Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Stray Thoughts on the Current Debacle in Cleveland

I just can’t bring myself to watch the Republican National Convention.  I just can’t.

Oh, I read about it.  Somehow it all seems less insulting to me as an American, less aggressively psychotic, less like the death knell of a once-proud political party if you can skim lightly over the articles the next day rather than see it unfold live in all its unmedicated glory.  There’s a little distance there that you need to have just to keep the screaming heebie-jeebies away, the deep fear that comes from knowing that this is representative of a far too large portion of the population of the most powerful nation on earth.

Face it – this is one of the Only Two Major Parties we have in this country, and they just officially nominated as their candidate for the highest office in the land a man whose utter lack of principles is perhaps his best quality.  It is better than his inability to comprehend anything that doesn’t directly concern his own ego.  It ranks higher than his eagerness to pander to the worst elements of a society on the verge of self-inflicted breakdown.  It’s far more endearing than the sad realization that behind the bluster and the ego there is essentially nothing – as one of the people who knows him best recently put it, there is no inner Trump: he’s a hollow blowhard all the way through.  And it certainly bodes fairer for the future than the fact that he seems incapable of telling the truth even when it would benefit him to do so.  According to the people who rank such things, he is being truthful less than 10% of the time – a modern record.  Hilary, Bernie, Jeb, Kasich, and most major political figures from either party tend to be truthful around half the time, which may sound bad (it's not anything you'd put up with from a colleague or roommate, for example) but is still 500% better than the guy the GOP thinks should be president.

I’ve seen the chaos that erupted on the floor on the first day.  I note with grim foreboding the fact that you now have one faction of the GOP calling another faction of the GOP fascists to the national media.  As an academic I am deeply puzzled at why Trump’s wife thought she could give Michelle Obama’s speech (with a dash of Rick Astley) and not think people would catch that.  One of the hardest lessons my students learn is that plagiarism is astonishingly easy to spot these days, and the whole function of modern social media is to create pile-ons of astonishing ferocity and pitiless mocking.  You can survive looking bad in the modern political and cultural arena, but you cannot long survive looking ridiculous and incompetent.

If they can bungle what should have been a well-oiled publicity machine that they had months to plan, can any sentient being on the planet think they’re going to do better if entrusted with the messy and demanding prospect of making real-world decisions in actual time?  This is the guy people want with his finger on the nuclear button?  This should have been a completely artificial manufactured PR event, and it has turned into an embarrassment for both the GOP and the nation as a whole.

Yes indeed, this has been exactly the clusterfuck that Democrats had been hoping for and Republican professional operatives had been dreading.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

And yet there he is.

There are times when you think to yourself that perhaps the entire world has indeed lost its mind.  That perhaps humanity really is a weed species that has overstayed its welcome on this green and fertile planet, and if we destroyed ourselves it would not be that bad a thing for everything else.  The trees would thank us, if nothing else.  Maybe the songbirds too.

As a historian, someone who has studied the past, has studied the blood and work and sacrifices that have built human civilization out of the grey mists of the past, this is a saddening thought. 

Yet there is nothing inevitable about the continued existence of the United States of America.  There is nothing inevitable about the continued existence of humanity as a whole.  We have it in our power to make short work of the achievements of past generations.

We also have it on our power not to.


Unknown said...

I have watched most of the convention. It amazes me that they spend an enormous amount of time excoriating Hillary for being dishonest, and trying to scare the living out of the acolytes, and so little time talking about what they think should be done (I.e., the party platform). Maybe when Trump finally speaks this will happen, but I am not counting on it. It frightens me that so many of the electorate are swallowing Trump's drivel and begging for more.

David said...

Welcome to 4Q10D!

Honestly, I'm not surprised by that at all. For one thing, their candidate has no positions or policies to talk about. Trump led the GOP nomination process nearly wire to wire without ever once articulating a coherent idea or plausible policy, which says volumes about the GOP base voters. All he has is spectacle, bluster, and grift, and that seems to be sufficient. For another, it's not like the GOP has had much interest in actual policymaking for the last decade or so. I'm still waiting for their replacement for the ACA, for example. Any day now. And for a third, have you seen their platform? A more incoherent collection of right-wing extremist fantasies and punitively stupid hallucinations you will never find emitted from a major party.

What else can they talk about but Hillary? They certainly can't afford to focus the discussion on themselves.

Unknown said...

Excellent points, and thanks for the welcome; I have been reading your blog for a couple of years, first time I've felt compelled to comment. I'm reminded of the line from Men in Black; "A person is smart - people are stupid". Let's hope there are more smart persons than stupid people in the whole of the electorate!

David said...

I've always loved that line. "... Imagine what you'll know tomorrow." As a historian, it speaks to me.

On the other hand, there's also HL Mencken's line - "Nobody has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, but a great many people have been elected to office thereby," or something like that.

It's race, and the future hangs on the result.