Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Coming To A Nation Near You: The United States Of Swagger?

A pair of academic historians are calling for a satiric avalanche on the empty head of Der Blödmann and there is o such thing as overkill. The creation of Dumbos/Teabaggers will go down as one of the darkest eras of this nation's history. The new national motto will be Dummheits über alles. If this is (fair & balanced) disgust, so be it.

[x Salon]
Beat Donald Trump By Mocking Donald Trump
By Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg

WordCloud of the following piece of writing —


Donald Trump’s absurd yet frighteningly real campaign for the presidency is hard for anyone with a moral compass to see to its somehow plausible conclusion. So perhaps the most satisfying approach at this stage in the process is to draw upon the history of political satire and hope the Democratic wise men and wise women are already preparing to take their subtle, critical talents to new levels of genius when it comes to TV ads.

Our whole political moment makes little sense. Trump spouts dangerous ideas that should scare off any who call themselves conservative, who are loath to take chances on radical shifts in political direction. And while clever progressives (Bill Maher, the Comedy Central crowd, etc.) far outnumber conservatives in purveying political humor, liberal talk radio tends to take a serious approach to dire issues, whereas right-wing talk radio shouts, spouts and breeds violent hatred. Nothing funny there.

Political satire thrives on irony. It does not have to shout. Mark Twain was one of America’s best. Though as racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Catholic as the next man in the years before the Civil War, he grew into the tart, subtle moralist we admire. Learning of a lynching in his native Missouri in 1901, he penned a piece that spoke to the failure of enough people to express their outrage. With legions of Protestant missionaries going to Asia to bring God’s “light” to the uninformed, he appealed as follows: “We implore them to come back and help us in our need. Patriotism imposes this duty on them. Our country is worse off than China; they are our countrymen, their motherland supplicates their aid in this her hour of deep distress. They are competent; our people are not. They are used to scoffs, sneers, revilings, danger; our people are not. They have the martyr spirit; nothing but the martyr spirit can brave a lynching mob, and cow it and scatter it. They can save their country, we beseech them to come home and do it.” That’s how one potentially reaches the hearts of enough thinking people to ignite a movement that overcomes apathy.

It is not likely that the power of satire will dissuade those who, for whatever reason, see in Trump an answer to their prayers. Having drunk the Kool-Aid, they probably can’t be helped. But for everyone else, pointing out the calamitous prospects with a combination of stark sobriety and dark humor is probably more likely to get under the Tweeter-in-Chief’s skin than an earnest approach to issues of domestic and foreign policy.

To wit, going by the publicized short-list of potential picks, we can envision the bold new Executive branch of government under Trump:

As Veep, former Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has Sarah Palin’s intellectual reach without being burdened by the beauty pageant past. Trump can show how serious a feminist he is (“Women love me”) by having a female on the ticket without the requisite measurements of a celebrated “Trump woman.” Most important qualification: Brewer pushed for racial profiling by Arizona law enforcement. Additional strengths: Knowing how to stretch the truth and walk it back without seeing the connection between misleading and lying. She claimed that her father died fighting the Nazis, when he never went abroad and passed away 10 years after the war ended; after a dose from the spin-doctor, she revealed that her father had suffered from a lung disease that she presumed was due to his work at a munitions plant in Nevada.

Rick Perry as secretary of state. The glasses convey gravitas, so it doesn’t matter what he thinks, says, or does. He expressed deep concern when the news reported that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton mingled official with personal email. For Perry, it was “an ethical issue that must be addressed.” Then it was revealed that as governor of Texas, Perry routinely conducted state business on his personal email. Oops.

Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” as secretary of war. After World War II, the War Department was renamed the Defense Department, which was a wimpy surrender to political correctness.

Scott Walker as secretary of labor, for all the obvious reasons. He’d abolish unions for federal workers, just as he worked so hard to do to public sector unions at the state level in Wisconsin.

With the exception of Phil Robertson, any or all of the above could conceivably occur.

There has already been a U.S. president who acted a bit like Trump, and he was impeached. Andrew Johnson. He was known for an explosive temper and indecent language when he laid into his political opponents. A businessman before entering politics, he began as a Jacksonian Democrat, then joined the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln before vetoing, as president, as many pieces of legislation as his small heart could contrive to do. (He claimed the radical Republicans were plotting his assassination.) In a Washington’s Birthday speech in 1866, he mentioned his own name more than 200 times. Now doesn’t that sound Trumpian? Because of Johnson’s unseemly actions, the opposition took over Congress later that year. One cartoon showed the former Tennessee tailor standing in front of his shop, with signs in the window reading “Party Ties Sold Cheap” and “Coats Turned.”

There hasn’t been enough political incorrectness from the left. How brilliant was President Obama’s taunt last week at Rutgers University, when with simple clarity he told the truth: “Facts. Evidence. Reason. Logic. An understanding of science. These are good things. These are qualities you want in people making policy.” And then, with fine comic timing, while knowing the situation confronting America was not at all funny, he charged ahead: “You might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from.... Let me be as clear as I can be: In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. (Applause) It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. (Laughter) That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.” That’s the ticket: serious satire.

Satire revels in its ability to call up truth and redress it through ironic connections. Few recall that upon declaring independence in 1776, the Second Continental Congress was looking at an impending invasion of British forces: New York fell easily and remained under British control for the next seven years. The decisive Battle of Yorktown was no given. A “third party,” the French army and navy, saved the impoverished United States from becoming a blip in history, with colonial status restored. Now, 240 years later, there does not appear to be a “third party” (GOP-sponsored) willing to rescue America from its potential undoing.

Itchy fingers hover over the GOP self-destruct button. Are they looking ahead? How would their tongues ever stop tripping over a President Trump’s pronouncements during a (gasp) four-year term? Can we see serious conservatives defending his “you won’t believe how terrific this wall is going to be” style of fractured reasoning? Wouldn’t they do better just to sacrifice to the Dems, and spend four years Clinton-bashing? (What could come easier to them?) As mean-spirited as they already are in denying rights and benefits to the non-Republican majority, the level of mean-spiritedness Trump hawks to the ill-informed somehow does not, at present, look scary enough to formerly resistant “leaders” of the Republican Party so as to allow them to discover a higher principle and cease cowering before the orange-tinted Goldfinger rebellion—Trump’s “Midas touch” being, as investigators will eventually turn up, fool’s gold. Where is the GOP’s self-respect? (That’s a rhetorical question, obviously.)

When the American Revolution began, the rebels faced long odds of triumphing over the British juggernaut. The regular course of human events was upset. There was no clearly understood future for our republican experiment then, no leader other than George Washington considered, and even he could have turned monarchical. His character was a saving grace, as things turned out. Hmmm, character.

Perhaps it is too panicky to suggest that the 2016 rebellion might actually succeed against current odds. But in the age of reality TV, where the camera manipulates and scripted concoctions pass for “reality,” Hillary Clinton is the one being criticized for being too scripted. Meanwhile, Trump’s taunts and intimidation, designed to redirect attention from his ignorance, can be viewed as a “new style” of campaigning for president. He does not understand the federal Constitution, folks. No, there is ample cause for concern. Just as on “American Idol,” we have a popular ballot that does not insure a meritocracy.

And what if American government is delivered into the hands of a man of questionable ethics who communicates most comfortably in 140 characters or less? History will date the Trump triumph to the emergence of Sarah Palin eight years ago (thanks again, Senator McCain). She’s back, she’s on the Trump train, and one of his short-list VP choices, it is said. Trump adores the poorly educated—he said so—and apparently believes that Palin possesses a logical and lexicographical faculty; he finds her both syntactically and politically resonant.

So this is where we are at, as we smile nervously at President Obama’s serious satire. Without the right kind of principled takedown, bizarre won’t be a strong enough word to describe the new United States of Swagger. Ω

[Andrew Burstein is the Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University.He received a BA (Oriental studies) from Columbia University, an MA (Chinese studies) from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and a PhD (history) for the University of Virginia.

Nancy Isenberg is the T. Harry Williams Professor of History at Louisiana State University. She received a BA (history) from Rutgers University and both an MA and PhD (history) from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

They are the coauthors of Mortal Remains: Death in Early America (2002) Madison and Jefferson (2010).]

Copyright © 2016 Salon Media Group



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When Will We Ever Learn?

Janine di Giovanni's recent book, The Morning They Came for Us [link supplied below] contains her first-hand observations of a Syrian war-zone. It is little wonder that hundreds of thousands Syrians have fled this present-day version of "Hell in a Very Small Place." It is fitting to quote the late Bernard Fall in this context. He witnessed the madness unleashed by a foolhardy US in Vietnam and somewhere he is nodding in appreciation of Janine di Giovanni's account of the madness unleashed by a war unleashed a still-foolhardy US in the Middle East. If this is a (fair & balanced) presdent-day appeal to declare victory and bring the troops home, so be it.

[x Harper's 'Zine]
A Sense Of War
By Janine di Giovanni

WordCloud of the following piece of writing —


War means endless waiting, endless boredom. There is no electricity, so no television. You can’t read. You can’t see friends. You grow depressed but there is no treatment for it and it makes no sense to complain—everyone is as badly off as you. It’s hard to fall in love, or rather, hard to stay in love. If you are a teenager, you seem halted in time.

If you are critically ill—with cancer, for instance—there is no chemotherapy for you. If you can’t leave the country for treatment, you stay and die slowly, and in tremendous pain. Victorian diseases return—polio, typhoid and cholera. You see very sick people around you who seemed in perfectly good health when you last saw them during peacetime. You hear coughing all the time. Everyone hacks—from the dust of destroyed buildings, from disease, from cold.

As for your old world, it disappears, like the smoke from a cigarette you can no longer afford to buy. Where are your closest friends? Some have left, others are dead. The few who remain have nothing new to talk about. You can’t get to their houses, because the road is blocked by checkpoints. Or snipers take a shot when you leave your door, so you scurry back inside, like a crab retreating inside its shell. Or you might go out on the wrong day and a barrel bomb... lands near you.

Wartime looks like this.

The steely greyness of the city. The clouds are so low, but not low enough to hide government helicopters carrying barrel bombs, which usually appear at the same time each day, in the mornings and late afternoons, circling for a while at altitudes of 13,000–16,000 feet, little more than tiny dots in the sky, before dropping their payloads.

What does war sound like? The whistling sound of the bombs falling can only be heard seconds before impact—enough time to know that you are about to die, but not enough time to flee.

What does the war in Aleppo smell of? It smells of carbine, of wood smoke, of unwashed bodies, of rubbish rotting, of... fear. The rubble on the street—the broken glass, the splintered wood that was once somebody’s home. On every corner there is a destroyed building that may or may not have bodies still buried underneath. Your old school is gone; so are the mosque, your grandmother’s house and your office. Your memories are smashed.

Then there are the endless fields of garbage. The rooms that are as cold as tombs—having gone unheated now for five winters—are all you know. There are so many abandoned apartments. Remember that beautiful house, what it looked like when someone lived there? Your beautiful life from before is now dead.

The dirt, filth, fear and nausea. All the things you go without—toothpaste, money, vitamins, birth-control pills, X-rays, chemotherapy, insulin, painkillers. Petrol costs 170 Syrians pounds per litre. Today. Tomorrow it might be different.

Then, suddenly, you might catch the odd sight of a man in a T-shirt despite the frozen air, squeezing oranges into juice for the lucky ones with money. Oranges? You wonder who the people are that still have money, and you have dark thoughts about people you used to trust and know well. But with the constant theme of survival surrounding your whole city, your neighborhood, your life, you don’t really know anybody’s intentions.

War is the corner near the Old City where people are lined up with plastic Pepsi bottles, to buy a small amount of petrol on the black market. War is the wrecked hospital, Dar al-Shifa, bombed on 21 November 2012, which still stinks of carnage in hallways where stretchers once passed, and where doctors in scrubs and rubber gloves once walked. Now it is a twisted pile of cinderblocks and concrete, broken tiles and glass—a shell exposed to the grey sky.

War is empty shell casings on the street, smoke from bombs rising up in mushroom clouds, and learning to determine which thud means what kind of bomb. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t.

War is the destruction, the skeleton and the bare bones of someone else’s life. Ω

[This essay was excerpted from the just-published The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria (2016) by Janine di Giovanni. She is the current Middle East editor at Newsweek. Di Giovanni is a regular contributor to The Times (London), Vanity Fair, Granta, The New York Times, and The Guardian. She received BA (English) from the University of Maine, an MA (comparative literature) from University of London, Queen Mary College, an MA (creative writing) from the University of Iowa, and an MA (international relations) from Tufts University. In 2013, she was a TED Speaker and her talk was entitled "What I saw in the war."]

Copyright © 2016 Harper's Magazine Foundation



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Monday, May 23, 2016

This Blogger Would Prefer Der Blödmann's Sockpuppet (Sans A Small Hand) Instead Of The Live Blowhard For POTUS 45

The Dumbos/Teabaggers are missing their best bet in Sockpuppet for POTUS 45 because they have consumed too much of Der Blödmann's Kool-Aid. Hell, this blogger might be tempted to vote for an empty sockpuppet in 2016. If this is a (fair & balanced) bad version of Hobson's choice, so be it.

[x This Modern World]
The Great Trump Overload
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow". His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Daily Kos. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly. Perkins, a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, currently lives in Connecticut. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002. When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political blog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001. More recently, Dan Perkins, pen name Tom Tomorrow, was named the winner of the 2013 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. Even more recently, Dan Perkins was a runner-up for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.]

Copyright © 2016 Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Adam Gopnik Sounds An Alarm To A Clear & Present Danger At THIS VERY MOMENT

The craven Dumbo/Teabagger politicos who disavowed Der Blödmann until the madman became the presumptive Dumbo nominee for the mantle of POTUS 45 have jumped on the As2hole's bandwagon just as the decent folk of Germany surrendered sanity to hop on the National Socialist (Nazi) bandwagon in 1933. Look how that succeeded: buy 1945, Germany was virtually destroyed and has not fully recovered from the Nazi nightmare. If this is (fair & balanced) fear & loathing, so be it.

[x New Yorker]
The Dangerous Acceptance Of Donald Trump
By Adam Gopnik

WordCloud of the following piece of writing —


"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away FCC licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

And Trump announces his enmity in the choice of his companions. The Murdoch media conglomerate has been ordered to acquiesce; it’s no surprise that it has. But Trump’s other fellow-travellers include Roger Stone, the Republican political operative and dirty-tricks maven, while his venues have included the broadcasts of Alex Jones, a ranting conspiracy theorist who believes in a Globalist plot wherein “an alien force not of this world is attacking humanity”—not to mention Jones’s marketing of the theory that Michelle Obama is a transvestite who murdered Joan Rivers. These are not harmless oddballs Trump is flirting with. These are not members of the lunatic fringe. These are the lunatics.

Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth. Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the nineteen-thirties, a sordid blizzard of lies. The Big Lie was fit for a time of processionals and nighttime rallies, and films that featured them. The blizzard of lies is made for Twitter and the quick hit of an impulse culture. Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. It wasn’t his voice on that tape of pitiful self-promotion. OK, it was—but he never mocked the handicapped reporter, he was merely imitating an obsequious one. The media eventually moves on, shrugging helplessly, to the next lie. Then the next lie, and the next. If the lies are bizarre enough and frequent enough, they provoke little more than a nervous giggle and a cry of “Well, guess he’s changed the rules!”

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

There is a difference between major and minor issues, and between primary and secondary values. Many of us think that it would be terrible if the radical-revisionist reading of the Second Amendment created by the Heller decision eight years ago was kept in place in a constitutional court; many on the other side think it would be terrible if that other radical decision, Roe v. Wade, continued to be found to be compatible with the constitutional order. What we all should agree on is that the one thing worse would be to have no constitutional order left to argue about.

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now. Ω

[In 1986, Adam Gopnik began his long professional association with The New Yorker with a piece that would show his future range, a consideration of connections among baseball, childhood, and Renaissance art. He has written for four editors at the magazine: William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, Tina Brown, and David Remnick. Gopnik, born in Philadelphia, lived his early life in Montreal and received a BA (art history) from McGill University. Later, he received an MA (art history) from New York University. In 2011, Adam Gopnik was chosen as the noted speaker for the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Massey Lectures where he delivered five lectures across five Canadian cities that make up his book Winter: Five Windows on the Season (2011). More recently, Gopnik has written The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food (2012). In 2013, McGill University awarded a DLItt ( honoris causa) to Adam Gopnik.]

Copyright © 2016 The New Yorker/Condé Nast Digital



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Meet The Former Paperboy Who Was Allowed — In Bad Weather — To Make Deliveries Via Chauffeured Limo

Today, Stephen Metcalf has done an elegant hatchet-job on Der Blödmann, the former paperboy who would be POTUS 45. The presumptive Dumbo candidate for POTUS 45 is an shameless poseur through and through. If this is a (fair & balanced) demonstration of elegant snark, so be it.

[x Slate]
Donald Trump, Baby Boomer
By Stephen Metcalf

WordCloud of the following piece of writing —

It turns out the knack for selling “luxury” to people with no concept of value is the same as the one for selling “liberty” to people with no instinct for democracy. The key ingredient, in both salesmanship and demagogy, is authenticity, or the ability to be true to oneself without being the least bit truthful. Donald Trump is authentic the way Ronald Reagan was sincere. Reagan had the ability, as his own media consultant once said, “to convince himself that the truth is what he wants it to be. Most politicians are unable to do this, but they would give their eye teeth if they could.” Just as Reagan could tell a lie without troubling his conscience, so Trump is only more authentic the more he utters comical non sequiturs or outright fictions. What is uniquely appalling about Trump is not that he lacks civic virtue but that he draws mass appeal from its opposite, from an instinct for travestying civic norms, at which the man, it must be admitted, is an absolute maestro.

Little in Trump’s biography suggested he would grow up to lead a mass protest movement rooted in anti-establishment rage. How can a person who was handed such a plushy life speak so naturally to working-class resentments? How is it a man who inherited a fortune can so confidently reassure the Last—men and women who only a year or so ago he would have cheerfully called out as “losers”—that they, under President Trump, shall be First? Avoiding a lot of Rosebud doublespeak, I think we can trace Trump’s political instinct to a less personal, more sociological source. In this we need only look to his birth certificate. There we see that Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946. Is it possible Trumpismo, in its disdain for norms of speech and conduct, in its underlying craving for apocalyptic violence, is traceable to one simple fact? In almost plain sight, beneath the worldly swagger and breathtaking arrogance, lies Donald Trump the baby boomer.

Here is what I am not arguing: I am not arguing that Trump turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, that he stuck it to the man, that he smoked a skunky kush and freely loved. (Or whatever, pick your own cliché.) It is only one lamentable aftereffect of the ’60s that they cast their paisley mythomania on all related topics, not least upon the demographic journey of the baby boomers. One did not have to be at Berkeley, baiting the pigs on the steps of Sproul Hall, or even, really, to touch upon the counterculture at any of its points, to experience the deepest and most formative aspects of being a baby boomer. To understand how, it will help to pause for a moment and meditate on the idea of a generation.

Often when we say generation we mean something more like cohort. It is a revealing slip. A generation is, unlike a cohort, both a felt and an observable thing. It is “the biological rhythm of life,” says Karl Mannheim, the first theorist of the concept, “working itself out through the medium of social events.” The most obvious social events that convert a cohort into a generation, from merely demographic fact into poetic destiny, are revolution and war. The first fully modern idea of “a generation” comes from the First World War, when universal cataclysm interrupted the successive flow of generations by virtually wiping one out. Some survivors, following Ernest Hemingway (who borrowed it from Gertrude Stein, who apparently overheard it from a French garage mechanic) assumed the label “the Lost Generation,” a reference to their common affect of traumatized aimlessness. An intensely felt experience, cleanly demarcated in time, making distinct a unit of young people, for whom it is a unique bliss (or burden) to be alive—together these produce a generation.

This is precisely what did not produce the baby boomers. The baby boomers were made a generation by a war they did not fight; a war, in fact, they evaded fighting. Between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, in August 1964, and March 1973, when the last troops exited Saigon, 27 million young American men came of draft-eligible age. Of those 27 million, 11 million were called up, and only 1.6 million saw combat duty. In the ’60s, thanks to a brutal and unpopular war, draft evasion became something of a cottage industry. Medical doctors, dentists, psychiatrists—all were enlisted by middle-class parents to get their kids out of having to fight. In addition to the standard deferments, a young man with a high IQ, social connections, or a decent quantity of opportunistic cynicism could avoid being sent into combat, often simply by appearing respectable (haircut, yes sir, no sir) in front of a draft board.

Donald Trump’s selective service file reads as follows: Between 1964 and 1966, as American troop commitment in Vietnam escalated and the military draft began in earnest, Trump received three 2-S classifications—student deferments—for being enrolled at Fordham University and later at Wharton business school. In the ’60s, graduate school was an easy way to extend a student deferment until you turned 26, at which point you aged out of the draft. Unsurprisingly, graduate schools became wildly popular destinations in the ’60s. One survey showed 90 percent of MBA applicants were motivated by fear of conscription. Trump’s reasons for pursuing a business degree were, like anyone’s, surely mixed, but the real story lies in Trump’s two medical exams. In July 1968, Trump received a 1-A classification, signaling he was fit to serve on the basis of a physical he had taken roughly two years earlier. Then, in October 1968, Trump was examined again, and classified 1-Y. He was no longer protected by a grad student deferral, but it didn’t matter. He had been made exempt from military service due to an unspecified medical condition.

Not surprisingly, Trump has dissembled on the issue, claiming his high draft lottery number prevented a call-up. But Trump’s publicly available files show he received his 1-Y classification before the lottery went into effect, in 1969. When Trump’s biographer confronted him about the timeline, a curious exchange ensued. “As he talked, Trump slipped off his black loafer and pointed to his heel, where a little bulge pushed against his sock. ‘Heel spurs,’ he explained, ‘on both feet.’ ” By his own account, Trump was a golden boy athlete through high school, “always the best player” on the field, one who excelled “not just in baseball, in every sport.” Yet somehow, thanks to a minor protuberance, he was declared unfit for military service.

Trump’s identity as a boomer wasn’t made at Woodstock or Selma. Like most boomers who grew up in the ’50s, he is a member of his generation by virtue of having evaded service. But only next comes the defining move: After evading service, the boomer proclaims, against all the evidence, a personal authenticity rooted in a militarylike valor. Outside the Democratic convention hall in 1968, Norman Mailer flattered the legion of young protesters by telling them they “had the courage to live at war for four days in a city which was run by a beast,” referring to Mayor Daley and the thuggish Chicago police force, to which the assembled responded with a roar of absolute delight. Over and over, the author of The Naked and the Dead exhorted the protesters as fellow soldiers. This is only one high-profile instance: Read any first-person account of the protest movement, and you find young collegians prying themselves out from under the shadow of their low-status doubles, dying in Vietnam, by announcing themselves as warriors.

The students’ collective conscience had been provoked by the obviously discriminatory nature of the draft; but as the war escalated, and the horrors of fighting in it became evident, the emphasis shifted, as one contemporary put it, to “saving your own skin.” The system of deferments, exemptions, loopholes, technicalities, noncombat alternatives—it all overwhelmingly favored white children of privilege. Exalted generations of yore had come into romantic self-possession through war; the boomers’ martial fate was decided for them by social class, family connections, testable intelligence, and in some cases, sheer chutzpah.

The ignominy of evasion and campus bellicosity rose in tandem. Transitioning from the dignity and courage of the Freedom Riders to increasingly macabre acts of misbehavior undertaken for their own sake, campus leaders began to conceive of themselves in openly military terms. “Instead of marshaling his administration for war, [Clark Kerr] vacillated,” writes Jo Freeman disdainfully in her memoir, At Berkeley in the ’60s (2003). “The activists were better prepared for war than Kerr.” Kerr, chancellor of the University of California–Berkeley, later noted dryly: “Most American students could not attack the White House or the Pentagon, but the home of the university or college president and ‘Old Main’ were right at hand.”

Whether with irony, chagrin, or pride, from the kids to their professors to Clark Kerr and, finally, to Governor Reagan himself, warfare became the favored metaphor for the generational conflict playing out at Berkeley. And then, suddenly it wasn’t a metaphor anymore; and everyone got the fight they’d been spoiling for. When protests erupted over a patch of derelict land that Berkeley residents proclaimed the “People’s Park,” Reagan ordered in police officers from surrounding jurisdictions, authorizing the very force Kerr had so carefully avoided. Buckshot killed a bystander; caustic tear gas dumped from helicopters sent schoolchildren running for miles. Reagan himself commented: “Once the dogs of war have been unleashed, you must expect things will happen.” And: “If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement.”

Vietnam had threatened to expose a university education, in theory open to anyone on his or her merits, as yet another class sanctuary; and yet, instead of with humility, a vocal subset of student leaders responded with strikes, sit-ins, filthy speech, arson, and bombs. These acts were ostensibly anti-war, but as every first-person account demonstrates, the target of the Berkeley protests was not, finally, the war in Vietnam. It was Berkeley. The protesters said so themselves, eloquently and repeatedly—the university was a bureaucratic, hierarchical “knowledge factory” whose gears ground down human individuality.

Their elders weren’t buying it. Both Clark Kerr and Kingman Brewster, his statesmanlike equivalent at Yale, openly speculated that the boomers greeted their greatest birthright—of a publicly funded university education—with violence out of a gnawing sense of guilt. The Vietnam War, after all, operated as a reverse meritocracy. At the height of the conflict, there were approximately 250,000 active American combatants, young men who had passed through a multilayered filtration system designed to remove anyone capable, as one historian put it, of making a “good impression.” At the very bottom of that pile were young men with no pull whatsoever. The baby boomer “generation” was turning out to be less a unitary phenomenon, less the oceanic “We” stretching from Port Huron to "The Big Chill," than a gigantic sorting combine. It placed bright, ambitious, creative, coddled, middle-class kids out of harm’s way while sending young men of no social prospects whatsoever into the jungle to search and destroy.

Campus bad faith over Vietnam soon mingled with another novel social force. For more than 10 years, from the fateful day in 1960 that police opened up the fire hoses and washed protesting students down the marble steps of San Francisco City Hall to the Kent State shootings, the arrival of baby boomers into adolescence and young adulthood made the nightly news. As firsthand observers' report (1989), the small subgroup of protesters selected out for instant celebrity by the media was not the same as the dedicated and serious cadre that had led the movement prior to the media arriving on campus. After their arrival, though, the movement very quickly became a star system, rewarding the most mediagenic figures (Mark Rudd at Columbia, Mario Savio at Berkeley, Tom Hayden at the University of Michigan, and beyond) with camera time, and thereby legitimacy.

Most young people who went to college in the ’60s did so in the ordinary way. They went to classes, cheered at football games, fell in love, fell out of love, graduated, and moved on. It’s not important that the student protesters were not representative—in fact, it’s important that they were not. A small group of militant students in conjunction with an increasingly sensationalistic press created the impression of mass student unrest, and their self-interests fortuitously aligning, the two collaborated to make it seem as if a select group of campus stars spoke on behalf of masses of unrestful students.

Emphatically: The student protesters of the ’60s did not grow up to become the yuppies of the ’80s. However, I was amazed to discover, writing a book about the ’80s, how the basic template laid down in the campus pseudo-war at Berkeley persisted as the baby boomer generation moved into later adulthood. What is that template? A small and unrepresentative group of charismatics, seemingly lacking in healthy ego boundaries and without an even minimal respect for prevailing norms, wrests control of an institution from their elders, often by bypassing the established channels of bureaucratic authority, often by playing directly to the TV cameras.

Whether expiating guilt over Vietnam or imitating their more infamous peers, the boomers simply recreated the social dynamics of the campus war at Berkeley (and across the country) as they rose to prominence in the country’s more glamorous workplaces. Wall Street, party politics, academia, Hollywood—the prevailing leadership style shifted in the ’80s, from a managerial-professional elan, whispery and cool, to, as one contemporary observer put it, the “language of war.” Just as Mao’s Little Red Book or Albert Camus’ "The Plague" had been portable totems of authenticity in the ’60s, the paradigmatic “corporate warrior” of the ’80s carried on his person a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The ancient Chinese martial how-to underwent quite a vogue over the decade; everyone from Michael Ovitz to Lee Atwater had one of its gemlike martial epigrams at the ready.

As did Donald Trump. The Art of the Deal (1984) borrows its title from The Art of War, and at the end of Trump 101: The Way to Success (2006), Trump recommends you read only 10 books; there on the list, next to Machiavelli and Norman Vincent Peale, is Sun Tzu. Only a year or so ago, Trump tweeted out the Sun Tzu epigram “He who defends everywhere, defends nowhere.” Never one to settle for the garden-variety howler, Trump, who was shipped off to a posh military school as a teenager, has insisted, “I always felt I was in the military,” or “I always felt I was in the military in the true sense.” What did Trump do, when confronted by the actual sacrifice of John McCain? He simply negated it, ex tempore, with bluster. Thus Trump completed the boomer triple play: He evaded service; he nonetheless arrogates to himself the language of military valor; and he treats those who actually served as chumps.

So, in sum, the boomers were anti-establishment; they were norm-perverters; they were publicity hounds; and in their perversions and hounding, they covered themselves in their own supposed valor by announcing themselves as valorous. And yes, this description covers equally the Tom Hayden of 1968 and the Donald Trump of 1986. Still, why such rage?

It was none other than James Conant, president of Harvard and first evangel for the SAT, and, as much as anybody, father of the meritocracy, who lobbied against the student deferment in favor of universal military service. As one of his closest allies put it, “No one will be selected for military service except those too poor to afford to go to college, too stupid to stay there, or too lacking in initiative to avail themselves of some of the other manifold avenues by which military service can be avoided.” Anyone paying attention knew in 1951 where a student deferment would take the country. Why had Conant’s proposal for universal service been defeated? In his memoirs, Conant tells us. “The arguments of worried parents,” he laments, “proved more powerful with Congress than the reasoned opinions of the educators who supported [universal service].” The student deferment was simply another gift the middle-class boomer’s parents had given their children outright, and at the expense of their less fortunate peers. And this hit the boomers exactly where they lived.

The great majority of children born before, say, 1920 achieved economic selfhood by working, often as children. The boomers achieved economic power—enormous economic power, in fact—as consumers, and long before they acquired any as earners. Needing to be clothed, fed, and above all educated, they were little Keynesian pump-primers; and as they grew, the American economy grew with them. To the degree they were “sheltered,” it was not only from poverty, crime, industrial grit; they were sheltered from anything like the free market. Their childhood represented a massive and ongoing transfer of resources, both public and private, into child-rearing. The world they were born into was a suburban stage set. That stage set—its public roads, public streets, its schools, everything down to its public entrails, its gutters and sewers—had been subsidized, in one way or another, by the public purse. Almost half of suburban housing was underwritten by Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs financing. Onto the suburban stage set came the boomers, who completed the brochure of postwar fulfillment. They were the first generation to grow up in suburbia, a spatial and social arrangement without precedence in human history.

Does the conditioning environment of suburbia conduce a sense of well-being and life adjustment? Or of incipient terror, passivity, anonymity, feminization? Let’s agree to take that one on a case-by-case basis. In the meantime, I think it is fair to say that the boomers were burdened with a social destiny that was also an existential deficit. Born in such startling numbers (76 million between 1946 and 1964), they had been invoked as a “generation” before they could even walk. They had been told, from birth, that they represented a destiny; and yet, from birth, they were handed nearly everything in life. Their parents were unprecedentedly affluent and educated (the more professional the parents, and especially the more educated the mother, the higher the fertility rate), and committed in unprecedented numbers to creating child-centered homes. Is it any wonder the boomers keep reaching for a “social event” that will convert them from coddled children into a generation in Mannheim’s second, more poetic sense? That they must fight and refight ersatz wars? And is it any wonder that, if this is the archetypal boomer neurosis, Donald Trump’s is the most inflamed case?

Much is made of Fred Trump’s considerable legacy to his son but too little about when it happened. Trump inherited a portion of his father’s real estate empire, valued at $40 million, in 1974, in the middle of one of the most pitilessly soft job markets since the Great Depression. Among the chief factors making it soft were the boomers themselves. The expansion of the higher education system had been designed, in no small part, to delay their entry into the labor market. By 1974, delay was no longer possible. The 15–29 cohort hit 57 million; and this was not just a glut, but a labor glut, as recent college graduates poured into the American workforce. Each time the boomers advanced into a new age cohort, the employment rate and the earning power of that group declined.

Those relatively few boomers who emerged from the ’70s into the go-go ’80s with a paying job, much less a promising career, could claim victory in a Hobbesian war. But not Donald Trump. He’d emerged from the ’70s with a trust fund. For 35 years, he has insisted on his peerless business acumen, though the most sophisticated analysis indicates he was bequeathed a real estate empire, only to have its assets underperform the most humdrum of stock indexes.

Behind the Versailles-like trappings, Trump hides the fact that he is a below average investor. More pointedly, one could say that for Trump creating value in the economic sense has never been the goal and that putting his names on buildings, getting his name into the papers, and so on are better regarded as the conspicuous consumption items of a peculiarly American toff. Trump has the misfortune—and I say this without irony—of having grown up in a household whose wealth made self-making impossible but whose values were business values. The most telling image from a recent biography (2015) comes from the chapter titled “The Boy King.” Little Donald was forced into a paper route, but in bad weather was allowed to make deliveries via chauffeured limo.

Ur-boomer that he is, scarcely a sentence Trump utters could not be categorized as a compensatory boast and placed in one of four bins: I inherited nothing; I am a pure product of my own high aptitude; I am a warrior; and somewhat less obviously, though most consequentially, Together, at last, we will make a single generation. The first three are delivered with the usual belligerence of a man who believes the opposite of what he says. The final boast, however, is the most revealing. In addressing the white working class as would-be savior, Trump, chief beneficiary of boomer privilege, will make good to the victims of that privilege, to those Americans who have fought in our wars only to watch as their economic self-respect ships off to China. In Trump, we find all the false selves of a generation wrapped into one awful summa. His candidacy is a monstrous act of pseudo-healing, beneath which lies one man’s quest for a personal authenticity he can never, and will never, achieve. Ω

[Stephen Metcalf is a critic-at-large and columnist at Slate magazine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Observer and New Yorkmagazine. Metcalf received a BA (English) from Wesleyan University as well as an MA (English) from the University of Virginia.]

Copyright © 2016 The Slate Group



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Friday, May 20, 2016

Today, Michael Lind Performs An Autopsy On Voter Anger In 2016

Today's post deserves the encomium — "thought piece." If this is a (fair & balanced) response to “... People like me don’t have any say,” so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Is There Too Much Democracy In America Or Too Little?
By Michael Lind

WordCloud of the following piece of writing —

Does the rise of Donald J. Trump mean there is too much democracy in America? This is one way to explain the surprising success of Mr. Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders this year, which resembles the flourishing of anti-system candidates in Europe.

In a widely read essay for New York magazine called “Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic,” the journalist Andrew Sullivan denounced both Mr. Trump and “the demagogue of the left, Bernie Sanders” and declared that “the barriers to the popular will, especially when it comes to choosing our president, are now almost nonexistent.”

In the United States, though, and in Europe, too, the problem is not an excess of democracy, but a democratic deficit that has provoked a demagogic backlash.

In “Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy,” the Irish political scientist Peter Mair identified the trans-Atlantic trend that he called “the twin processes of popular and elite withdrawal from mass electoral politics.” Politicians chosen by membership-based mass parties have been replaced by politicians selected by donors and sold by advertising to voters. At the same time, the decline of neighborhood party machines turning out the vote has resulted in declining participation by lower income and less educated voters. The Americans who do vote are disproportionately affluent.

The need for candidates to raise large sums of money to run for office effectively screens out Republicans and Democrats whose views differ from those of the donor class, even if those views are popular with conservative or progressive voters. The only candidates able to break through the donor-class stranglehold on the political system tend to be those who do not need to raise money that way because they are movement icons like Bernie Sanders, self-financed billionaires like Ross Perot or Michael Bloomberg or celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura. Donald Trump is two out of three.

A 2016 Presidential Election Panel Survey by the RAND Corporation revealed that the single factor that best predicted voter support for Donald Trump among likely Republican voters was not income, education, race, gender or attitudes toward Muslim or illegal immigration, but agreement with the statement “people like me don’t have any say.” What if these and other voters who feel powerless really are?

Over the last few generations, for good reasons as well as bad, the number of policy outcomes that voters can actually influence through the ballot box has steadily declined. The Supreme Court has successively removed civil rights, reproductive rights and gay rights from the whims of tyrannical local or national majorities by constitutionalizing them, notwithstanding attempts by conservative legislatures to resist. Beginning with the New Deal, the economic safety net, once limited to state and local governments, has been largely nationalized. About a third of state spending today consists of federal grants-in-aid, including Medicaid and funding for education, transportation and community development. These grants-in-aid often come with strings attached, turning state and local governments into franchises of the federal government for some purposes, except on rare occasions when states rebel, as many states have done in the case of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Within the federal government itself, much of what was once done by congressional legislation is now done by judicial decrees, agency rules or presidential executive orders. In many cases, Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibilities, preferring to criticize rather than legislate. It is easier, for example, for members of Congress to attack executive orders on immigration than to reform immigration law.

Another way to thwart majority rule is to transfer rule-making about domestic safety, privacy, health and the environment from national legislatures to unelected bodies like the secretive transnational committees that negotiate trade deals. Some of the deals also expose nations to lawsuits by corporations or individual investors who claim to be adversely affected by domestic laws or policies. You don’t have to be a protectionist to believe that the delegation of national rule-making authority to unelected officials influenced by corporate representatives and nongovernmental organization staffers sacrifices too much popular sovereignty for what many would consider minor economic gains.

As a result of all of these trends, the power of electoral majorities really has ebbed away to a great extent. When people keep putting money into a vending machine that does nothing, or gives them the opposite of what they ordered, some of them will kick the vending machine or turn it over.

Voter apathy and disenchantment is a political problem that can be solved only by political reforms that give nonelite voters more actual power to affect policy outcomes — not by a new tax credit here or a wage subsidy there.

Worthwhile reforms like automatic voter registration (now limited to Vermont, Oregon, California and West Virginia), online voting, and voting on weekends or a special national holiday instead of on Tuesdays would not necessarily increase voter turnout much, if many continue to see voting as ineffectual. According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll from the last presidential election cycle, 59 percent of respondents said that they didn’t bother to pay attention to politics because “nothing ever gets done; it’s a bunch of empty promises.” Demoralizing paralysis in government may be more effective in disenfranchising citizens than photo-ID laws.

Basic civil rights should not depend on majorities at any level of government. And social insurance programs are most efficient and fair when they are uniform and national, like Social Security and Medicare, unlike Medicaid and unemployment insurance, which vary among states because they are funded both by federal and state governments. But in many other areas of public policy, majorities should be allowed to prevail.

The higher the level of government that makes a decision, the less influence ordinary citizens will have. Corporate lobbies or well-funded NGOs that lose battles at the local level can try to persuade state legislatures or members of Congress to reverse the results. In contrast, working-class Americans on the losing end of a local ordinance are unlikely to prevail in the state capital or Washington. Convincing alienated American citizens that their votes count must begin with empowering the city and county governments in which they have the greatest influence.

In some states, this might mean loosening strict constitutional or statutory limits on the tax and expenditure authority of local governments, like California’s 1978 ballot initiative Prop 13, which restricted the autonomy of local governments when it came to property taxes. When such limits prevent municipal governments from raising adequate revenues, they may be forced to resort to regressive and more burdensome revenue collection methods like user fees and sales taxes.

Cities and counties should also have more freedom to experiment, without being constrained by interest groups working through state legislatures. For example, in many states private Internet service providers have used their clout in state capitals to prohibit or obstruct municipal broadband systems.

For its part, Congress can share power as well as money with local voters by putting fewer constraints on the revenues it shares with state and local governments for purposes like education, health and infrastructure.

At the level of local government, electoral reforms like ranked choice (instant runoff) voting, which transfers the second-choices of voters who backed losing candidates when there wasn’t a clear winner, can give all voters more influence than standard winner-take-all rules. A number of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland in California and Takoma Park, MD, have adopted ranked choice voting in recent years.

In an earlier era of white supremacy and Protestant Christian hegemony, the United States was what the Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria and others call an “illiberal democracy,” characterized by majoritarian tyranny. But the solution is not the other extreme of technocratic rule by purportedly enlightened elites, described by the Harvard political theorist Yascha Mounk as “undemocratic liberalism.”

Majorities need to be constrained when it comes to essential rights. But removing too many decisions from local to remote governments and from legislators answerable to voters to unelected judges, executive officials and treaty negotiators, is likely to create a democratic deficit that provokes a backlash against the system.

If we want to avert the sense of powerlessness among voters that fuels demagogy, the answer is not less democracy in America, but more. Ω

[Michael Lind is co-founder of the New America Foundation and a Politico magazine contributing editor. Most recently, he has written Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States (2012). Lind holds a BA (English and history) from the University of Texas-Austin, an MA (international relations) from Yale University, and a JD from The University of Texas-Austin.]

Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Today, Get In Line For A Steamin' Spoonful Of Sulfuric Snark From Dr. Gonzo

Gonzo Matt (Taibbi) deconstructs the emergence of the presumptive Dumbo presidential nominee and proclaims the demise of the GOP with the rise of Der Blödmann. In the outpouring of Gonzo Matt's scorn, you find nuggets of political insight. If this is (fair & balanced) irreverent punditry, so be it.

[x RS]
R.I.P., GOP: How Trump Is Killing The Republican Party
By Gonzo Matt (Taibbi)

Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing — Unfortunately, this message popped up instead of a word cloud: "TagCrowd is temporarily down for some maintenance and upgrades." This blog waits for no man or cloud generator. Tune in tomorrow.

Indianapolis, Indiana, May 3rd, 2016, a little before 8:30 PM Texas Senator Ted Cruz strode onstage beneath a gorgeous stained-glass relief in the city's Union Station. The hall was doubling as a swanky bar for an upscale local hotel, and much of the assembled press was both lubricated and impatient. The primary had been called for Donald Trump more than an hour before. What was the holdup?

"God bless the Hoosier State!" Cruz said to whoops and cheers after he finally emerged. He was surrounded by a phalanx of American flags, family members and his gimmick running mate of six and a half days, Carly Fiorina, who stared out at the crowd with her trademark alien-abducted smile.

Cruz glanced back and forth across the room with that odd, neckless, monitor-lizard posture of his. He had to know the import of this moment. Nothing less than the future of the Republican Party had been at stake in the Indiana primary.

A Cruz loss effectively meant ceding control of the once-mighty organization to Trump, a seemingly unrepentant non-Republican more likely to read Penthouse than the National Review.

Before the vote, Cruz put it this way: "We are at the edge of a cliff, staring downward."

Now, Cruz was over that cliff, having been trounced 53 to 36 percent in his last-gasp effort to keep Trump from the nomination. In a detail the film-buff candidate Cruz would appreciate, he left Indiana with the same number of delegates as future senator John Blutarsky's grade-point average in Animal House: zero-point-zero.

Still, Cruz looked like he was ready for the "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" speech. He was going to fight.

"Will we hold fast to our founding values of rewarding talent, hard work and industry?" he asked. "Or will we continue on that path of creeping socialism that incentivizes apathy and dependency?"

The crowd roared.

"Will we keep America safe from the threats of nuclear war and atomic terrorism?" he thundered. "Or will we pass on to future generations a land devastated and destroyed by the enemies of civilization?"

More raucous cheers.

Cruz smiled. If he has a good quality, it is that he's not easily deterred by criticism. As he took the stage that night, he surely knew that former Speaker of the House John Boehner had recently called him "Lucifer in the flesh," and that fellow senator Lindsey Graham had said, "If you kill Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you." Likewise, when it was revealed Cruz once stated that one has no inherent right to "stimulate one's genitals," his college roommate Craig Mazin popped up to call him a hypocrite who'd whacked it plenty in college.

During the campaign, surprising numbers of Americans were even willing to believe Cruz might also be the Zodiac Killer. The infamous Bay Area murders began two years before Cruz was born, but 38 percent of Floridians at one point believed Cruz either was or might be the Zodiac.

Were they serious? In an age when Donald Trump is a presidential nominee, what does "serious" even mean? In any case, the cybercomics who fanned the flames of the Cruz-Zodiac meme will someday be first-ballot entrants in the Trolling Hall of Fame.

Finally, on the morning of the Indiana primary, Cruz woke up to hear opponent Trump babbling that Cruz's own father had been hanging out with Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a bizarre take on a ridiculous National Enquirer story that Trump, of course, believed instantly. Trump brought this up on "Fox and Friends," which let him run the ball all the way to the end zone. "I mean, what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the death — before the shooting?" Trump asked. "It's horrible."

American politics had never seen anything like this: a presidential candidate derided as a haggardly masturbating incarnation of Satan, the son of a presidential assassin's accomplice, and himself an infamous uncaptured serial killer.

Despite the media humiliations, Cruz talked passionately of his supporters' resolve. "Just a few days ago, two young kids, ages four and six, handed me two envelopes full of change," he said. "All of their earnings from their lemonade stand. They wanted the campaign to have it."

The crowd cooed: Awwww! There was no way he could quit now and let those kids down. Except that moments later, Cruz did just that, announcing he was suspending his campaign because "the path to victory has been foreclosed." Then he fled the stage like he was double-parked.

The air vanished from the ballroom. Cruz supporters went nuts.

Nooooo! they screamed, hugging each other and crying. Many volunteers were from faraway states. They expected to be continuing on somewhere the next morning. Now they were all basically fired.

"What the fuck do we do now?" whispered one.

The pundits present were less emotional. "Does he get to use the lemonade money to pay campaign debts?" wondered one.

As ignominious an end as this was for Cruz, it was a million times worse for the Republican establishment.

The party of Nixon, Reagan and two Bushes had needed a win by Cruz, a man not just disliked but loathed by the party elite, to stave off a takeover by Trump.

And yet Cruz's main pitch to his voters had been that between himself and Trump, he was the one less connected to the Republican Party. "Cruz is the true outsider," was how one supporter put it in Indiana.

Cruz volunteer Dan Porter seemed stunned with grief after the results came in, but his sadness was reserved for Cruz, not the Republican Party. He couldn't seem to wrap his head around the fact that so many people had voted for Trump, a man who'd "been a Democrat his whole life," while a dedicated constitutionalist like Cruz had been so roundly rejected.

So lost in thought that he stared at the carpet as he spoke, he gave just an incidental shake of the head when asked what the future of the GOP would be now. It was as if the question wasn't even that important.

"Oh, there won't be a Republican Party," he said. "It's basically over."

Cruz had at least won nearly 600 delegates and had passionate supporters shedding real tears for him at the end. But nobody anywhere was crying for the Republican Party. Even Custer had a less-lonely last stand.

Trump, meanwhile, spent the night basking in voluble self-admiration from Trump Tower in New York. This is becoming his victory ritual. The lectern from which he spoke said it all: TRUMP —' VICTORY IN INDIANA — NEW YORK CITY.

Trump's naked disdain for the less-glamorous American flyover provinces he somehow keeps winning by massive margins continued to be one of the livelier comic subplots of the campaign.

From seemingly wondering if Iowans had eaten too much genetically modified corn to thanking the "poorly educated" after his Nevada win, Trump increasingly doesn't bother to even pretend to pander. This, too, is a major departure for the Republican Party, whose Beltway imageers for decades made pretending to sincerely prefer barns and trailers to nightclubs and spokesmodels a central part of their electoral strategy.

Not Trump. Hell, he went out of his way to brag about being pals with Tom Brady in the week before the Indiana primary, and still won by almost 20 points. Given the level of Colts-Patriots antipathy, this is a little like campaigning in Louisiana wearing a BP hat, or doing a whistle-stop tour through Waco with Janet Reno.

After his crushing win, Trump gave a breathless victory speech. It was classic Trump. "The people of Indiana have been incredible," he said. "I campaigned and I made lots of speeches and met lots of incredible people... You don't get better. The crowds got bigger and bigger... I didn't want to leave... We had a tremendous victory tonight... Boy, Bobby Knight was incredible."

He had a few choice words for the GOP leadership. "I want to thank and congratulate the Republican National Committee, and Reince Priebus," he croaked, as his heavily-made-up, Robert Palmer-chicks collection of wives and daughters twisted faintly in a deadpan chorus behind him.

"It is not an easy job, when you have 17 egos," Trump went on, smiling. "And now I guess he's down to one."

The crowd roared. The RNC had kissed Trump's ring. That was it, right there, the death of the modern Republican Party.

After 9/11, it felt like the Republicans would reign in America for a thousand years. Only a year ago, this was still a party that appeared to be on the rise nationally, having gained 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats, 11 governorships and 913 state legislative seats during the Obama presidency.

Now the party was effectively dead as a modern political force, doomed to go the way of the Whigs or the Free-Soilers.

After Indiana, a historic chasm opened in the ranks of the party. The two former President Bushes, along with Mitt Romney, announced they wouldn't attend Trump's coronation at the convention in Cleveland. Additionally, House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to say he would support the nominee.

There were now two Republican Parties. One, led by Trump, was triumphant at the ballot, rapidly accruing party converts, and headed to Cleveland for what, knowing the candidate, was sure to be the yuugest, most obscene, most joyfully tacky tribute to a single person ever seen in the television age. If the convention isn't Liberace meets Stalin meets Vince McMahon, it'll be a massive disappointment.

From there, this Republican Party would steam toward the White House, which, who knows, it might even win.

The other Republican Party was revealed in the end to be a surprisingly small collection of uptight lawyers, financiers and Beltway intellectuals who'd just seen their chosen candidate, the $100 million Jeb Bush, muster all of four delegates in the presidential race. Meanwhile, candidates whose talking points involved the beheading of this same party establishment were likely to win around 2,000.

Like French aristocrats after 1789, those Republicans may now head into something like foreign exile to plot their eventual return. But whether they will be guillotined or welcomed back is an open question.

This was all because they'd misplayed the most unpredictable and certainly most ridiculous presidential-campaign season Americans had ever seen.

On the one hand, they'd been blindsided by Trump, a foulmouthed free-coverage magnet who impulsively decided to make mocking the Republican Party mullahs his pet project for the years 2015-2016.

But they were also undone by a surge of voter anger that was in significant part their own fault. In recent years, the Koch brothers/Tea Party wing of the GOP had purged all moderates from the party, to the point where anyone who was on record supporting the continued existence of any federal agency, said Mexicans were people, or spoke even theoretically about the utility of taxes was drummed from the candidate rolls.

Their expected endgame here was probably supposed to be the ascension of some far-right, anti-tax, anti-government radical like Scott Walker, or even Cruz.

Instead, this carefully cultivated "throw the bums out" vibe was gluttonously appropriated by Trump, who turned the anger against the entire Republican Party before surging to victory on a strongman's platform of giant walls, mass deportation and extravagant job promises that made the moon landing or the Bernie Sanders agenda of free college look incrementalist in comparison.

One could say this was just a calamitous strategic misread on the part of the Koch-brothers types. But another way to look at it is that this was the inevitable consequence of the basic dynamic of the party, which by the end was little more than a collection plate for global business interests that were, if not foreign exactly, certainly nationless.

There was a time in this country — and many voters in places like Indiana and Michigan and Pennsylvania are old enough to remember it — when business leaders felt a patriotic responsibility to protect American jobs and communities. Mitt Romney's father, George, was such a leader, deeply concerned about the city of Detroit, where he built AMC cars.

But his son Mitt wasn't. That sense of noblesse oblige disappeared somewhere during the past generation, when the newly global employer class cut regular working stiffs loose, forcing them to compete with billions of foreigners without rights or political power who would eat toxic waste for five cents a day.

Then they hired politicians and intellectuals to sell the peasants in places like America on why this was the natural order of things. Unfortunately, the only people fit for this kind of work were mean, traitorous scum, the kind of people who in the military are always eventually bayoneted by their own troops. This is what happened to the Republicans, and even though the cost was a potential Trump presidency, man, was it something to watch.

If this isn't the end for the Republican Party, it'll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word "American" by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut — the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

A century ago, the small-town American was Gary Cooper: tough, silent, upright and confident. The modern Republican Party changed that person into a haranguing neurotic who couldn't make it through a dinner without quizzing you about your politics. They destroyed the American character. No hell is hot enough for them. And when Trump came along, they rolled over like the weaklings they've always been, bowing more or less instantly to his parodic show of strength.

In the weeks surrounding Cruz's cat-fart of a surrender in Indiana, party luminaries began the predictably Soviet process of coalescing around the once-despised new ruler. Trump endorsements of varying degrees of sincerity spilled in from the likes of Dick Cheney, Bob Dole, Mitch McConnell and even John McCain.

Having not recently suffered a revolution or a foreign-military occupation, Americans haven't seen this phenomenon much, but the effortless treason of top-tier Republicans once Trump locked up the nomination was the most predictable part of this story. Politicians, particularly this group, are like crackheads: You can get them to debase themselves completely for whatever's in your pocket, even if it's just lint.

That's why the first rule of any revolution is to wipe out the intellectuals. Trump is surely already dreaming of the vast logging camp he will fill with the Republican thinkfluencers who are at the moment making a show of being the last holdouts.

Not surprisingly, in the past weeks, there was an epidemic of Monday-morning quarterbacking among the Beltway punditocracy, as GOP cognoscenti struggled to cope with the reality of Trumpism.

There were basically two responses among the tie-and-glasses sect of Republicans to the prospect of kneeling before the philistine Trump: In the minority stood New York Times lonely-hearts moralist David Brooks, who took the remarkable step of looking at Trump's victories and wondering what part of this unraveling could be his own fault. In Brooks-ian fashion, this essentially noble response came out as painful pretentious comedy. He concluded that the problem was that upper-crust conservatives like himself hadn't spent enough time getting to know the dirtier folks below decks.

Instead of "spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata," Brooks promised to "go out into the pain" and "build a ladder of hope" by leaping across "chasms of segmentation."

Translated into English, this might have meant anything from trying the occasional domestic beer to actually hanging around the unemployed. But at least Brooks recognized that on some level, the rise of Trump pointed to a connection failure in the Republican kingmaking class.

No others among his conservative brethren saw it that way. Most Republican intellectuals recoiled in blameless horror from the Trumpening, blaming everything from media bias to the educational system for his rise. Some even promised to degrade themselves with a vote for Hillary Clinton before ever supporting Trump.

George Will of The Washington Post might have been the loudest objector. Will increasingly seems like a man who is sure history will remember him for his heroic opposition to Trump, and not for those 40-plus years of being an insufferable spinster who writes bad columns about baseball to prove his ties to the common man.

His diatribes against Trump, a "coarse character" who reads the National Enquirer and brags about the size of his "penis" (one could almost feel the pain it caused Will to have to commit this word to paper), took on an almost religious character.

Just before Indiana, Will began treating the nomination of Trump like a forest fire or a SARS outbreak, something that with the right spirit of sacrifice could be contained with minimal loss of life, and perhaps only four years of a Hillary presidency.

"If Trump is nominated," Will wrote, "Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party."

But the crowning effort on the right-wing snobbery front came from none other than British blogging icon and noted hairy person Andrew Sullivan. The aforementioned came out of semiretirement to write a 7,000-word jeremiad for New York magazine about how Trump was the inevitable product of too much democracy.

The CliffsNotes summary of his monstrous piece, "Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic," might go something like this: When I read Plato in grad school, I learned that in free societies the mob eventually stops deferring to the wisdom of smart people, and therefore must be muzzled before they send Trump to wash the streets with our blood.

Sullivan's analysis was a balm to the decades of butt-hurt that await the soon-to-be-ex-elite of the Republican Party. It blamed Trump's rise on everyone but Republican intellectuals: Obama, Black Lives Matter and even "the gay left, for whom the word 'magnanimity' seems unknown."

"A struggling white man in the heartland is now told to 'check his privilege' by students at Ivy League colleges," Sullivan wrote, in a sentence that would probably be true enough, if those two groups ever interacted. Sullivan was right that white conservatives in places like Indiana hate Ivy Leaguers and Black Lives Matter and the gay left and safe-spacers and feminists and all the other mocking, sneering, atheistic know-it-all types from cosmopolitan cities who scoff, as Obama famously did once, at their guns and their religion.

But they also hated all of those people eight years ago, 16 years ago, 30 years ago. What's new about the Year of Trump is that they have now also suddenly turned on their own party. Why?

Sullivan basically ignored this question. The closest he came to an explanation was a passage saying that "global economic forces" hurt blue-collar workers in particular, forcing them to compete with lots of other unskilled and basically fungible human beings around the world. Which made them, he guessed, pissed off.

This avalanche of verbose disgust on the part of conservative intellectuals toward the Trump voter, who until very recently was the Republican voter, tells us everything we need to know about what actually happened in 2016.

There never was any real connection between the George Wills, Andrew Sullivans and David Brookses and the gun-toting, Jesus-loving ex-middle-class voters they claimed to embrace. All those intellectuals ever did for Middle America was cook up a sales pitch designed to get them to vote for politicians who would instantly betray them to business interests eager to ship their jobs off to China and India. The most successful trick was linking the corporate mantra of profit without responsibility to the concept of individual liberty.

Into the heartland were sent wave after wave of politicians, each more strident and freedom-y than the last. They arrived draped in the flag, spewed patriotic bromides about God, guns and small-town values, and pledged to give the liberals hell and bring the pride back.

Then they went off to Washington and year after year did absolutely squat for their constituents. They were excellent at securing corporate tax holidays and tax cuts for the rich, but they almost never returned to voter country with jobs in hand. Instead, they brought an ever-increasing list of villains responsible for the lack of work: communists, bra-burning feminists, black "race hustlers," climate-change activists, Muslims, Hollywood, horned owls....

By the Tea Party era, their candidates were forced to point fingers at their own political establishment for votes, since after so many years of bitter economic decline, that was the only story they could still believably sell.

This led to the hilarious irony of Ted Cruz. Here was a quintessentially insipid GOP con man culled straight from the halls of Princeton, Harvard, the Supreme Court, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Republican Senatorial Committee to smooth-talk the yokels. But through a freak accident of history, he came along just when the newest models of his type were selling "the Republican establishment sucks" as an electoral strategy.

Cruz was like an android that should have self-destructed in a cloud of sparks and black smoke the moment the switch flipped on. He instead stayed on just long enough to win 564 delegates, a stunning testament to just how much Republican voters, in the end, hated the Republican kingmakers Cruz robotically denounced.

All of these crazy contradictions came to a head in Indiana, where Cruz succumbed in an explosion of hate and scorn. The cascade started the Sunday night before the primary, with a Cruz stump speech in La Porte that couldn't have gone worse.

Things went sideways as Cruz was working his way into a "simple flat tax" spiel, a standard Republican snake-oil proposal in which all corporate, estate and gift taxes would be eliminated, and replaced with a 10 percent flat tax and a 16 percent consumption tax. Not because the rich would pay less and the poor would pay more, but because America and fairness, etc. He was just getting to his beloved money line, claiming, "We can fill out our taxes on a postcard," when a 12-year-old boy interrupted with cries of "You suck!" and "I don't care!"

Cruz couldn't quite handle the pressure and stepped straight into the man-trap the moment presented. He lectured the kid about respecting his elders, then suggested the world might be a better place if someone had taught a young Donald Trump that lesson. It was a not-half-bad line of the type that the Harvard lawyer is occasionally capable. But Cruz couldn't help himself and added, "You know, in my household, when a child behaves that way, they get a spanking."

Boom! Within hours the Internet was filled with headlines about how Ted Cruz had suggested spanking someone else's 12-year-old for telling him he sucked.

This was on top of the ignominy of having already called a basketball hoop a "ring" while giving a speech on the gym floor in Knightstown, the home of the fictional Hickory team from "Hoosiers." No American male would call a basketball hoop a ring, and even a French immigrant would know better than to do so in Indiana, but this was the kind of run he was on.

The rest of the race was a slapstick blowout. Carly Fiorina fell off a stage, and Cruz's wife, Heidi, actually had to answer a question from a Yahoo! reporter about her husband being called the Zodiac Killer. Heidi Cruz calmly responded that she'd been married to Ted for 15 years and "I know pretty well who he is." This, of course, was exactly what the wife of the actual Zodiac Killer would say, making for a perfectly absurd ending to a doomed campaign.

As anyone who's ever been to high school knows, there's no answer to "You suck!" When a bully pulls that line on you, it's because he can smell the weakness: the Jonas Brothers album in your closet, your good grades, your mantleful of band-camp participation trophies, whatever. When the mob smells unorthodoxy, there's no talking your way out of it. You just have to hold on for dear life.

Trump has turned the new Republican Party into high school. It will be cruel, clique-y and ruled by insult kings like himself and Ann Coulter, whose headline description of Cruz ("Tracy Flick With a Dick") will always resonate with Trump voters more than a thousand George Will columns.

And anyone who crosses the leader from now on will be fair game for the kind of brutal fragging Cruz and his circle experienced in Indiana. Dissenters will be buried under a cannonade of abuse coming from everywhere: Trump, other politicians, reporters, Internet memers, 12-year-olds, everyone. Add tough economic times to the Internet, and this is what you get: Nationalist High.

Indiana was the end of an era. As Fiorina moved through a pancake house on primary morning, her supporters meekly bowed and curtseyed as though she were the Queen Mother, calling her ma'am and showing off the small-town civility and churchy hospitality that was once a defining characteristic of Republican campaign-trail events. In the Trump era, this seems likely to be replaced forever by the testosterone-fueled diss-fests that had undone Cruz in this state.

"People don't care about civility anymore," said Cruz supporter Julie Reimann with a sigh. "It's another sad state of affairs, and when you see it across the Midwest and in our small towns, it's like, 'What has happened to us? Why are we so mean?' "

The real question might be, "Why weren't we meaner before?"

Politics at its most basic isn't a Princeton debating society. It's a desperate battle over who gets what. But during the past 50 years, when there was a vast shift in the distribution of wealth in this country, when tens of millions of people were put out of good, dignified jobs and into humiliating ones, America's elections remained weirdly civil, Queensberry-rules reality shows full of stilted TV debates over issues like abortion, gay marriage and the estate tax.

As any journalist who's ever covered a miners' strike or a foreclosure court will report, things get physically tense when people are forced to fight for their economic lives. Yet Trump's campaign has been the first to unleash that menacing feel during a modern presidential race.

Some, or maybe a lot of it, is racial resentment. But much of it has to be long-delayed anger over the way things have been divvied up over the years. The significance of Trump's wall idea, apart from its bluntly racist appeal as a barrier to nonwhite people, is that it redefines the world in terms of a clear Us and Them, with politicians directly responsible for Us.

It's a plain rebuttal to the Sullivan explanation for why nobody between the coasts has a decent job anymore, i.e., that there are "global economic forces" at work that we can no more change than we can the weather. Trump's solutions are preposterous, logistically impossible and ideologically vicious, but he's giving people a promise more concrete than "tax cuts will stimulate growth that will eventually bring jobs back." He's peddling hope, and with hope comes anger.

Of course, Trump is more likely than not to crash the car now that he has the wheel. News reports surfaced that Donald Trump, unhinged pig, was about to be replaced by Donald Trump, respectable presidential candidate. No more schoolyard insults!

Trump went along with this plan for a few days. But soon after Indiana, he started public fights with old pal Joe Scarborough and former opponents Graham and Bush, the latter for backtracking on a reported pledge to support the Republican nominee. "Bush signed a pledge... while signing it, he fell asleep," Trump cracked.

Then he began his general-election pivot with about 10 million tweets directed at "crooked Hillary." With all this, Trump emphasized that the GOP was now mainly defined by whatever was going through his head at any given moment. The "new GOP" seems doomed to swing back and forth between its nationalist message and its leader's tubercular psyche. It isn't a party, it's a mood.

Democrats who might be tempted to gloat over all of this should check themselves. If the Hillary Clintons and Harry Reids and Gene Sperlings of the world don't look at what just happened to the Republicans as a terrible object lesson in the perils of prioritizing billionaire funders over voters, then they too will soon enough be tossed in the trash like a tick.

It almost happened this year, when the supporters of Bernie Sanders nearly made it over the wall. Totally different politicians with completely different ideas about civility and democracy, Sanders and Trump nonetheless keyed in on the same widespread disgust over the greed and cynicism of the American political class.

From the Walter Mondale years on, Democrats have eaten from the same trough as Republicans. They've grown fat off cash from behemoths like Cisco, Pfizer, Exxon Mobil, Citigroup, Goldman and countless others, companies that moved jobs overseas, offshored profits, helped finance the construction of factories in rival states like China and India, and sometimes all of the above.

The basic critique of both the Trump and Sanders campaigns is that you can't continually take that money and also be on the side of working people. Money is important in politics, but in democracy, people ultimately still count more.

The Democrats survived this time, but Republicans allowed their voters to see the numerical weakness of our major parties. It should take an awful lot to break up 60 million unified people. But a few hundred lawyers, a pile of money and a sales pitch can be replaced in a heartbeat, even by someone as dumb as Donald Trump.

[As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Most recently, he has written The Divide (2014). Taibbi received a BA (journalism) from Bard College.]

Copyright © 2016 Rolling Stone



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2016 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves