Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Will They Go Over The Cliff?


Yesterday, Donald Trump careened closer to the Republican nomination for president. Andrew Bacevich writes that Trump possesses an ugly ingenuity :

There is a form of genius at work here. To an extent unmatched by any other figure in American public life, Trump understands that previous distinctions between the ostensibly serious and the self-evidently frivolous have collapsed. Back in 1968, then running for president, Richard Nixon, of all people, got things rolling when he appeared on Laugh-In and uttered the immortal words, “Sock it to me?” But no one has come close to Trump in grasping the implications of all this: in contemporary America, celebrity confers authority. Mere credentials or qualifications have become an afterthought. How else to explain the host of a "reality" TV show instantly qualifying as a serious contender for high office?

For further evidence of Trump’s genius, consider the skill with which he plays the media, especially celebrity journalists who themselves specialize in smirking cynicism. Rather than pretending to take them seriously, he unmasks their preening narcissism, which mirrors his own. He refuses to acknowledge their self-assigned role as gatekeepers empowered to police the boundaries of permissible discourse. As the embodiment of “breaking news,” he continues to stretch those boundaries beyond recognition.

The United States has become deeply narcissistic and, like Trump, it is infatuated with its own voice, increasingly absurd though it may be. But that doesn't matter, because Americans now see their presidents as demigods:

With Americans assigning to their presidents the attributes of demigods -- each and every one memorialized before death with a library-shrine -- who better to fill the role than an egomaniacal tycoon who already acts the part? The times call for strong leadership. Who better to provide it than a wheeler-dealer unbothered by the rules that constrain mere mortals?

What does the future hold? Nothing less than the republic itself is at stake:

Should Trump or a Trump mini-me ultimately succeed in capturing the presidency, a possibility that can no longer be dismissed out of hand, the effects will be even more profound. In all but name, the United States will cease to be a constitutional republic. Once President Trump inevitably declares that he alone expresses the popular will, Americans will find that they have traded the rule of law for a version of caudillismo. Trump’s Washington could come to resemble Buenos Aires in the days of Juan Perón, with Melania a suitably glamorous stand-in for Evita, and plebiscites suitably glamorous stand-ins for elections.

 Will Americans go over the cliff? We shall see.


Steve said...

Owen, they are like Wylie E Coyote, standing in thin air for a long time. Searching for a Canadian identity always is about drawing constrasts with our Cuz. There is a subltle yet remarkable differance in internet freedom between the two countries. Freedom House is seeking Canadians opinions on the subject.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Steve. We do work hard to distinguish ourselves from our American cousins -- although it's worth remembering that Stephen Harper took his inspiration from his Republican cousins.

Anonymous said...

I liked the two photos you used to introduce today's blog: one of Trump, the other, some kind of primate. A photo of a pig would also have worked. In fact, only yesterday I was thinking how much he resembled a pig in looks and behaviour. Later in the day, conforming to this year's Republican standard of deportment, I heard Rubio call him a pig. I am amazed and worried that so many people in the most powerful country on Earth could support such a man. What does it suggest about that country? Perhaps it has already gone over the cliff.

Owen Gray said...

Sometimes I think insanity has gone viral, Anon.

The Mound of Sound said...

As I surfed the American nets last night I paused to watch Ted Cruz deliver his triumphal speech/lecture/scolding after he took his home state of Texas plus Oklahoma. People are quite legitimately concerned about the idea of a Trump presidency but the idea that Cruz might squeeze Trump out at a brokered convention is hardly less worrisome. I think Cruz could be even more demagogic than Trump. At least Trump could be leashed by the Speaker of the House who controls the legislative body that has exclusive authority to initiate spending bills. Cruz is far more of a social conservative. Trump, well he's one giant greasy ball of self-indulgence, hedonism and narcissism. The New York Times editorial board summed it up yesterday when it denounced Trump as a "shady, bombastic liar."

Owen Gray said...

Certainly Cruz -- who believes he acts on orders from God -- would be no better, Mound.