The words of Donald Trump. There’s some food for thought. How many directions could we go off in right now about Trump’s particular brand of stochastic campaign season parlance?
From Muslims and immigrants, to John McCain’s war record and urging supporters to “knock the crap out of” protesters at his rallies. Mexico is sending rapists, the United States sits upon the brink of total, crime-induced collapse. Taco Bowls for Cinco de Mayo and David Duke’s inspiration. Threatening the First Amendment rights of the press as well as boasting of the war crimes he’d like to commit. The list goes on. And on. And on. Ad nauseam. I got this far without even mentioning the wall.
Did anyone bother to tell him that he was actually running for president? That his particular soapbox has the world’s attention, not just that of the usual people getting swindled in business deals?
Demagoguery and fascistic language have been cornerstones of the campaign since the onset. This isn’t to critique his campaign for those aspects of it, the electoral system in the United States has long been flawed. The political process has been broken for decades and as Trump’s recent speech in North Carolina, in which he suggested that “Second Amendment people” could solve the issue of a President Hillary Clinton naming anti-gun Supreme Court justices, brings the message home that the entire political process is a circus.
Trump isn’t an embarrassment to US politics, he is the epitome of its failures as co-opted by a frustrated ghost of the age, taking to the podium and ranting, as opposed to speaking, throughout the campaign, volleying more half-truths than the truth itself, and more non-truths than either. This is because the truth, as evident for years before Trump’s campaign, hasn’t mattered. The frustration now exploding from his rhetoric stems from a worldview steeped in manufactured threats to white hegemony.
We could go deep into the history of how lies have shaped the American experience, but that’s for another time. The point is, we’re a society so used to distractions and dogwhistles, that we fail to put our finger on the problem because we cannot isolate that problem for the simple sake that we cannot identify the truth.
Instead, we have a candidate who is perceived to “tell it like it is” as opposed to like he sees it, which is a major difference. Meanwhile the other candidate doesn’t have to worry about legitimate criticisms. Oh, Jill Stein correctly accuses Hillary Clinton of being a war criminal? Well, Jill’s less popular, so who cares.
What Trump did during that speech in North Carolina, by nearly any account, is heinous. Let’s not mince words when it comes to the implied murder of political opponents. He has likely given the election to Hillary Clinton, and that’s said with full recognition of the short political memory of American voters. His supporters can prate on all they like about how this will derail talk of “the issues”, as Monica Crowley did on a Fox News panel bemoaned shortly after the country had time to react to his statement, but as Charles Krauthammer would clarify:
“It’s not the press. It’s not the Democrats. This is a self-inflicted wound.”
We could also point out that the indignant character of a Fox contributor steaming over a distraction from the issues is disingenuous, and perhaps even egregious, given the station’s obsession with things like Benghazi during the campaign season. And while Crowley is actually right, the journalist-when-convenient schtick also carries the blame for enabling the growth of lies and distractions into accepted truths and real issues.
Neither Trump, nor the wordsmiths among the rank and file of his campaign, will ever convince anyone that what was instantly assumed from his phrasing wasn’t its exact meaning. This is a man who truly cannot speak more clearly, because we all understand English being spoken at an elementary school level. That’s been part of the appeal since the beginning; an unequivocal elitist who mouths the prejudices of the Average American at the Average American’s level. A vocabulary devoid of adjectives in favor of intensifiers. Many, many, many great intensifiers, okay?
We enter, now, an interesting situation, but not one alien to the campaign already. Trump’s words could be placed under investigation because whether or not he has finally crossed a line that will push his support base away, the question now becomes whether or not he crossed a line with regard to the law. That law (and order) of the land so pivotal to the platform he spoke about at the conclusion of the Republican National Convention.
As it turns out, his unveiled elbow nudge to the “Second amendment people”, if determined a credible threat, was made against the family member of a former president and is a felony that comes with a five-year prison sentence. Those who are running for president are also among those protected by the law, so this is something that the Secret Service is looking into. If we’re looking for an easy jab, here’s one: How does the law and order candidate feel about this?
But there’s something to be said about Trump’s insistence to carry on undeterred from the many criticisms he has received over his word choices. This is something that Trump uses to his benefit, not something he created. The resistance to PC culture on the right has grown to such a degree, that there will undoubtedly be an attempt to relieve Trump of any pressure by invoking criticisms of political correctness.
Seen by right wingers, especially among males, as a threat to their free speech when a Black person objects to the N-word, or when a woman calls out a man for catcalling, the struggle against this, the most significant pillar of the “pussification” of America, comes out in mocking the offense some take at the words and actions of others. Never mind that Fox News has been a fact-free safe space of the right’s own for over a decade.
This leads us to the trouble within Trump’s campaign in that he’s not running a campaign. At least not a real one. If right wing media is still going on about Clinton’s email scandal, and Benghazi, both of which proved to be witch hunts, then we’re not getting a serious critique of her campaign in order to offer alternatives – which is fundamentally what a campaign is: issue versus issue. This isn’t the first campaign to devolve into this either.
As the dirty tricks of neoliberal economics, from privatizing public services to austerity and cutting taxes for the wealthy, have come to envelop both parties, you’ll never see a Republican attack Hillary Clinton for supporting many of those things. You’ll never see a Republican criticize the hawkish behavior of today’s Democratic Party, or the NSA domestic spying program. Among the “gotchaism” culture of political pundits and bloggers, you’re not going to read in many places the “gotcha” of Hillary Clinton saying that Edward Snowden would receive treatment in the US according to US law while Chelsea Manning erodes in solitary confinement. Because while this latest Trump goof will give considerable sympathy to Hillary Clinton, the tradition of missing the bigger points will continue because those bigger points serve both parties. It’s that simple.
This is why the Trump campaign so beautifully and perfectly exposes the shortcomings of lesser-evil voting strategies. Not only is Donald Trump completely unqualified, but he provides cover for Hillary Clinton’s drawbacks.
There are no more antiwar Democrats around to criticize Hillary’s hand in drone assassinations from Libya to Pakistan because they’re busy deflecting accusations of rigging the election against Bernie Sanders or using illegal email servers.
The worst part about this election is that when Donald Trump loses in November, people are going to act like we won something when we’ll have only prolonged what currently ails the people and aids this nation’s oligarchs.
We’ll still have a government catering to the one percent, we will still have record levels of economic inequality, wages will still be stagnant, we’ll still have corporate welfare, we’ll still have “too big to fail” banks, we’ll still have the most expensive health care in the world, we’ll still be at war, we’ll continue bombing civilians, we’ll continue deporting undocumented immigrants including children, we’ll still be spying on American citizens, we’ll continue to degrade our environment, climate change will continue largely unabated and unaddressed, we’ll still support international dictators, we’ll still sell our military arms all over the world, we’ll continue to support coups, and we’ll continue to support racially segregated countries.
All of these things occurred under a Democratic president; one who was considered far more progressive than the one that is about to be elected. What will there be to celebrate about Trump losing when it’s so clear that we’re not winning in the first place? Hillary Clinton is still a terrible choice for president, but in pitting two bad candidates against each other, the answer to one problem is another problem and the distractions take on an autonomous characteristic.
Recently, my own Congressman came out in support of Hillary Clinton. Rep. Richard Hanna (NY-22) made some waves in the news for being a Republican who would not support Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions. This produced two local reactions. The first being Trump supporters rallying outside one of Hanna’s district offices in protest of his decision, and later, a rally of progressive groups in support of both Hanna and Clinton, against their own best interests.
We’ve been led so far away from the actual battles by dogwhistle politics and deliberately misleading campaigns to squash political opponents, that we get what we deserve in a candidate who panders to uninformed voters. To a working class that has been abandoned and maligned for its lack of sophistication and anti-intellectual pride. We’ve helped create the divide while providing no alternative as we vote based on shallow platitudes on both sides of the aisle leaving the conjoined, bipartisan roots of trouble untouched, unaware of their existence.
Jobs continue to leave the US. Wealth continues to funnel up. Minor medical emergencies continue to bankrupt families. Terrorists continue to be created through our overseas aggression. We continue to miss the forest for the trees and actively cultivate what we object to in Trump’s words.
He can’t hide behind an alternate meaning to his words, Trump knows there are consequences to what he says. Texas is refusing to give birth certificates to children born on US soil to immigrants. White nationalists see an opportunity through Trump’s Euro-centric rhetoric. Anti-Muslim hate crimes are up since his campaign began.
While the words do have a real effect, the campaign itself is an indictment of the US political process on the whole. Trump is a reaction to the disease, not the disease itself. He is the stained, reeking bandage over a necrotic wound.