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Everybody’s talking about Donald Trump. The people who love him, the people who hate him, even the people who don’t know who he is because they won’t watch reality TV (which reflects the decline of a once great nation that produced Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, but now has Fox News, Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty, and an endless supply of Duggars).
Why the avalanche of attention? Because the press is following him closer than ticks on a hound. Why? Because he’s been saying terrible, no good, very bad things which reporters (journalists being extinct) are delighted to repeat as “news,” knowing said bad things will whip the masses into a frothing frenzy of tea-bag-covered flag-waving, which is good for their ratings.
So, when Trump maligns Mexicans, asserts he will build the Great Wall of China – “It will be huge!” – along our border (outsourcing actual construction to China to cut costs), condones attacks on persons of color, or supports banning Muslim immigrants – or banding the ones already here (citizens or not, Constitution be damned), the media ecstatically gives him all the free coverage anyone could ever want, creating an echo chamber which reverberates in the hearts of the ignorant and bigoted across our country.
In other words, The Donald has taken a page out of the Republican playbook by appealing to the lowest common denominator. As HL Menken once said: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Or, as more accurately summarized in another famous quote: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
And we are being suckered. Big time. By the ultimate showman. The Republican Party – along with most of America – is taking The Donald seriously. And he’s laughing all the way to Trump Towers.
Trump is a carny, plain and simple, seducing the marks, but don’t blame him – he is merely taking advantage of the grotesque circus the Republican party has become as it veered farther and farther right into territory occupied by lunatics demanding ever more extreme, far-right, religion-based, fanatical positions. The Donald is just telling the party faithful what they want to hear (and what many more believe but have previously hesitated to say aloud). And the party faithful eats it up, as he spews hate and lies and the media amplifies his message to a fever pitch.
Think about this. Donald Trump is, and always has been, a promoter. Of himself. What’s the ultimate self-promotion? Claim to be running for the highest office in the nation. Spout outrageous assertions that appeal to the underbelly of the populace, take advantage of the fear-mongering and hate-filled rhetoric that’s been the Republican mantra for the past decade or longer, hijack the extremist base of the party and make it your own. And know that the result will be free advertising 24/7 that will catapult you to the top of the polls. And make you a household name for years to come.
Another fitting quote? “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” He understands that and uses it to full advantage; why can’t we figure out what he’s doing? Instead, most of the other Republican candidates leap onto the bandwagon, not daring to say anything which might antagonize the base, each trying to out do the other with statements which should shock and alarm anyone possessing even a shred of human decency.
I seem to be alone in suspecting that Trump’s real motivation for his antics is pure self-promotion. Because all that sound and fury ultimately signifies nothing. He cannot win. Whether he gets the nomination or – assuming the Republican leadership will rig the convention so he can’t – has to run as an independent, he will carry the crazies who would follow him to a comet and beyond, while the reasonable minds among us – and many reasonable-minded voters remain despite all evidence to the contrary displayed by Rupert Murdoch – will be aghast and appalled by the thought of a Trump White House and the inevitable garishly overdone re-decorating of a national treasure. Either the votes will be split (assuming a moderate Republican is nominated, which is unlikely in the current political climate) or he will force traditional Republicans to vote across party lines.
The thought that neither Trump nor any of the current crop of mob-inciting clowns will be elected should be reassuring, but watching the surge of animosity against Muslims and refugees and persons of color so easily, so widely, and so intentionally provoked frightens me. We once had forced imprisonment of Japanese-Americans. We had Joe McCarthy witch hunts. We cannot let such fear and hatred rise again, no matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Thank the entertainment business we now call “the media” for the rise of Trump and others like him. Instead of traditional reporting, we have the new wave of yellow journalism, promulgating propaganda, replacing facts with uninformed beliefs and repeating (instead of challenging) the nonsense that Trump or Cruz or Rubio or other contenders just make up, the more outrageous the better.
That’s the problem. They can say whatever they want no matter how false and the media repeats it as if true, their lies gaining credibility like a snowball rolling downhill gathering mass. If Trump didn’t get free advertising for his “Shock and Awe” tactics, if the press refused to repeat his claim that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the World Trade Center fell, if the media pulled the plug on false or inaccurate claims, he’d have to pay to promote himself – and that he won’t do.
Better yet, what we really need during any political interviews, or debates, or advertising, or campaign appearances, is a brief sound delay, allowing inaccuracies to be bleeped out. (Most of the recent Republican “debates” would be blessedly silent.) Successful fear-mongering requires lies (Weapons of mass destruction! Death panels! Obama will take your guns!) to foster hatred. Let’s foster honest, fact-based discourse instead.