Monday, October 10, 2016

This Moment in History: Trump is Basically the Bad Guy from "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo", Except Worse, and Trying to be President



This isn't a political blog or news blog.  In general, I don't talk sex, religion or politics here because - while this is my personal website and journal and I reserve the right to write about whatever strikes my fancy - I've done this long enough to note what's worth it and what isn't, where I have something to add, or where I don't when it comes to putting things out to the public.

This year has been one for the record books, but it's also been one that's been coming for a long time.  I see a lot of friends on Facebook saying "more people need to say X" or "be vocal about Y", and, yeah, I basically don't do that.  Not on Facebook.  Anyone who actually knows me knows where I stand on issues that are sometimes considered political and I hope they know where I stand on moral issues.  But I'm about as likely to talk about my political preferences on Facebook as I am in mixed company at work.

I hadn't planned to write anything on this until the days just prior to the election while early voting was still underway.  But, at long last, after two Presidential Debates in which a candidate for the dominant party of my state and who could, conceivably, take office, has proven he has no shred of decency, is likely to abuse his power, endanger my fellow countrymen and certainly the lives of anyone outside our borders - who has now sworn he would seek to put his political opponents behind bars - now seems like a damn good time to say something.  I am disheartened by anyone who feels the need to impress Billy Bush with language reserved for 19 year-old virgins lying to their dorm-mates, but... c'mon.  Trump's record to date has been one of hating everyone who wasn't a white male or a model who was willing to let him "move on her".

We're in an election cycle that, if you'd asked me in 2008 what I saw as a worst-case scenario for the election and we'd used a bracketing system to determine who I really didn't want to see running against each other - this would have been my doomsday scenario.  But it's also the endgame of the trends in American politics that have been bubbling since before 2000, the longtail effect of splintered media and the echo chamber of social media.


I don't identify as a Democrat or Republican, but I'm not pretending to have no opinions or biases.  I lean left politically - sometimes more than folks would like, sometimes less.  We discuss why I don't like being considered a Democrat some other time.

In this election I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I see no viable other choice, and I've felt that to be true since the very beginning of the election cycle.  While I appreciate the vision of Bernie Sanders, I'm just not wired to but into what he was pitching.  It's a great vision, and I am glad he shifted the party and added planks that provided needed hope to a younger generation.  I will not vote for a "third" or "fourth" party, as it will assuredly dilute my vote, and I am insisting on one single issue as I pull the lever this November - I want to do what I can to ensure we don't wind up with an aging Mussolini at the head of this great republic.

Clinton was the anointed choice of the Dems, but I'd been gritting my teeth over her selection and decision to run since 2008.  If you think Clinton didn't arrive with some serious baggage, you're either a young voter who doesn't read or you've been in a coma since 1991 (in which case, I can't wait to tell you who was a two-term Governor of California).  There's no question just the sight of her has caused an irrational red-haze to descend over conservative pundits for my entire adult life, and it's led to witch hunt after witch hunt.  Whether Clinton was guilty of everything from murder to lying about the paternity of Chelsea Clinton (c'mon, guys) to the Benghazi incident (and don't get me started on the topic of embassy issues during the Bush 2 Administration) - and she turned out to be clean in all cases based on independent investigations - a lot of folks think these are facts.  She'll always be crooked Hillary.

If the congressional obstructionism of the Obama Presidency was a quagmire, what was a Clinton 2 Presidency going to look like?

I never believed Donald Trump would make it out of the primaries.  Frankly, I don't think Donald Trump thought he'd make it out of the primaries.  For him, it seemed like brand promotion and a chance to be in the spotlight for a bit, acting like he mattered.  And I genuinely thought Americans watched enough TV and read enough to understand that deep down, Trump is a fraud.  A guy who can fill an hour a night a week on TV, but a fraud in things that matter.  I've known about his bankruptcies and scandals since high school, and I don't try to pay attention to the guy.  Hell, I knew he wasn't adult enough to deal with being an actual celebrity or person-in-the-public when he sort of lost it on the comic strip Bloom County for making fun of him, and he got into a public feud with Rosie O'Donnell to such a degree that even I was aware of it, and I don't care about either Trump or O'Donnell.

I assumed the continuing sexual indiscretions were just part of Trump being Trump thanks to the string of marriages.  And I didn't care.  Frankly - I consider it personal, at best a data point and a sign of character, certainly, but in comparison to what works a person accomplishes, I try to separate a person's private life from their work life.  Now, it'd be idiotic to campaign as a "family values" candidate when you've got a string of marriages and divorces and mistresses on the record - but that hasn't ever really stopped most politicians and it really hasn't stopped the voting electorate and Kim Davises of the world to gnash their teeth about "family values".

But in selecting Trump as a political candidate, it seems Trump's one inarguable success, name recognition, was been a major factor.  Which makes sense in a country that continually equates wealth with brilliance and fame with wealth - no matter how little that turns out to be true, over and over and over, and with no real difference between notoriety and fame.

What has shocked me, disappointed me and made me reconsider much of what I believed about American society has been the endless string of racist, misogynistic and ill-considered stances Trump has allowed himself on the stump.  This, paired with an even greater record of stating disproven and long-since debunked conspiracies alongside made-up statistics and figures, and simply lying to anyone listening, so long as it sounded good (this was called "gaslighting" by the hip media-sters.  But that would mean we were somehow confused by what he was saying.  We weren't.  He was lying.).  None of this impacted Trump, and, in fact, the overt xenophobia and racism of his campaign with heavy doses of misogyny tossed in there, seem to be what a lot of people are swarming to.  He's the strong-man dictator they've been seeking.

In some ways, it's just the break in an unnecessary illusion.  For many, I suspect this is why they've continually enjoyed voting for "outsiders" (ie: folks with no political experience or currency).  The kind of race-baiting, misogynistic chatter that so many politicians had either employed in coded language and policies for maximum plausible deniability was, apparently, not really needed.  And, so, it has come to pass that I now  understand that the American people, no matter what the movies tell us about what sort of scandal will take someone down, has a seething appetite for someone to voice their own prejudices and fears as something they'll take on.  They, too, may have been deaf to the dog whistle, in their way, feeling like those policies and promises were half-measures and compromise.  They wanted the straight up racism, loose talk about nuclear weapons, and slipshod economic plans that seem to benefit the shit out of the super rich and leave the rest of us holding the bag.

We can dwell endlessly on what it means for America to be "great again" when any reading of our history other than in Paul Bunyan-esque folk mythology, you're quick to see we're a work in progress with some tremendous successes along the way, but also with terrible chapters in our epic novel.  It has not always been a great place for everyone, and you can point to any point in our history and it's hardly a Norman Rockwell painting for most Americans.  Sometime drive out of the city and take a good hard look at what's going on in small towns in America and consider what life is like in a place where the only healthy business you can see in a one-stop-light burg is the gas station.  Imagine what a "successful" businessman who appears on TV - so good he has a new celebrity apprentice every six months - looks like to people who want to identify with a politician, especially when he starts dropping the same solutions they've wondered aloud about, simple ways to deal with all the scary things on the news.

I won't get into the many bits of rhetoric Trump uses that echo 20th Century fascists.  That's all out there on the internet, and even if I'm utterly shocked that folks can't see that we've seen a particularly heinous few world leaders rise to power by promising to do something about a race of people they find particularly vexing - I won't draw the obvious last line between dots here.  You're a well read, educated bunch of people.

I don't know what to tell anyone I consider a friend who is planning to vote for Trump.  "Please, don't", I guess.  As much as you may despise Hillary Clinton, every vote in this election will count.  It is true a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson is not a vote for Trump in the literal sense, but especially those of you in battleground states - of which there are suddenly more than in previous elections - it matters.  Those of us who voted in 2000 - whether we loved the outcome or otherwise - know that it can matter.  It's a game of math.

If you've been following the election and you hate both major party candidates equally - I'm unsure what to tell you.  Trump is despicable and vile at his very core, in his every utterance.  Hillary may be a crafty politician, and to me, those aren't exactly the same thing.  Compromising yourself is tough, but, man, I'll do it all day long to keep the circus peanut out of the Oval Office.

I genuinely feel this is a turning point for America as much as a Lincoln vote was at one point (not that either candidate is Lincoln, but in terms of potential impact).  This is where history turns on a dime, for better or worse, whether we uphold our promise of a free democracy for all, and maintain the path toward greater representation for all Americans, regardless of sex, religion, race or sexual preference.  That we embrace what it means to be free beings, or whether we vote for someone promising persecution of Hispanics, religious minorities such as Muslims, and criminalizing black skin and allowing for "stop and frisk" to be deployed on every American (but you know what the hell he was talking about).  And the absolute certainty that Donald Trump, if elected president, will take our soldiers into conflicts with no wisdom or clear outcomes in mind.

This isn't so much an endorsement of Senator Clinton, although she will be receiving my vote, as it is a repudiation of Donald Trump.

If nothing else, he's totally the rich real estate swindler who would have wanted to tear down a Community Center to put up luxury condos and ruin the neighborhood for a bunch of spunky rappers and breakdancers in a mid-80's, low-budget movie.  You know he is, and you know the best part is when that rat-faced fink gets his comeuppance.

Be the spunky breakdancer who makes it happen.

9 comments:

Stuart Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...


Well said!

Dad

Dug said...

Very well said.

Simon MacDonald said...

@Ryan as a Canadian I believe I'm prohibited from influencing the American election under the rule of law. What I can say as an outsider of your current election cycle; as someone who has visited, talked to locals in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain this year we are all shocked that this is even a thing. The correct choice is abundantly clear. Without getting into specifics, I think your post was very well said.

Ryan Steans said...

@simon -

Short version: we've done a stellar job of hiding our angry, drunk uncles from the rest of the world for a long time, but they're out there now and they've found their guy

Long version: There are a lot of forces at work in this election, and Trump and Clinton are more symbols or symptoms of a lot of what's been going on in the U.S. for generations, somewhat out of the line of sight of visitors or how we present ourselves on the international stage. While I work in a University and I live in Austin, I'm aware I live within a bubble within a bubble of Texas. It's not something you're supposed to talk about, but growing up here, even in the well-to-do 'burbs, I saw no small amount of racism, through overt action, policy and that weird suburban white enclave racism that's probably the most common in the US, where the folks have no idea what they're doing or saying is absolutely racist/ anti-immigrant/ and the culture can be more "traditional" when it comes to expected gender roles. And they're really tired of being told "hey, when you say that... that's racist". It's why they're burned out on Political Correctness.

There are a lot of Americans for whom Trump is speaking and speaking plainly. They're terrified of terrorists (but not easy access to guns), uncomfortable with immigrants, and they want to feel safe. Likely they know Trump is coarse, but he's reflecting a lot of the dissatisfaction and seeming wheedling of American politicians who they see as not putting the boot on the throat of anyone they find threatening. Trump is offering solutions, and those solutions won't impact folks who look and sound like me. But they will impact lots of other people, and it's that leap of sympathy or empathy where we're falling down. I suspect it has something to do with America's belief that "everything I do, I do by myself", which is kind of The Big Lie of America, and allows us to turn a blind eye to some very obvious problems so long as they aren't impacting us (in the moment).

What's most interesting has been the complete abandonment of the Evangelicals in the U.S. in this election, who seem to be voting for Trump either out of habit or hypocrisy. It's hard to know. What I do know is that the Thanksgiving Table bigots are having their day, and I can't believe that anyone, anywhere, takes Trump seriously. It's bizarre to watch.

Jake Shore said...

I meant to comment sooner but there are so many things I want to say, I just had to wait until I could keep at least somewhat concise.

I generally agree with your analysis, although for reasons I will explain I don't see the choice to be as clear as you do. But I bear no ill will against anyone who votes for what they believe to be the lesser of two evils. We are faced with a horrible choice. But I am a little nauseated by people who elevate and cheer-lead either of these two candidates.

I guess I'll start with a mea culpa of sorts to establish from the outset where I'm coming from:

I am depressed, disheartened and despairing of this election and our politics in general. I am ashamed of my party for nominating this ignorant, vulgar, narcissistic clown as our nominee. As a conservative, there is not a single issue or position on which I agree or trust him, mostly because his opinions are captive to the moment, dependent upon its current value to him. But until this election cycle, Trump has taken liberal positions on most issues, particularly the ones I care about. I don't take him or his campaign seriously; I think this is all about his obsession with attention and celebrity. He is an opportunistic fraud who has stoked and exploited the worst fears and prejudices for his own gain.

This election season has forced me to face some hard truths about my side of the political aisle. For one, the Republican party is far less conservative than I though it was. The issues and ideas which have defined our party since Lincoln have been jettisoned and subordinated to a personality; a strong man in order to stick it to the "establishment" or to win. I am especially disheartened and ashamed that so many of my fellow Christians have abandoned their values to support a man who values most resemble Caligula. The same messiah complex that afflicted many on the left for Obama has manifested in some Christian circles; those who believe him to be some kind of modern-day Cyrus, a just pagan king sent by God to help restore His people (Yes, it's that crazy and speaks to the depths people will go to reconcile their politics and their faith. Sadly, politics triumphed). In doing so, they have completely forfeited the right of our side to oppose policies or politicians on the basis conservative social values or character. Well done.

The other ugly truth is the ugliness within my party. I have never been one to deny that racism exists, but after 2008 I really though we had progressed much further. I've always known there is a xenophobic, if not racist element on the right, particularly with respect to immigration. but the seedy underbelly of racism and anti-semitism that has suddenly been exposed has been disorienting. I've been shocked by the hatred directed at anyone who opposes Trump, with much if not most directed toward conservatives who refuse to bend a knee. The emergence of the so-called Alt-Right has been disturbing. If you want a short summary of the movement, look here: http://www.dailywire.com/news/9441/actual-conservatives-guide-alt-right-8-things-you-michael-knowles#

Jake Shore said...

Trump is going to get blown out on November 8, just as I and others said he would if we nominated him. The question is, then what? Does the Republican Party split? I don't see any reconciliation between people who share my point view and those hardcore populists who make up the bulk of Trump's supporters. It's amazing to think we began with the deepest, most qualified and promising group of GOP candidates ever (unlike 2012). I believe any of them would have beaten Hillary Clinton easily. But we nominated the only public person more unlikable than her. Now, they (Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Christie, etc.) look weak and compromised. All because of Trump; not only because of the degraded rhetoric which poisoned the primary process, but the awkward politicking the other candidates were forced to do in order to appease a divided GOP electorate. We could have nominated Rubio, for example, and completely re-cast the image of the Republican party, while winning the White House and finally having able to pass legislation. Instead, we look like a home to white nationalists. On November 9, my party will be in ruins. The GOP's only hope will be a rejection and purging of Trumpism. If not, my days as a Republican are numbered.

Simon MacDonald said...

@Jake Shore this current election for you reminds me of a Canadian Election where the conservative party was absolutely slaughtered at the polls going from a majority government with 156 seats to 2 seats. That caused the conservatives to split into two separate parties one of which was the more extreme (cough, racist) party. The two remained apart for the next 10 years never making their way back to power. This Trumping of the GOP may have long lasting affects on the American political landscape.

Ryan Steans said...

Hey @jake - For a very, very long time I've been wondering where the GOP was headed. I consider most of the conservatives I'm friends with to be very reasonable people but with different priorities or convictions. But I can't account for the people who look and sound nothing like them who wind up in office (the top three elected officials in Texas are each more bonkers than the next, with 2 of 3 of them also possibly criminally corrupt).

But for going on 18 years or so, in the Red states, the only qualification for getting elected was "I'm more conservative than that guy" paired with holding any actual political experience up as a flaw. Meaning, if they had ever held office and been able to work across the aisle, they were seen as a traitor rather than "effective". I kept wondering: where will this end? And I am unsure that the split occurring in the Republican party is anywhere near the end of the trend.

I am unsure what will become of the GOP in the wake of this election and while I am hoping we don't get Trump, I assume nothing til they call the election, and even then I don't know what he and his true believers will actually do if things don't wind up in his favor. I'm really nervous about what comes after the election, from a messy election night and following lawsuits to domestic terrorism.

At work we use the Simpsons term "cris-a-tunity". And I think, for both parties, this is that. This isn't as bad as it can get, but it sure as hell is a canary in the coal mine.

Both parties can consider how this occurred and work to address it immediately. And it's not going to be easy, because the stuff that IS easy is how we got here. And the GOP has the extra hurdle of deciding whether it wants to try to reintegrate, purge the Trump-types or rebrand under a new name.

It's very depressing.

But I don't think you're alone, and I think if the right people get together and really analyze how we got here and - most importantly - honestly face up to what they have done and said to get to this point, then strive to not play to those baser instincts, provide a vision of a future rather than clinging to some imaginary time when America was great, not bunkering when they feel anxiety but seek solutions - and, man, address the fact that America is, in fact, leaving it's own behind and creating massive class divides even as it's driven wedges into the racial divide - there's a chance for a much stronger party that actually should claim the mantle of Lincoln again.