Saturday, July 23, 2016

Response to The One Man

(See: Just Above Sunset: The One Man)

I guess the final night of the GOP convention should settle the question of whether we are all in a Battle of Civilizations. We are. It’s the Trump camp's vision of America on the one side, and civilization on the other.

And so who represents “civilization” in this analogy?

Here’s a hint:

Barrack Obama went to Dallas and spoke to both sides of the cops and blacks controversy, expressing understanding and sympathy for both the “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” crowds, and seemed to hope the two sides could work together to solve the problems.

In contrast, if even a single soul at Trump's Convention in Cleveland this last week gave one moment’s thought to the idea that the controversy had to do with anything else but some bad guys killing American cops, I never noticed them.

Donald Trump reopens the old issue of the “Great Man Theory of History”. Much of America seems to have tired of boring old civilization, with all its political correctness and boring old self-rule. They're on the cruise for some excitement, and feel the need for a strongman leader, someone who “makes his own rules". And if not Trump, then the movement will find someone else to do it.

Ezra Klein nails it:
...a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts… 
He has had plenty of time to prove me, and everyone else, wrong. But he hasn’t. He has not become more responsible or more sober, more decent or more generous, more considered or more informed, more careful or more kind.
In short, he’s a jerk, which is exactly what those people who admire him admire about him.

So of course Trump hasn’t pivoted to being a measured statesman. He’s famously a schmuck. Take away all that schmuckyness and he’d be John Kasich, who’s presidential bid went nowhere. Trump's kids can get up and give convincingly sweet speeches about how he’s really not as bad as he looks, but that’s only a counterbalance to our picture of the kind of man you would expect to get to where he’s gotten in the world.

Even if he were capable of changing into what many want him to be, his enormous following would fade away and go looking for someone else. After all, he’s not really creating this movement, he’s just discovered it and then found a way to get out in front of it.

And if he were capable of changing, he’d become a wannabe Jeb Bush, and why would anybody want a wannabe Jeb Bush when we already have a Jeb Bush, who is probably better at being it anyway? And then, who would represent all those followers Trump has now?

And what this “outsider” movement wants is to, just for fun, turn the world upside down, just to see what happens — which, by the way, was what the last Republican administration was looking to do, back when it invaded Iraq for essentially no reason -- and which is, by the way, what helped the world get to where it is today.

It’s hard not to notice when you hear that Trump might consider not defending NATO countries against an attack from Russia, that he thinks a president can ignore history and has no obligation to understand what he’s doing, that a president can just do what feels right at the time. In doing this, he may not realize this but he’d be pulling a GW Bush.

Bush, too, realized that his appeal was to voters who held the current “elite world order" in distain, including anything Bill Clinton had accomplished before him, so as soon as he got into power, he virtually did his best to undo the whole Bill Clinton administration. This included not only scrapping the Kyoto Global Warming Protocol, but also the “Agreed Framework" treaty with North Korea that kept them from building Plutonium nukes in exchange for aid — a treaty that, once it collapsed when Bush came into power, they abandoned and got back to work on making bombs. And they never looked back.

Maybe more critically, during the Clinton/Bush transition committee meetings, they reportedly pretty much ignored warnings of the danger of non-state threats, specifically from al Qaeda.

The point is, what Bush knew for sure going into office is that he had a mandate to undo all that confusing stuff Bill Clinton had done during his time as president. There are indications that, years later, Bush finally came around to understanding how stupid that had been, but it was too late to change the world back to the way it was, and we’re still living with the consequences.

I also like Andrew Sullivan's take on Trump’s big speech:
Why will the speech work? Because it manages to frame the narrative – using false or misleading data – by making this a change election. He somehow spins every disconcerting piece of news at home and abroad into a compelling social imaginary of chaos, decline and frustration. He blames Obama for everything bad and gives no credit for anything good. If you know nothing but feel insecure, the picture he paints will be electrifyingly persuasive.
And then he proclaims that he alone can fix it. Sort of reminds one of a protection racket. You may have no idea things had been bad at all until some master salesman comes to town to convince you that he can fix it.

Yeah, Trump's sort of like Professor Harold Hill, but without the trombones, much less the redeeming social conscience. In fact, while Trump hasn’t the charm of the Music Man, he does have a much more exciting personality than Hillary, which is why she could lose to him.

It’s such a tragedy for our country that the only actually competent candidate in this race may end up lacking the necessary showbiz skills to defeat a clown with schtick. I’m sure if the founders are looking down at all this, they must be glad they’re dead.

So despite what Trump and his legion of surrogates would have us believe, the country is not in chaos.

But if you want to see what a world in chaos does look like, go ahead and make Donald Trump the leader of it.

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