Why There Is A Trump

Other than white fear and anxiety—which I have written about many times—there are two other reasons we have a Trump.

One I found in an L. A. Times article (“News coverage of campaign greatly aided Trump and hurt Clinton, study finds“), which confirmed what anyone who has consumed the news since last June already knew. But it’s nice to have an objective study confirm what may only be personal bias. The lede:

News coverage of the early months of the presidential campaign strongly boosted Donald Trump’s bid and put Hillary Clinton at a disadvantage, according to a new study from Harvard that is likely to add to the heavy volume of complaints that the media aided Trump’s rise.

There’s that.

Then there’s this, which I found on The Hill:

Carl Bernstein: Trump speech ‘abhorrent’ but ‘effective’

Bernstein, unfortunately, is a CNN commentator. The old Watergate-breaking journalist was critiquing the godawful speech Trump gave today on banning Muslims and protecting those newly-lovable gay people that Republicans didn’t use to love until it became politically expedient to love them. Those same newly-lovable gay people that Democrats like Obama and Clinton are failing to protect because those two America-haters allow every gay-hating terrorist in the world to walk into the United States without so much as a howdy. The speech was, as Bernstein said, quite “abhorrent.” But here’s what else Bernstein said about it:

His speech will appeal to independents, even some Democrats and certainly Republicans because Hillary Clinton, Obama and the Democrats are very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world and they have been very reluctant to use the word Islamic terror and it’s coming back to haunt them. The impression Trump gave today, with some effectiveness, despite his almost neo-fascist rhetoric, is that the Democrats have not done that.

That is so dumb, on so many levels, I can hardly draw a breath.

First, I don’t know one single Democrat who would find that speech appealing. If there are Democrats out there who do find neo-fascism appealing, guess what? They ain’t really Democrats.

bernsteinSecond, Clinton, Obama, and the Democrats are not “very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world.” There are plenty of dead terrorists out there to refute that very ignorant claim. Just ask Osama bin Laden, the next time you’re snorkeling for seashells.

Third, what about the reluctance “to use the word [sic] Islamic terror”? Bernstein knows, or should know, why there is reluctance to use the word in the way that right-wingers want Democrats to use it. Responsible elected officials, as opposed to Republican elected officials, have to be careful not to alienate the very people who can help stop terrorists from terrorizing. Bernstein said it’s “coming back to haunt” Democrats. Oh, yeah? Where’s the proof of that? Obama was reelected, even though the right made the same attacks on him back in 2012. He’s also fairly popular right now. Does Bernstein think non-Republican people are so dumb that they think just by uttering “Islamic terrorism” all the terrorists out there will turn into Mr. Rogers?  I can pretty much guarantee anyone that ISIS thugs don’t really give a damn whether Hillary Clinton decided to use the term “Islamic terrorism” today. All they care about, besides killing other Muslims, is not having an American drone as a breakfast guest.

Fourth, Bernstein said Trump’s speech used “almost neo-fascist rhetoric.” No. It wasn’t almost neo-fascist. It was the real deal. At least as real as fascism gets in American politics. Bernstein also said that despite the close-to-fascist rhetoric, Trump’s speech was effective. Again, what evidence is there for that? Trump is a known liar and everyone not already hypnotized by authoritarian bombast has ten thousand good reasons not to believe anything he says about Obama, Clinton, or the size of his bratwurst. The only way anyone outside the Trump cult would give any credence to such a neo-fascist speech, which was full of non-facts, is if people like Carl Bernstein gave them reason to.

And that is exactly what he did. Bernstein should have called the speech what it was and not given anyone the impression that Trump is anything other than a dangerous authoritarian, who at times today acted like a lunatic. He should have said that Trump is quite openly telling us how he will change the country for the worse and how he will dramatically expand the powers of the executive branch beyond anything conservatives have imagined Obama doing. Instead, Bernstein practiced the kind of journalism we are too used to seeing since Trump slinked into our politics. The kind of journalism that has placed America dangerously close to electing a neo-fascist.

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11 Comments

  1. All that is necessary for evil to succeed it that good humans do nothing. (Excuse the paraphrase – I’m trying to not be sexist.)

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  2. Political expediency has been the modus operandi of the Republicans for decades. Only a small minority of people will actually vote based on white fear. The way fascism works is you have to make sure the larger group of self-identified “moderates” can say “I didn’t know that was going to happen” even though we know they had a pretty good idea. Unfortunately Drumpf isn’t letting anyone say that and that is why he’ll come up short. We know why anyone votes for him because he has too big a mouth. As has been said, the reason Republicans don’t like him isn’t what he says, it’s the fact that he doesn’t mask it with dogwhistle.

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  3. There is a fascination to the Trump phenomenon, the same kind as watching an accident or catastrophe unfolding before your eyes. What will he say next? Whom will he insult today? The media can’t resist it because their audience can’t resist it. I’m guilty too, but I’m not brain-washed.

    What does this say about the ability of the national audience to actually understand what’s happening? Either the polls are erroneous as to what people will actually do in the voting booths or people are incapable of understanding the consequences of electing this fascist demagogue. Maybe the average depth of understanding is now limited to 140 characters? That’s a horrible thought, isn’t it?

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    • I found out yesterday that a relative I grew up with closely, someone who I thought was a Democrat, is a Trump supporter. I was, to say the least, floored by the news. I’m still trying to process it, to tell you the truth. I really don’t know what to say. He can’t be talked out of supporting Trump, I am told. He’s sold on him. Hates Obama. Which may explain a lot.

      Now, to your point: Are people capable of understanding the consequences of President Trump? I would have thought the person I am talking about would be more than capable of that. But apparently I have misjudged this person. Terribly misjudged him. And it makes me wonder how many people are out there just like him, who haven’t the slightest idea what kind of damage this fascist demagogue can do to the country and our collective futures. I can only hope that the polls, which are trending away from Trump, are both accurate and predictive. But I have to say, Jim, that just the idea that someone like Trump can rise to the position he has, that he actually has a chance to become president, doesn’t speak well of our democratic experiment.

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  4. Duane,

    Thank you for another well-written commentary that addresses issues that are being largely ignored by the media. Figure 7 in the Patterson article confirms what should have been obvious to anyone who has actually been paying attention: When covering the candidates since the beginning of the primaries, the media has focused less on issues than on scandals, personal qualities, and poll results and has been much more likely to use a negative tone when covering Clinton than when covering Trump or any of the other candidates. Given these biases, it’s amazing that Clinton’s unfavorability ratings aren’t even higher.

    Despite the negative turn in discussions of Trump by some members of the media, he continues to be given “the benefit of the doubt.” Bernstein describing Trump’s “abhorrent” and “almost neo-fascist” speech as “effective” and repeating the criticism of the Democrats’ reluctance to use the term “radical Islam” are good examples. I’ve also heard several pundits praise Trump’s “toughness” and claim that it will appeal to many people while completely ignoring the actual content of what he says, including his errors (e.g., that the United States has “no system to vet refugees” from the Middle East). (I find the right-wing’s preoccupation with Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “radical Islamic terrorists” particularly annoying because it’s so typical of their simplistic, superficial view of complex issues. They ignore the reasons why and, as you note, act like saying it will somehow magically change the behavior of the terrorists. Unfortunately, I doubt that Obama’s and Clinton’s remarks on the use of this term this morning will stop the right-wing’s criticism unless Trump and his supporters find another meaningless talking point to replace it.)

    Dayan

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    • Dayan,

      Amazingly, the president’s strong and rational remarks, along with Clinton’s, have done nothing to change the minds of people like Paul Ryan–who gets credit for being an adult Republican. They still say, whether it is for their base’s consumption or because they believe it, that you can’t defeat the enemy until you name it, as if the mere uttering of the words has some kind of supernatural power. History will judge this as nonsense, of course. But we have to live with it for now, unfortunately.

      As for the media coverage, I couldn’t agree more. I will say, though, that the tide seems to be turning. The thing that has always bothered me about the coverage, besides the openly hostile treatment of Hillary Clinton, is that these journalists can see with their own eyes that Trump is unfit for the office. It’s not hard to figure that out. Five minutes of one of his horrific extemporaneous speeches is all you need. Now you have people like Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who spent 10 months or so cheerleading for their friend, saying on a daily basis that he isn’t presidential material and the Republican leadership should disown him. Unfortunately, for the GOP, it is too late for that. He is now the face of their party. Serves them right.

      Finally, I have sort of come to a conclusion that I didn’t think I would ever embrace. That the excessive media coverage, the airing of nearly every rally he gave, has helped the general election electorate see who the guy is. Polls are showing a pretty breathtaking drop in his numbers. People have seen over these past months that he obviously behaves like a classical narcissist, but he also has a very serious problem with his temperament. He is unhinged. And I think the constant exposure, weirdly, made that pretty clear to everyone but the hateful nuts on the right and those who have been taken in by his con. So, despite my cringing every time he was on the past year, it may turn out that exposure was the best thing that could have happened.

      What do you think?

      Duane

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  5. Duane,

    The excessive coverage should have helped make more people aware of Trump’s unsuitability, but I think it may have had less effect than it should have for a couple of reasons. First, not everyone watches as much news as some of us do and, therefore, don’t know that much about him. When talking to a Republican friend who was not happy with Trump last year and to a caller raising money for Clinton a few months ago, I found that I knew a lot more about Trump than they did. Second, I think that (perhaps because of Palin and her supporters), some people think that crazy and ignorant are normal for politicians. And this belief has been supported by media people like Joe and Mika who, until recently, have acted like nothing has been wrong with Trump’s moronic rants and behavior. The standards for what is acceptable have become incredibly low.

    I don’t know what finally turned the media and an increased (and hopefully increasing) number of Republican voters against Trump. It seemed to be his comments about the California judge, but he said many worse things in the past.

    I guess I agree that all the media coverage of Trump had some benefits: It helped make Trump the Republican candidate, it probably helped turn at least some voters against him, and it gave Clinton a lot of great material for her ads.

    Dayan

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    • Great material, indeed. And despite Joe Scarborough’s criticism of Trump lately, he still seems to hold out hope that a “pivot” will make him palatable to enough Republicans to make it a close election. Trump’s obvious unfitness for the office doesn’t come up much because the appetite is for ratings and ratings are dependent on a close race. Pathetic.

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  6. Thanks to the colorful Scots, I found a new moniker for Trump: “ferret wearing shitgibbon.”

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