I followed the Republican National Convention with a perverse fascination. It’s embarrassing to admit given that the more attention Trump receives the more threatening he becomes, but it’s the truth. I couldn’t have helped it if I tried. I don’t watch sports. I don’t gamble. All I have is politics.
For years, the GOP has been trending in the direction of right-wing extremism and various forms of authoritarianism (“fascism” is, of course, the first word that comes to mind, but using such a traumatizing word makes some among us tense and defensive), so in a sense the Trump phenomenon is predictable. As the Democrats’ strategy for gaining voters, championed by the venerable William Clinton, was to reach further to the right (to appeal to “Reagan Democrats”), the Republicans were left with the choice of either reaching out to the liberals or to the far right. They chose the far right, thus creating a monster that long ago became far more powerful than they could control.
To some degree, the Democrats are beholden to moderates. The Republicans, on the other hand, are at the mercy of extremists. While most of its voters are still somewhat traditionally conservative, the voters who really make the difference believe that the world was created in six days (followed by one day of rest for its Creator, Blessed be His Name), that global warming is a hoax, that abortion is murder, that gays are the spawns of Satan, that welfare recipients are moochers, that homeless people are lazy, that blacks and Mexicans are subnormals, that Islamic Radicalists may break into our homes at any minute, that the birth of ISIS was in no way influenced by the actions of this nation…
At the risk of belaboring the point, it’s easy to see how comfortably the “extremist” values of the Republican Party blend into the “moderate” ones. The RNC’s platform explicitly caters to the views of extremists, all the while pulling its moderate supporters further to the right, lest they risk political annihilation. Where at the beginning of the primary cycle many in the Republican Party expressed their hatred and distrust of Trump, the GOP has now thrown its support behind their nominee (among notable Republican dissidents are Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz and plenty others, but the majority is all-in). And Trump is their best shot at winning the general election: he gave the Republican Party the first organic erection it’s had after years of political impotence.
With a strong central organization within the party, Trump has become the figurehead of what the GOP actually represents: schoolyard bullying, bigotry, ignorance and an arrogance that could only be borne of a child who always got what he wanted. Trump is the perfect mouthpiece for everything the Republicans have been building towards for the past few decades. His face even looks like a personification of the party’s values. He is the perfect cherry on a very vanilla sundae, and he is now the official presidential nominee for one of the country’s only two significant political parties.
As if all of this wasn’t unsettling enough, the RNC managed to be a strikingly accurate advertisement for everything the GOP espouses, made all the more effective by Trump’s Hitleresque acceptance speech. Ten minutes into watching it I started to feel sick. The whole thing sounded like a satirical passage from Orwell, written almost as effectively and delivered with complete conviction (and the mad waving of Trump’s comically tiny hands). The audience ate it up, and the spectacle, broadcast to me live on YouTube, though long-winded, achieved its intended effect. Fear was the theme of the speech, and hate was the mode of delivery.
When Trump did his bit about the time being past for political correctness, the people made wild animal noises, celebrating Trump’s call for racism and bigotry to be socially acceptable again. When a protestor disrupted the rally, Trump praised the police officers for removing the protestor. He talked about how police lives matter, framing the situation as an atrocity against our men in uniform without mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement (or the many murders of black people by police officers that have happened lately). He talked about how the security of the American people would come first, bar none, suggesting that beefing up the police’s capabilities might be necessary in order to provide that security. His attempts to be inclusive were veiled by his insistence on keeping neighborhoods safe, which is a politically correct way of saying “protect white people.” He said that we should be willing to pull out of trade agreements that don’t work in America’s favor, like NAFTA. He blamed a whole bunch of shit on the Democrats, chief among which is, of course, Hillary Clinton.
To the American people, Clinton represents everything that is wrong with politics. She has been on the wrong side of virtually every important issue until it becomes politically unwise to remain. She has blatantly lied in the public forum and repeatedly neglected to offer an apology or acknowledgement until it becomes politically unwise to neglect it further. She has befriended dictators, defended appalling legislation, misused campaign finances, broken campaign finance laws, been a cozy friend to Wall Street since the dawn of time and stubbornly refused to do anything progressive until such time that any given issue becomes so mainstream that it’s no longer progressive.
Even an imbecile like Trump had an easy time tearing into her. In fact, Clinton may be the only candidate the Democrats could have put up that Trump is capable of defeating. All he has to do is exactly what he has been doing: repeatedly suggest that Americans are tired of the status quo and want change, which is true, and that Hillary Clinton is the status quo’s mascot, which is also true. And it helped immensely that Trump had a huge pile of dirt on Clinton to pepper in whenever he pleased. Despite my extreme distaste with the speech and the accompanying nausea, even I found myself sometimes nodding in agreement. Who doesn’t think Clinton is corrupt as they come? Who doesn’t think things are bad and getting worse? With the candidates we’ve been offered, who in this country is looking forward to the next four years?
So, with all of this in mind, let’s just say it: the Democrats are the problem.
The DNC decided that Hillary Clinton was their nominee long before she won the nomination. They did this knowing that her history is mired in political scandal, that she was under investigation by the FBI and that she is a pathological liar. They did this with the knowledge that a substantial chunk of its own voter base has a serious distaste for her. They did this knowing that her disapproval rating was the highest of any Democratic candidate in American political history, and they continued to do it as Trump’s popularity and perceived legitimacy began to rise.
Even if it was decided that, as the Wikileaks documents showed, the DNC had rigged the system in Clinton’s favor long before Bernie Sanders became a sensation, they could have changed their minds before the convention. Multiple polls showed that Trump was predicted to give Hillary a real shot in the general election, but that advice was ignored. Multiple polls showed that Bernie Sanders, without question, whooped Trump’s ass in the general election, which were also ignored. But Bernie Sanders isn’t necessarily the point—the point is that the Democrats went all-in before they even saw the flop.
In a sense, it isn’t terribly surprising that the Democrats were unable to stop themselves from committing fully to Clinton. They were engaged in a reflexive feedback loop which couldn’t be stopped until its completion. No matter what, she would become the nominee. So when Trump came along, the Democrats’ response was the exact opposite of what it should have been: instead of scaling back their efforts to nominate Clinton, they ramped them up. The fact that a nobody from Vermont gave her such a tough primary race even with the influence of the DNC didn’t deter them one bit.
When Bernie Sanders came around and raised legitimate issues with Hillary Clinton, the DNC and their policies, the DNC responded by smearing him, despite that he did it in the kindest possible manner. The move managed to sufficiently suffocate Sanders and his supporters, but his message got through and exposed the sympathies of millions of Americans. This drew a stark contrast between Clinton and Sanders. Clinton was in bed with the DNC, who were at least partially responsible for Bernie’s ultimate lack of success; Bernie became nationally known as a candidate of reason and honesty who was given an unfair shake by his own party. The resulting schism in the Democratic Party began to resemble a gaping wound and gave rise to the need for the Democrats’ platform to be almost exclusively based around defeating Trump (despite the fact that Hillary’s campaign had been largely based on that since the Rise of Trump). Hillary Clinton may be as guilty as the DNC as a whole depending on her involvement with the rigging of the primary (and she definitely shares some blame due to the fact that she arrogantly continued to run despite the fact that people severely disliked her and that she was polling poorly against Trump), but safely it can be said that the DNC is the catalyst for this particular catastrophe.
Blame for the Rise of Trump and the division of the Democratic Party is frequently attributed to Sanders, which should be blatantly false to any informed voter. The DNC and the mainstream media are directly responsible for this, which gives Trump even more fuel. Again, thanks to Wikileaks, Trump can now convincingly rail against not only Clinton, but the entire DNC, rallying the people around the idea that such a corrupt political party should not be put into power. And a huge swath of the people eat it up, because despite political affiliation, most Americans know that something is deeply wrong with politics in the country (plus, there are a lot more white supremacists than we thought). The problem lies with the fact that these people want to look for an easy solution—they are tired enough of the direction American politics has been heading that they are willing to settle for sub-par as long as it breaks the mold.
Trump’s acceptance speech writer, Matt Shepard, should be given a good amount of credit. Despite the fact that his words and tone were horrifying, and the fact that the speech was long-winded, he managed to strike the balance between dictator and confident leader with finesse, which is no easy task. Shepard’s voice is practically indistinguishable from Trump’s voice, and the fact that Trump delivered the speech expertly does it all the more justice. From immigration to BULDING THE WALL to closing the borders to Islamist Radicalist Super Turbo Terrorists to how black lives don’t matter to how police lives REALLY matter (believe me) to how the Orlando attack against the LGBTQ community was “no good,” the speech was a horrifying masterpiece. And the Republicans on the convention floor went wild in response to it.
Trump is wagering, somewhat intelligently, that people are fed up enough with the system as it stands and hate Hillary Clinton enough that all he has to do is present himself as a semi-affable person who is simply pointing out the truths Bernie Sanders already exposed. (He is adopting the Sanders method–the only difference is that he is approaching the dilemma from the perspective of hatred and ignorance, whereas Sanders approached it from the perspective of compassion.) But his real appeal is in his otherworldly ego and rhetoric that he is the only man who can fix such a corrupt system. His ego is so bloated that it’s almost possible to believe that he is the only man who can make America great again. The way he speaks makes you believe him, not by the content of his speech, but by the power of his delivery. The only other significant political leader I can think of who achieved success using the same method is Adolf Hitler.
All of this is particularly unsettling given that the content of Trump’s speech was positively horrifying. He says that he is the law and order candidate, despite the fact that his campaign is the only one in modern political history to make news for its inclusiveness of white supremacists and its ability to inspire riots and violence like no campaign before it. He says that he will ensure peace and safety like we’ve never seen before, which is all the more insidious given that his domestic policy is to beef up local law enforcement to “keep our neighborhoods safe.” He is still insisting on the wall. He insists that we shouldn’t allow immigrants from countries with known terrorist connections, not even attempting to vaguely define what “terrorist connections” means. He insists that the legal immigration process is incapable of figuring out “who these people are and where they came from.” He speaks with aggressive and unearned authority like a middle school brat and insists that we’ll walk away from trade deals with organizations like NAFTA if we don’t get what we want.
AMERICA FIRST! LAW AND ORDER!
All of this is juxtaposed with talk about how the American government has failed you, which it has; how Clinton is a corrupt and untrustworthy politician, which she is; how Bernie Sanders was cheated, which he was; how the American political system and social bodies need a radical change, which they do.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the pragmatic alternative to Trump is a loathsome liar whose political judgment is as poor as her fashion sense, it would be obvious to the American people that Trump has to be defeated. But he’s been given the perfect political climate for victory: The DNC put up a candidate who perfectly illustrates everything that’s wrong with the American political system. With a little manipulation, an almost genius understanding for entertainment media and more than a handful of notes from the fascist playbook (not to mention a maniacally egotistical personality), even a subnormal moron could make the case for Trump’s presidency. All he has to do is remind the American people who Hillary Clinton really is, what the Democrats really represent and how badly they’ve been treated by the current powers that be.
I am writing this after the second day of the Democratic convention, which so far has produced a series of predictable speeches, some feel-good video segments, a modest amount of Trump-bashing and an alleged endorsement speech from Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ speech was effective and instrumental in tipping the odds in Hillary Clinton’s favor, but enough Sanders supporters are still too convinced that Clinton is basically as evil as Trump, so it remains to be seen whether Sanders or any other political leader can truly tip the scales and unify the party. The Clinton Convention started with booing, everybody knew something was going to happen with respect to the Sanders delegates and supporters (who eventually moved their protest to the media tent to gain attention), and Sanders himself received the most ridiculous applause of any speaker to date (more, even, than ol’ Billy Clinton). But even Sanders went around to different states’ delegates the next morning to see to it that they stopped booing and started endorsing Clinton with more enthusiasm.
It is no secret that the Republicans have for years been cultivating a national platform that would eventually result in an actor like Donald Trump, whether or not they were aware of their own machinations. (They also gave rise to Ted Cruz, who was a maniac in his own right; and Ben Carson, who creepily smiled at the suggestion of using torture to get information from terrorists; and Marco Rubio, who sold out his own race to be a corporate hack.) The Democrats had every opportunity to put up a proper response to this atrocity of a candidate and instead chose to put up an atrocity of their own. May this shatter any proponent of American democracy’s faith in the two-party system, and may we remember the words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”
Both parties have fucked the people of America by acting out of self-interest instead of acting out of interest for the American people. The Democrats, for a long time, existed as the alleged party of sanity in contrast to the Republicans. As they’ve made the choice to opt for success at the risk of political suicide, it is no longer clear that the Democrats are much better than the Republicans; as they’ve made it clear what their real interests are, the Democrats have once again left the American people in the perilous position of voting between the lesser of two evils. How much pain, do you figure, will the American people endure before a real revolution breaks out?