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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon Is Not Mysterious -- And Ridiculing Racism Is Not "Smug"

Many political pundits on corporate media outlets and commentators in social media fora regularly tut tut those of us who point out what a ridiculous, outrageous, unqualified candidate Trump is. They warn us not to be too "smug" now, airily reminding us that he prevailed after all over more than a dozen candidates and millions and millions of dollars of advertising.

But none of this makes Donald Trump some kind of uncanny unstoppable force of nature. Remember when people marveled that Karl Rove was some kind of sooper-genius phenomenon... just because he was so brazen in his willingness to lie and cheat? Donald Trump and Karl Rove are utter mediocrities, they are ethically failed human beings. It was and remains only the ongoing failure of our organizations to weed them out when they fail to meet the standards of sustainable public organizations and resources, or even to prosecute them when they break rules and laws that renders them apparent "phenomena."

The GOP is now nothing but the party of scared racist bullies. The scared racist bullies of the GOP liked the biggest racist bully. And that was clearly Donald Trump. Few point out this bald truth and hence few are capable of getting at the "mystery" of the Trump phenomenon, or the failure of conventional wisdom the about the experience, expenditure, most convincing checking off of the plutocratic talking points (more defense spending, lower taxes on the rich, punitive austerity for "them," white-racist patriarchal Christianist family values over all), or the person whose "turn" it is to win the GOP nomination to win this time around.

Permit me to be "smug" for a moment. Racism is stupid and insane and evil. And its public voice is dying into impotent marginality -- which is not to deny the horror and heartbreak of its legacy and lingering force. None of the mediocre, bland bigots of the GOP's so-called "deep bench" of unpopular untalented unaccomplished uncharismatic Governors and hate radio celebrities could critique the racism that empowered Trump without alienating the base they would need to succeed within the GOP themselves. But we are not so constrained. To pretend these incompetents with their serially failed market fundamentalist pieties, their death-dealing fragile masculinist worship of guns and wars, their utterly rancid racist sexist heterosexist cissexist bigotry are anything but killer clowns is to deny obvious facts and disdain basic decency. If you think THAT is smug, then kill yourself because you're already dead. (Or, you know, read a book and wake up, or whatever. So smug!)

But you know what? America is not the GOP. America is the diversifying, secularizing, planetizing coalition that already elected Obama President twice in a row and has only grown since, and grows more and more and more by the day. Trump's appeals to disgusting bigotry may be dark magic for the aging white gun-nuts of the GOP (and the old white straight guys who still throng news media), but it is weird and ugly and out of touch in the America that has always been a nation of immigrants barrelling toward majority minority multiculture. Trump can try to divide this quarrelsome lot, Trump can try to make us scared, but there are rich vein of go along get along convivial pragmatism in this country and there are plenty who want calm competence at the helm when they are truly scared -- that is to say, it is unclear to me that Trump's line will even work if he manages to get us to frame this election in his preferred terms.

There is no mystery about the Trump phenomenon, only the exhibition of a destiny: the patriarchal white-supremacy that has long animated the American narrative is dying in America, even as it is still killing as it is dying away. It is time, and long overdue, for new stories. Here's hoping we can sweep aside the wreckage and find a field of flowers blooming here -- the work of building and maintaining sustainable equity-in-diversity in a nation and in a planet wounded and traumatized almost beyond healing is formidable enough and beautiful enough to enlist all our effort. 


jimf said...

> They warn us not to be too "smug" now, airily reminding us
> that he prevailed after all over more than a dozen candidates. . .

Yes, as the usually unquotable David Brooks says in today's
NY Times:
Trump Is Getting Even Trumpier!
David Brooks
JULY 19, 2016

. . .

Suddenly the global climate favors a Trump candidacy. Some forms
of disorder — like a financial crisis — send voters for the calm
supple thinker. But other forms of disorder — blood in the streets —
send them scurrying for the brutal strongman.

If the string of horrific events continues, Trump could win the
presidency. And he could win it even though he has less and less
control over himself.

And cf:

David Brooks: I Underestimated Trump
The Young Turks
May 22, 2016

jimf said...

> . . .the diversifying, secularizing, planetizing coalition. . .

There seem to be three possible futures for man: (1) actual
and speedy annihilation; (2) the creation of a worldwide
totalitarian ant-state. . . (3) the founding of a new kind
of human world, in which the Aladdin's lamp of science will be
used wisely, instead of being abandoned to that blend of short-
sighted stupidity and downright power-lust that has played
so tragic a part in the application of science thus far.
It is a platitude that man has gained power without wisdom.
If he does not at the eleventh hour, or half a minute before
zero hour, become just a little less silly, his doom is sealed.
On the other hand, given a modicum of wisdom, we shall be
able to greatly to raise the conditions of life for all human
beings, no matter what their color, and to afford to every
one of them the chance to develop and express such capacity
as he has for truly human living and truly human work in
the great common enterprise of man. . .

-- Olaf Stapledon, "Interplanetary Man?"
An Address to the British Interplanetary Society (1948)

jimf said...

> . . .what a ridiculous, outrageous, unqualified candidate. . .

"I put lipstick on a pig."
"The Art Of The Deal" Ghostwriter Speaks Out Against Trump
The Young Turks
Jul 18, 2016

Dale Carrico said...

Interplanet Janet is a Galaxy Girl

jimf said...

> Interplanet Janet is a Galaxy Girl

Many years ago, I had an upstairs neighbor that my then-roommate
and I used to call "Janet from Another Planet". ;->

> the patriarchal white-supremacy that has long animated the
> American narrative is dying in America, even as it is still
> killing as it is dying away.

So I was in a New Jersey diner this evening, and the TV (naturally)
was tuned to the RNC, and Our Big Fat Republican Governor (I've
always wanted to say that) was giving his speech about Hillary --
with audience participation! -- was was rattling off lists like
Libya! Syria! Russia! and gesturing at the audience to yell
Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

It crossed my mind that we ain't seen nothing yet when it comes
to dirty campaigning -- this show hasn't even gotten started.
When Trump v. Hillary begins in earnest, there's going to be more
mud-slinging than I've ever seen in an election in my lifetime.
Maybe more than there's ever been in this country since before the Civil War.
There's going to be so much mud that come November, FEMA is going
to have to clean up the mess. And the slime will continue to
coat everything for years to come. Trump is **not** going to
be a graceful loser -- he's going to be screaming for Supreme
Court intervention, or impeachment, or God knows what, before
he concedes the election. Maybe a military coup! :-0

It's going to be really ugly. I hope you're ready for the

jimf said...

> Racism is stupid and insane and evil. . .
Being Human - Robert Sapolsky
The Leakey Foundation
Jun 26, 2016


We're not the only species that's capable of deep, unconscious
aggressive bias against "them"s. Fascinating example of this.
If you ever want to take a totally terrifying test, take
something called the Implicit Association Test. It's this
brilliant psychological test that reveals every unspoken
prejudice and bias that you have going for you, because it's
impossible to fool this test. Here's how the test works.
Suppose you have a horrible, ugly, vicious prejudice against
trolls. You just have something in for trolls, and you
think they're simply inferior to humans. So you're given
this task computer screen where up flash a bunch of pictures
of either humans or trolls, and you're instructed, if it's
a human, press this button on the right, if it's a troll,
press this button on the left. Or a series of words with
either very positive or negative connotations -- if it's
positive, press this button, if it's negative press. . .
And then, it comes in a combination. You have to see if
it's a troll on the right or this kind of word press this
button, if it's a human on the left. . . And what you see is,
when the category of human and troll fits with the word,
it's an easy association -- flash up a human with the word
"trustworthy" and that makes perfect sense. Flash up
"malodorous" with troll, that makes perfect sense. Your
reaction time for hitting the correct button is very short.
But now, switch it around the other way, and for a miniscule
amount of time you pause and say "wait a second, trolls
aren't kind-hearted, that's right, hit this button.
Wait a second, humans aren't. . . hit this button."
There's a miniscule, on the scale of milliseconds, delay,
and you do enough of these, and you can tell if somebody
gets a delay coming in there, the scale of like a tenth of
a second delay, they're feeling the cognitive dissonance
"I don't associate these positive values with this group".
It's incredible. Then, recently, a Yale group showed the
exact same thing with rhesus monkeys. . .

We're all fill-in-the-blank-ist. Some of us simply don't,
at least intellectually, think it's something that ought
to be indulged.