“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Isaac Asimov, column in Newsweek, January 21, 1980.
The Trump train is a runaway. The Deadman switch to prevent disaster hasn’t worked as the Trump campaign hurtles towards Cleveland. It is belching smoke and cinders fueled by the most blatant, out in the open encouragement of white fear and anger since George Wallace ran in 1968.
Wallace ran on his record of segregation now, segregation forever in Alabama. He attacked the press as East Coast elitists. Those who spoke up about the horror of his policies were condemned as pointy headed intellectuals. He exploited the dark underbelly of American cultural ideology. Asimov was right twelve years later in his scathing critique of American contradictions.
That cult of rejecting intellectual pursuit was evident in the condemnation of education as liberal, secular indoctrination. That deeply held belief helped spawn the Tea Party. Teaching of critical thinking is virulently railed against as the ruination of family shaping the worldview of their children. The widespread rejection of science and history is now a cornerstone of policy.
In an effort to appease and co-opt the Rabid Right the Republican Party gleefully climbed into bed with. Now the party is in panic mode as Trump blithely tosses cash on the dresser and leaves.
Trump opened his campaign descending down an escalator into the arms of a fawning press. He was given millions in free press as the disaffected were drawn to his bombastic views of himself as the savior of American greatness. In a short time Trump created a cult of personality recalling Jim Jones or David Koresh.
The Donald tapped into a recurring desire for an authoritarian figure to reshape America through his force of will.
Trump has run a campaign driven by xenophobia, American imperialism, thinly veiled racism and a derision of “the other,” all of which threatens the fondly remembered “good old days” which never existed.
Mexicans are criminals and rapists with a smattering of good folk tossed in for variety. To stem immigration Trump will force Mexico to pay for a beautiful, glorious wall. He threatens our trading partners with tariffs as economic retaliation without regard for the effect on the global economy.
Trump tells the crowd he’d ban Muslims from immigrating to roaring crowds. He wants a database because it worked so well with tattoos. He offhandedly threw out Japanese internment camps were a good idea which could be revisited.
Like demagogues before him he attacks the press as disgusting liars. He wants to rework freedom of speech, which only applies to him, lowering the bar for slander and libel suits. After all dissent is unamerican since it plays into the hands of ISIS
Last November here in Columbus I saw the Trump crowd. I was expecting a parade of rednecks. It was shocking to actually see who is buying into this nightmare passing as a legitimate political campaign.
There were soccer parents and PTA mavens. Blue collars lined up with white collars. Millennials mingling with Boomers. College students and high school dropouts. The working poor and the well off. They all had the bright-eyed stare of those who’ve seen the light. They were also blindingly white.
At every Trump rally he knowingly whips his crowds into a frenzy. Violence constantly bubbles below the surface at times exploding forth, directed at those who dare dissent. Security violently ejects protesters to the cheers of the exuberant crowd. The 60s meme of love it or leave it is back in vogue. As is the old standby, go back to where you came from.
The Donald has caused some in the political arena to break out the taboo F word of US politics.. Fascism. Standing back and looking there are disturbing echoes of Germany in ’32. Then there’s the rise of Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain. Trump channels Father Coughlin and Huey Long as he blusters from the podium pontificating on the ills of American society. Non PC is gleefully used as cover for anything that spews forth.
The Trump effect pushed the entire GOP primary field farther and farther right. Each player tried to out Trump, Trump. The exception was Ted Cruz who’s been calling for a theocracy replacing tenants of the Constitution he disapproves of since he arrived in the Senate. The result: Trump and Cruz are locked in a cage match over who is better at calling forth the demons to reshape America.
At times I look out the window in search of the dystopian hellscape they describe as modern America.
Finally in the last few weeks as Trump piles ups wins and delegates, the GOP has realized the mortal danger to the party represented by the Trump/Cruz coup. In panic they’ve sought the anti-Trump.
Jeb fell never realizing the Bush hangover made a cheap tequila binge look like a wine tasting.
Rubio, once touted as the face of the nonexistent new Republican Party, drove his campaign into the dirt.
Now in this strange Twilight Zone reality Kasich is seen as the sane, even tempered, moderate voice of reason. He only needs 104% of the remaining delegates to claim the nomination outright. In his field of dreams John Boy sees himself as claiming the prize in a contested convention.
Trump is going into Cleveland as the presumptive nominee. Rumors of the first contested Republican convention since 1952 swirl. If Trump is close and denied the nomination through party machinations his supporters will be incensed. They’ll burn Cleveland to the ground. (Metaphorically, I hope). Worst case scenario is Cleveland looking like Chicago in 1968. The self-immolation of the Party. Cruz with his delegate base will have extensive influence over the GOP platform. That alone should terrify the Republican Establishment as they see their influence drift away like fog in the dawn.
Democrats gleefully look to running against Trump. His refusal to play by the rules makes this man unpredictable and dangerous. Overconfidence has always been the bane of the party as they have been known to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Bernie or bust movement, if it succeeds, will make the oncoming campaign in the general election an even more scorched earth bloody fight for the future and soul of the Republic.
As we terrify our allies it comes down to a choice. Do we reaffirm the world’s view that America is insane and dangerous? Or do we reaffirm the traditional ideals of our society. We fought a bloody war across the globe in the 40s to defeat the Trumps of the world.
The question facing the Democrats and the electorate is do they acquiesce or reject the America promised by Trump and Cruz?
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