My latest newspaper column:
Pop. Sploosh. That sound you DON’T hear is exploding heads of Trump supporters. After decades of purposeful preparation, holding incompatible thoughts has become stress-free, making it effortless to reconcile their love for him with his attacks on their most sanctified source of “news.” If nothing else, the audation of The Donald reveals the cynicism – and undeniable success! – of plans hatched well before the ascendency of Newt Gingrich, furthered by right wing radio and, ironically, perfected by Fox “news.” Decades past, Republican leaders concocted a brilliant way to produce voters who’d elect representatives ready to enact their dream of unregulated plutocracy: distract them with objects of anger, fear, and resentment. Play to religious paranoia. Devalue education and expertise. Bankrolled by the Koch brothers, up sprang the Tea Party as the vehicle for getting there, and now, like Dr. Frankenstein, the power-mad geniuses must contend with their uncontrollable creation. Trump and Cruz, the concepti of Gingrichorovian impregnation of the party, have turned to patricide. To a cynic like me, the rarity of such karmic poetry makes it all the more satisfying.
But if it’s entertaining, it’s also scary. Whatever else is true of those two vainglorious demagogues, they’re nothing like the thoughtful conservative counterbalance a functioning democracy requires. Neither are their indiscriminately angry adherents. Trump is a thin-skinned egotist given to childish insults and substance-free declarations, having only shallow political ideas like building a wall (illegal immigration has dropped dramatically on Obama’s watch) and banning Muslims. Cruz is an incendiary Bible-thumping claimer of, as his daddy just confirmed, Christ-like martyrdom, which somehow excuses his fabrications from the Mount. Caught being untruthful, Democratic candidates try to wiggle. Republicans high-five.
When I’m not shaking my head in despair, I chuckle over the heartburn Trump is causing Republican Party leaders; at Cruz and his self-righteous religious zeal, I shudder. He’s Elmer Gantry, suffused with Torquemada and Jim Jones. Now that he’s the front-runner out of Iowa, let’s hope he’ll go the way of prior winners there, Huckabee and Bachmann.
Speaking of laughing while cringing, how about the wildlife at Malheur? I don’t know if the FBI had guidance from the White House, but it seems pretty Obama-like to have refrained from rushing in with guns blazing, waiting instead for the militiamen to become laughing stock over their own ineptitude. (Not that ISIS is as incompetent as they are, or that solving the Middle East is comparable to shutting down a bunch of self-absorbed misunderstanders of the Constitution; the Iraq war inflamed that part of the world for generations. But the initial restraint is familiar.) It was worth the frustration of seeing those guys do their dance without any evident pushback, ultimately to witness their quick capitulation in the face of what appears to be a well-planned trap. I’m sorry for the man who lost his life, no matter his stated intentions. With their hoped-for martyr, the militia movement will live on. Their misdirected fury is as much a part of the fabric woven by the aforementioned right-wing manipulators as are Trump and Cruz and those citizens in their thrall.
Absent compelling alternatives, “establishment” Republicans seem to be counting on the resurrection of Marco Rubio, who so far hasn’t figured out which persona to inhabit: standard issue religious regressive and political prevaricator, or the hoped-for new voice. Handsome, young, a facile speaker, he seems unable or afraid to try anything but time-tested boilerplate flogging of resentment. Obama has done “incredible damage” to the US, he declared on Fox “news” the other day, to no request for specification. If that isn’t stooping to conquer, what is? And what is this disaster of which he speaks? Employment? Medicaid? The auto industry? Budget deficits, the stock market, energy dependence, gas prices? Corporate profits, the Koch brothers’ wealth? Or is it the carnage in the Middle East uncorked by his predecessor and still confounding containment? Because that, at least, is true. Rubio, though, and Trump, and Cruz and all the other Republican candidates have assured us that they’ll fix it right up, by sending in more troops and pounding the hell out of the region.
History tells us something about that but I seem to have forgotten what it is.[Image source]