The French call it Trompe l’oeil– a muralist’s illusion that fools the eye until the viewer looks at the painted surface from an angle sufficiently oblique to overcome the painter’s perspective tricks. Trump the heel works his distracting provocations adroitly as any vagabond muralist. All attention is upon him, the performer juggling road apples, when we should be scrutinizing his audience. Their pain is noted, but not the catharsis they achieve from watching an endless revue of disparagement and parody, mocking the sober but equally delusional claims and programs of scripted professional politicians.
Never mind Trump! A remarkably broad bipartisan consensus formed early in the primary season: the Presumptive Candidate is a cad, a fraud, a demagogue, an ignoramus, a bigot, a narcissist, and a boor– and to most observers by now, also a bore. The record of his character and intellectual deficits provides abundant and constantly renewed evidence establishing beyond cavil how supremely unfit he is for the office he seeks. We also have a well-focused profile of the demographics that form Trump's ‘core’. Both his technique and his materials are simple and familiar. It is high time to clear the stage and bring on new performers to deconstruct Trump the Heel while exposing the foreign and domestic dangers of violence inherent in Trump's rhetoric.
The issue of 2016 is this: what grounds do we have to doubt Roy Blount Jr’s claim that his pet parakeet could be elected President? The requisite resources are few: the tedious length of the campaign; limitless funds for propaganda and focus groups; unplumbed depths of fear; frustration and insecurity rampaging through a population convinced they live in a Hobbesian world of radical and ruthless struggle– a zero-sum scramble for a shrinking pie.The incubus loaded on HRC’s back by decades of 24/7 talk radio and Faux News fables supplies additional leverage to a campaign for Change (a word of no concrete meaning beyond “anything but this”). The slogan Anyone but Hillary (the Duly Demonized Decoy du Jour) might suffice in an election about attitudes, anger, and blowback.
Neither the defining issue of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, nor the forces that will determine its outcome are mysterious, or unknown. They follow a pattern. They conform to a cycle with a much longer period than news (regarded as the first draft of history). Nevertheless this is a time when significant political news demands our attention almost daily. The success of Trump made “news” worth at least a tenth of the attention given to it; the splintering of the Republican Party, from place to place, office to office, constituency to constituency makes a fascinating story, and an important one if we are indeed witnessing a reprise of the death of the Whigs.
Even if we do not find contemporary partisan upheavals quite that earth-shaking, we can find edification in the tragic agonies of so many officials, incumbents, friends and colleagues whose sense of self is so interwoven with party affiliation that they must struggle to rationalize acceptance of a dangerous villain no matter how alarmed they are by his failings.
The usual way to resolve such ethical dissonance is to hyper-demonize the Other. Better the buffoon than the officious grandma who leads the opposing team. Hillary is not so manifestly insane that the strategy will work at a scale needed to move political needles. She is flawed. Like most politicians, she is manipulative, power-hungry, mealy-mouthed, devoid of candor, always ‘on the record’– but she is a familiar type in all of those respects. Her most flagrant disqualification in Parthian’s eye is her lack of imagination, her acceptance (as ‘natural’ and incorrigible) of our ill-fitting and unhealthy ‘ways of the world.’
Update: A field agent in the Parthian tribe objected to my claim that we know all we need to know about the persona, personality, and aims of Donald Trump. He had a close encounter with the Presumptive Candidate, during which he deployed his secret id-penetrating trans-cranial soul-sniffer.
He thinks I should share his key finding. If we really knew the intimate truth behind the bluster, we would extend our understanding and forgiveness to the thwarted Donna, who is really a shy, bashful, fastidious and proper maiden inside.
She washes her dainty hands before and after meals. She uses sterile wipes after shaking with a stranger on the rope line. She even bought a pageant business so that she could socialize in the changing room with other nubile nymphets, despite her curse of being born with a male body type. She loves to mingle with the other girls, where they can freely snark and snub each other until they agree who is hottest. She remains one of the best judges of relative voluptuousness, scoring her sisters on a system derived from the Westminster Dog Show. And she beats all of her rivals, hands down, with her way of drawling “Eeeew!” in the presence of anything she finds gross or offensive, like questions from professional reporters.
Donna's shame is she has been unable to summon the self-esteem and courage she needs to come out, and to initiate her transition. Look for that to commence in the first 100 days.