Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Trump surges in the polls, again
Bullies are cowards.
Donald Trump is a classic rich bully as only a guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth can be—for all his talk of his own business genius, his father Fred, a millionaire real estate developer, gave him his start. So as soon as Trump got some pushback for his crude comment about Fox's Megyn Kelly asking him tough questions at last week's Republican presidential debate because she was having her period, he let out a shriek of self-justification and began furiously backpedalling—No, he meant nose. Blood dripping from her nose.
I hadn't heard a person make a she's-on-the-rag crack since junior high school, and would be aghast, but that would be naive. Then again, naive is the new black. Those not among the Republican faithful figured, "Okay, now he's toast. Now we can get to the real campaign and focus on our country's real problems." They've already forgotten that Trump not only survived castigating John McCain and every American POW who ever lived as non-heroes who blundered into captivity, but he became even more popular.
Guess what? It happened again over the weekend. Trump surged even further ahead, one poll giving him 32 percent of potential GOP voters.
What is happening here?
I'm tempted to say we've plunged through a crack in the universe into some kind of parallel political dimension, a nightmare Twilight Zone world of politicians in pig masks spouting utter gibberish on TV while herds of sheep voters bleat in rapture. Why this is hell, as Christopher Marlowe said, nor are we out of it.
But that's a cop-out. There are actual real-life reasons why Trump is doing well. And since so much verbiage is being spilled on Trump, and I hate to join the chorus, I'll limit myself to three.
First, all publicity is good publicity. There is an established phenomena where a bad review helps—people hear about how terrible something is and become intrigued. Or they don't remember the content of the bad news, only the name of the product that was found deficient, and buy it.
Second, the poll is being taken among what statisticians call a "self-selected group." We aren't asking all American voters what they think of Donald Trump. We're asking Republicans. And who's a Republican? A Republican is someone who would see the most important source of women's reproductive services in the nation, Planned Parenthood, shut down over some cobbled together video shot by an anti-abortion group. So of course they don't care if a particular woman, and a journalist at that, is humiliated unfairly because of her gender.
A Republican is someone who would herd 11 million American residents into cattle cars and ship them back to Mexico because they or their parents entered the country illegally. So what do they care of "fair"?
A Republican is someone who can look at the overwhelming evidence for global warming, or the overwhelming evidence for evolution, and dismiss it because to do otherwise doesn't serve the commercial interests of their plutocrat overlords, or their personal notions of faith. So who worries over the lack of a factual basis for the things that Donald Trump says? He's rich! Are you? Of course not.
How much of a lapse is it to keep backing Donald Trump compared to backing that?
And third, the success of Trump merely reflects our cultural moment of vapid celebrity worship. We all love this stuff; we're addicts. The reality show, TMZ celebrity pap that we zup up every day has become the only thing we can consume, and so we eagerly consume an endless opera buffo of Don-said-this, Megyn-said that. We might not like what we see in the mirror, but it's still us. Donald Trump is us.
Well, the GOP anyway. Not all of us, thankfully, not yet. There is still plenty of time for Trump to flame out, as front-runners often do. But even if he doesn't — a terrifying thought that has to be ushered into the realm of possibility — there is always the salvation of the general election.
Up until a few days ago, I viewed Hillary Clinton through latticed fingers. Sure, she's qualified. Sure, she's smart. But God, not the Clinton years again. Not Bill back in the White House, on her arm, a surreal inversion of expected roles.
Then look at Trump. And his rapturous welcome among GOPers hot to lash out at a modern world they neither understand nor accept. And suddenly Hillary becomes the free safety in the backfield, the lone tackle between Donald Trump and the goal line glory he's speeding toward, legs pumping, toupee flapping in the breeze.
That isn't quite true quite yet. A year of campaign, God help us, and plenty of time for Trump to fall apart, though if rhetorically waving Megyn Kelly's bloody tampon over his head — I thought the Fox hosts were fair and pointed, to my vast surprise — doesn't sink him, it's hard to imagine what will. Maybe he'll drown a puppy in a bucket at the next debate.
Still, there's always Hillary, looking suddenly heroic, our Ulysses, home at last, surveying the hall of arrogant, loutish suitors, drawing her bow. Perhaps fate is inflicting Donald Trump upon our nation now to make her victory in November, 2016 all the more sweet.
Nah, the guy will be president. Serves us right.