So This Is the Game We’re Playing Now …

Forgot to post this when I wrote it last week, and as a result it’s already absurdly outdated. Stupid modern news cycle …

I woke a couple of days ago to learn that Donald Trump was feuding with … wait, what? A baby? Trump hates babies, now?

That’s not all. Trump also has it in for firemen, apparently, and heroic soldiers, and the people of Harrisburg, PA.

What a jerk, right? I mean, what a monumental ass.

Also, his campaign staff is fed up with him. Also, establishment Republicans are angry with him. Also, his toadies and sycophants are resentful about the way he’s treated them. Also he sort of said something flippant about the Purple Heart. Also, according to Joe Scarborough, some guy once said that Trump once said that something something something … nuclear bombs! Ahhhhhhhh!

Let the hate-fest begin.

Isn’t this getting a little ridiculous? Sure, Trump’s terrible, but it’s also clear that The Awful Thing Donald Trump Said is now the only news story in America. Let’s find something, anything, and get those teeth a-gnashing. Did Trump make a mean face at a puppy? Did Trump tweet something tone-deaf about Harry Potter? Rage time! Get it on.

There’s the Muslim ban, and then there’s “get that baby outta here.” Y’know, just Trump bein’ Trump.

Even trivial flubs can drive a news cycle, because reporters just add them to a long, long list of prior gaffes and offenses. Did you hear that Trump said a dumb thing about the county of Loudoun, Virginia? Yeah, I’m serious. Trump doesn’t even know what’s happening in Loudoun, Virginia. Everyone, you hear that? Loudoun, Virginia, people! I mean, what’s with this guy? Is he schizophrenic or sociopathic or what?

There are so many clichés out there now–wait, I’m supposed to call them “narratives”–there are so many narratives that virtually any slip, goof, tiff, or tidbit can be mocked up as “part of a worrisome trend.” Forget about Trump the racist. That’s old school. Trump the fascist was getting too heavy–besides, it forced us all to think about history. Now we’ve got Trump the nut and Trump the jerk, Trump the bully and Trump the charlatan, Trump the guy-who-just-can’t-let-it-go. As a catch-all option, there’s always Trump-the-political-neophyte-who-doesn’t-even-know-how-to-run-a-typical-campaign. Works every time. Hey, look, guys! Trump just did something! Everyone’s talking about it! You can see how this isn’t a typical campaign.

I think reporters may be getting a little too gleeful, a little too zealous, in their eagerness to pounce on every tiny thing Trump says. It almost seems a bit … hm, hate to say this … but it can start to seem a tad, y’know–biased?

At any rate, the rash of reflexive Trump bashing provokes an inevitable counter-reaction. And so we get pieces like this. Call it Trump ventriloquism, or “Trump has a point” contrarianism. If the in-people are now mobbing Trump, shouldn’t a good nonconformist push back? Shouldn’t someone, at least sometimes, come to the guy’s defense?

Gosh, it’s really hard to say this, but … could it be that Trump sort of hits the mark on some stuff? That he’s actually right about some things?

From such apostatic beginnings, a smart columnist like Ivan Eland or Rich Lowry or Damon Linker can go on to write 1000 words about how Trump might actually sort of have a meaningful message about the Iraq war, or the wisdom of interventionism, or immigration policy, or the treatment of the poor.

Would that it were so!

Look at Eland’s argument. He’s totally right about the awfulness of Bush’s foreign policy. He’s right that Obama and Clinton haven’t gone far enough in repudiating that foreign policy. He’s right that Humayun Khan died in the sort of meddlesome overseas adventure that has been a staple of American governance for the past seventy years.

He’s also right when he implies that Trump-hating is now a national pastime, as self-perpetuating as a Pokemon craze, driven, in some measure, by sheer habit. We hated Trump awful hard yesterday. Let’s hate him some more today!

Wouldn’t it be great if reasonable, critical-minded, unbiased people everywhere could actually be … well … fair and balanced, and argue that Trump has credible things to say about the Bush presidency, or the excesses of political correctness, or the mistreatment of the working classes?

Ah, but it can never be. When Trump criticizes the Iraq War, he does so not by renouncing Bush’s militarism, but by citing crackpot theories. When he lights into flawed political opponents, people who really should be criticized, he says … but we’ve all heard what Mr. Trump has said. When he objects to the Clinton campaign’s politicization of a soldier’s death, he does so using slapdash, brainless insults.

It’s no good saying “Hey, Trump may have a point.” Trump never has a point. The best anyone can do is project reasonable arguments onto his improvisational ramblings. Pick out a word here, an allegation there … Iraq War … mistake … Hillary Clinton … soldiers … you know, maybe it is worrisome that Clinton is prone to bombing the Middle East. That’s a good argument! There’s a real, worthy position here! And we arrived at that position by throwing together genuine, intelligible words that were actually spoken by this bloviating, free-associating loon. Does that mean Trump, somewhere deep down, actually knows what he’s talking about?

No.

Still, the farce goes on. Maybe, at the end of the season, we’ll be able to look back with pleasure, smug in the knowledge that we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.

For now, you can almost forget that this is supposed to be our highest calling as citizens of a democracy. You can almost kick back, taking in the show, as Trump continues to do his dirty work–turning representative politics into a new, lewd flavor of shock TV.

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