Politics postsFriday January 29, 2016
Can We Make Sense of Trump?
“A Republican presidential candidate might run on Willie Horton and opposing same-sex marriage, but after being elected, he was expected to turn to reducing the top tax rate and deregulating business. Cultural appeal was the means, and economics the ends. What conservatives fear is that Trump might upend that delicate, unstated system by turning the means into the ends.”
-- Jonathan Chait, “The Trump Party vs. The Republican Party,” New York Magazine
“I think that people who base their political appeal on stirring up the latent anger of, let's just say, for shorthand's sake, what Richard Nixon called the ”silent majority,“ know that they're riding a tiger. [Nixon, Reagan, George W. Bush] always resisted the urge to go full demagogue. I think they understood that if they did so, it would have very scary consequences. There was always this boundary of responsibility ...
”For a lot of these people growing up, the experience of Europe, and World War II, and fascism, was a living memory. I think there was this kind of understanding that civilization can often be precarious. I think people knew that, and people saw that, and as ugly as some of these folks could be, whether it was Ronald Reagan going after welfare queens, or Richard Nixon calling anti-war protesters “bums,” or George W. Bush basically engineering a conspiracy to get us into a war in Iraq, there was a certain kind of disciplining, an internal disciplining. I think that anyone who plays the game of American politics at that level knows this can be a very ugly country, that a lot of anger courses barely beneath the surface. ... I think that Donald Trump is the first front-runner in the Republican Party to throw that kind of caution to the wind.“
-- Rick Perlstein, ”Is This the End of the GOP As We Know It?" on Slate
Palin Endorses, Trump Grimaces
The funniest thing to me about Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump is the pained expression on Trump's face as she rambles through her grab bag of idiot ideas:
No man was less sure of being feted. You can't spell Palin without pain.
- Stephen Colbert does his own, brilliantly rambling, stream-of-consciousness version of Palinism.
- The Washington Post's Tom Toles on the man Sarah Palin is leaving behind.
- Trump's lines if Palin had endorsed someone else.
- That New York Daily News cover.
From Raf Sanches' and David Lawler's piece on the fall of Sarah Palin, which was published in The Telegraph just a year ago: Jan. 30, 2015:
Mrs Palin made similar indications [about running for president] before the 2012 election but never actually jumped off the sidelines. It's a trick that gets a bit of buzz the first few times but eventually you end up as irrelevant as Donald Trump, another serial presidential wannabe.
Those were the days, my friend.
'A Dark Side to the American Populace' or Where Have You Gone, John McCain?
Ed Harris as John McCain: recreating the last moment the GOP tried to tamp down the 'dark side of the American populace.'
Last night, P and I watched “Game Change,” Jay Roach's 2012 HBO movie on the unlikely rise of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign, with Julianne Moore as Palin, Ed Harris as John McCain and Woody Harrelson excellent as McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt. Sarah Paulson, recently so good in “Carol,” is also excellent as a senior advisor, Nicolle Wallace, initially proud that a woman will be the GOP's VP choice, then concerned, then horrified.
As are we, watching. Each revelation of how much Palin doesn't know is stunning. The reason why North and South Korea are two countries. Which countries made up the Axis and which the Allies during WWII. The fact that the Queen isn't the head of the British government. If the press had been allowed to vet Palin the way the McCain campaign didn't—if there had been more than the Charlie Rose and Katie Couric interviews—the McCain campaign would've been torn to shreds. Deservedly.
But what truly stands out is a line McCain says near the end. It's October, things are going poorly, and his team, particularly Rick Davis (Peter MacNichol), urges McCain to use the two big guns left in the arsenal:
- Rev. Wright
- Bill Ayers
McCain refuses on the first, acquiesces on the second. His refusal on the first is the result, in part, of the push-polling Karl Rove and the Bush campaign did to him in the 2000 South Carolina primary, implying that he had a black child out of wedlock rather than an adopted daughter from Bangladesh. But Davis keeps pushing. The Bush campaign lied, he says, but Rev. Wright said what he said. To which McCain responds:
That may be true. But there's a dark side to the American populace. Some people win elections by tapping into it. I'm not one of those people.
Later, we get that moment at a campaign rally when a woman calls Obama “an Arab,” and McCain takes the microphone back, and reminds her, and the rest of the crowd, that Obama is “a decent, family man, citizen, that I just happen to have some disagreements with on fundamental issues.” That's also startling. It may be the last moment anyone in the GOP tried to tamp down that type of ignorance and hatred. Ever since, and from multiple sources—including Palin, Limbaugh, all of right-wing radio, all of FOX News, and now the current GOP candidates, led, of course, by Donald Trump—they've not only been tapping into the dark side of the American populace; they've been poking it, prodding it, enraging it.
The movie is four years old now, and it made me wonder whatever happened to Sarah Palin. It also made me think: Where have you gone, John McCain?
How to Win Primaries and Influence the Conversation
Coming back from Trader Joe's this morning, I heard a bit of “This American Life.” They were talking about Dale Carnegie's seminal book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and one person's interaction with it. I actually sat in the car after I got home to listen for another five minutes, then brought the groceries in.
The most extensive passage from the book that they quote, at least while I listened, is this:
Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn't think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn't bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn't you like to have that?”
Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?
Who did this passage make me think of? Donald Trump. Folks on the left talk about him as if he were a monster or a buffoon, but mostly I think he's a salesman; his current rhetoric is simply the bait he's dangling. A lot of people are biting, sadly, but then he's a good salesman. For now.