“It is terrible to speak well and be wrong.”
“Here comes the orator, with his flood of words and his drop of reason.”
- Ben Franklin
Preface: On the surrealness of the Trump candidacy
The Trump candidacy is giving me a creepy reality-warping experience. Some portion of my brain, the business-as-usual, pattern-seeking lobe, believes that a typical Presidential election is underway, as the candidates jockey for position and poll numbers, bloviating about jobs, pretending to be interested in the problems of “everyday Americans” (Hillary’s phrase; I guess I qualify, since I’m an American every day).
That part of my brain notes that this is an unusually interesting silly season (WHY can’t we take a lesson from the Brits and limit campaigns to six weeks?).
The Democrats, fixated on identity politics, will probably nominate a female candidate, even though she’s sleazy and morally compromised in a dozen ways. The other party has an unusually large number of contenders, ranging from religious morons (most of them) to tough-guys selling their persona (Christie) to near- libertarians (Paul), something the party has not seen in a long time.
Which of the 15+ contenders will take on the woman, unite the Republican Party, and win the White House (or not)?
The boring primary process will grind itself out and eventually produce two opponents, who will make unfulfillable promises to the voters.
After the election, either victor will use government to repay contributors and punish opponents, while ignoring the nation’s problems, as America slowly becomes a Third World country (in a number of measures, including incarceration rate, we already are).
But then, as the election season gets underway…a high-concept movie, a dark political satire, is released, much more entertaining than reality! Much more!
In the movie it’s also Presidential election time, and into the above political mix with no clear leader, onto the political stage, debarking from his private plane, is a famous real-estate mogul, his name on everything he owns, with his own reality TV show.
Colorful, unrehearsed, operatic in affect as opposed to the self-imposed behavioral limits of his opponents, he will say what no politician has dared to say. People flock to him and his simplistic message.
Then it hits me, about once a day: this is not a movie.
Not a speech
I watched The Donald’s performance here in NH earlier this week.
It was not a speech, but a rambling free-form monologue, full of theatrical shrugs, laugh lines, self-aggrandizement, and complaints about the state of the nation, with no solutions.
He has defined political rhetoric – down. WAY down. He wants to ban teleprompters. They aren’t the problem. It’s speakers with low energy and enthusiasm. It's poorly-written speeches. Plus, speakers are too time-pressed to memorize their speeches (though most of them develop a stump speech they can riff on).
They should memorize as much as possible, though. Memory was one of the basic rhetorical skills, going back to ancient Greece.
There’s nothing wrong with delivering a prepared script with the appropriate energy and emotion. Actors do it all the time. Reagan was superb at it. Obama’s good too.
And – lesson for The Donald -- if you actually PLAN what you’re going to say, you might have real communication, instead of getting cheap laughs and cheers. We’re all mad as hell and not going to take it any more. Wow, what a thoughtful consensus!
As a libertarian, I cringe when I hear The Donald’s plans for our country. Whether it’s a 2,000-mile wall or forced deportation of 12 million people, there’ll have to be a massive increase in government power.
Can’t we solve our problems with LESS government? Here’s where Rand Paul needs to come out strong against such increases in government. Trump is selling the Dictatorship of The Donald. George Will calls it “Caesarism.” That’s not what the Founders intended.
The myth of “greatness”
The content of Trump’s campaign is equally disturbing.
The promise to make America great again is dangerous. It makes the national government much more powerful and important. When you predicate your policies on national greatness, you risk tipping people into a collective, “mythic” mode, a mob mentality that leads to irrational aggression and militarism, and much worse, in the pursuit of “greatness.”
The same goes for his talk of “victories.” We haven’t had any victories for too long. What are we, an NFL team?
Donald, do me a favor, and don’t make America great again. Make it FREE again.
Government is already doing 100 things that aren’t in the Constitution, and you want to make it worse.
Instead, simplify the tax code. Phase out the income tax and the vile IRS. Get rid of mountains of unnecessary regulations. End the drug war, the cause of endless misery and carnage. Get the government out of education. Downsize the military; we cannot afford world empire. Eliminate all cabinet departments but State, Treasury, and Defense. (Not so hard, is it, Rick Perry?)
The stupidest thing he’s said
I was already long gone after only a few moments of treacly, rabble-rousing performance art, but Trump’s literary criticism (is there anything he doesn’t know?) sealed the deal, with the stupidest thing he’s said (so far).
According to The Donald, the two greatest books ever are The Art of the Deal (#2, predictably) and the Bible (“nothing even comes close”).
I gagged at the pandering. He’s obviously never read it and is unaware of what a mishmash of non-history, fantasy and primitive morality it is. He’s just kissing the asses of the masses who revere the book, mainly because they’ve been told to.
That’s when I knew he’d say anything to ingratiate himself while he builds his political persona, piece by piece. No wonder evangelicals love him.
I can’t wait to see how this political reality show plays out. Will he simply fire the rest of the candidates? He did say he wished the election could take place right away.