments are highest among Americans with lower incomes and less education. That correlates strongly with support for the candidate who famously proclaimed, “I love the less educated,” at least among people who are white. There’s no way to ignore the racial element in this year of racial discord, division and discussion: African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to have obesity-related illnesses than whites, and far less likely to be Trump voters. As I say, Trump is an important signifier of our national pathology, but not its sole representative.

For all our understandable horror at mass shootings, police shootings and gang-related violence, most gun deaths in the United States are suicides. In 2014, there were more than twice as many gun suicides in as gun homicides. Suicide rates have reached their highest level in nearly 30 years, while murder rates remain near historic lows. Although suicide, like obesity, has increased across all socioeconomic and gender-ethnic categories, about 70 percent of the Americans who kill themselves are white men. Middle-aged white men with lower incomes are at particular risk-- the group most likely to support Trump, and to express the incoherent racial and societal grievances he has channeled so expertly. (For reasons that are not entirely clear, blacks and Latinos are much less likely than whites to commit suicide.)

Some researchers have identified a troubling spike in preventable and more or less self-inflicted death among lower-income white people in America, the group that provides nearly all Trump’s support. This phenomenon includes suicide, alcohol poisoning, liver disease and drug overdoses, closely related to the waves of prescription-drug abuse and heroin addiction now visible in virtually every suburban or exurban community across North America.

But I’m not making a social-science case, based on statistical evidence, in arguing that there’s a connection between those physical and mental health crises and the political eruption signified by Donald Trump. I’m suggesting that the deductive or imaginative leap from one to the other is not all that far. I’m saying that the precarious mental state and multiple ailments of downscale white America have found a symbolic outlet in Trump, who offers imaginary remedies to real problems, vainglorious bluster masquerading as thought and hateful nihilism pretending to be hope.

I’m saying that the state of borderline psychosis produced by electronic consumer society leads to OxyContin addiction and Baconator Fries and a suicide epidemic and Donald Trump. Those things are not all the same, but they are interconnected. I’m saying that the landscape I just saw in west central Florida, whose inhabitants crawl mollusk-like from fast-food outlets to convenience stores to healthcare providers to office parks, in their SUVs and pickup trucks with tinted windows, is a landscape of cognitive dissonance and collective delusion. It’s the landscape of madness in general, and the flavor of madness provided by Donald Trump in particular.

We’ve been made acutely aware over the last several years that the fragmented and narrow-casted media landscape produces competing narratives of reality. Fox News viewers believe that Muslims, feminists and gays have joined forces to abolish the Constitution and institute Sharia law; MSNBC viewers believe a cabal of hateful bigots and the super-rich are conspiring to roll back all social reforms since roughly World War I. But the physical landscape of America, with its intense isolation and intense socioeconomic and racial segregation, creates competing realities as well. Donald Trump is not all that important in himself; he’s a fantasy projection created and nurtured by the lonely, frustrated and struggling white folks of Pasco County and Hernando County and places like them across the country.

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At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, the analysis is generally correct. An economic system based on individual greed has 1) taken over government and 2) atomized us to the point of political and social isolation.

The question: what, exactly, is the proof that HRC understands this and what are her specific plans to address it?

John Puma


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