Monday, September 26, 2016

Show Your Face

September 26, 2016
Monrovia, California

As the 2016 presidential race moves into its final few weeks, it occurs to me that the contest is falling further and further away from what should be its proper point of focus.  When we elect a president from either of the two main political parties, we are electing someone who represents the essential values of the party he or she represents.  

In the case of the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, I think she pretty fairly represent the values of the party--generosity, liberality, inclusiveness, a measure of redistribution of wealth, and most importantly a view of the future that does not seek to restore the real or imagined glorious past but to use the government to make things better for people, in particular those less fortunate than the majority of us are.  To be sure, Clinton as a person is nakedly ambitious, as well as rather dull, awkward, and wonky.  But in aligning herself with the Democratic Party she has chosen to represent those values, whether or not she actually gets to impose them or further them.  Give her credit for that.

Most of us who oppose the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, have fallen into the trap he has set for us by becoming almost obsessed with his personality rather than with his politics.  Some of us even say he has no particular politics--that he will say anything to anybody in order to get elected.  The campaign has focused almost entirely on ad hominem attacks against Trump the man, and we profess to be astonished that a major candidate could be such a bald-faced liar, so silly, so pompous, so utterly lacking in real substance and character.  Of course he's all that, and worse.  He's a shallow, immoral, hateful, careless, and essentially incompetent guy, not to mention mentally unstable, and as ill-equipped to be president as anyone in our nation's history has been for a long time.  We say, "How could the Republicans have picked such a horrible person to be their standard-bearer?"

But we're still missing the most important point.  While Trump is a scoundrel of the first order, and makes no pretense at being otherwise, both he as an individual, and the views he espouses, DO represent the very essence and substance of what the Republican Party has stood for and tried to accomplish at least as far back in our lifetimes as Ronald Reagan, and with only a couple of exceptions for over a hundred years.  Trump as a man and as a candidate is not an aberration; he is the apotheosis of the social, economic, and moral philosophy his party embodies.  The biggest difference between him and other Republican candidates and presidents who have appeared to be reasonable and respectable is that he makes no pretense at being those things, because reason and respectability have no meaningful place within the party.  The core values of the Republican Party he represents are entirely in keeping with his personality.  

What are those core values?  What is it that makes people vote for a Republican in the first place?  Mostly this--Fear.  Fear of change, fear of the future, fear of newcomers, fear and hatred of people who look and believe differently, fear of real or perceived threats to our national security, fear of threats to our pocketbooks.  Republicans pander to all the prejudices that are based on religion, race, and contempt for the poor.  Most of all, Republicans worship wealth for its own sake.  The typical Republican voter is essentially, in his or her tiny heart of hearts, frightened, greedy, selfish, small-minded, and pissed off.  Pushing the buttons that evoke these emotions and reactions have been the mainstays of all Republican campaigns for as far back as any of us can remember.  And this year, more than ever, if you could give a truth serum to the average Republican voter, he'd say something like this:  "It's bad enough that a nigger has been president for eight years, but now they want to put a bitch into the office.  Enough is enough."

Previous GOP candidates have pandered to these core party values or disguised them with code words, by claiming that they stand for a return to the Glories of the Past, or for Law and Order, or for Family Values.  Most importantly, they've effectively used The Big Lie--the idea that the more extravagant and colossal a lie is, the more people will be convinced that no one could have the impudence to distort the truth so drastically, and that therefore it must not be a lie. They've rationalized tax cuts for the wealthy by promising Trickle Down Economics, and they've justified cuts in aid to the poor by claiming that the middle class is losing all its money to cheats, leeches, and losers at the bottom end of the income scale.  They've destroyed trade unions by promoting so-called Right to Work laws and by declaring that workers are paid too much and have too much power over their masters.  They've put Wall Street speculators in charge of pensions.  They've destroyed reasonable government oversight of the production and sale of food, drugs, and energy by declaring that Washington has too much power over competition in the marketplace.  They've stoked our fear of foreigners.  They've consistently deluded our military personnel by placing them in wretched, no-win situations that encourage and empower young people to commit atrocities.  Then when they come home permanently warped and disfigured, they repeat, ad nauseam, that these children have served honorably in the cause of Preserving our Freedom as a Nation and encourage us to thank them for it, lest anyone who returns from these horrible pointless wars, or their friends and families, should question the wisdom of their having been sent there in the first place.  The Republicans have, in short, placed foxes in charge of virtually all the hen houses we maintain as a nation for the good of the general public, by reasoning that, after all, foxes are smarter, stronger, and more resourceful than chickens are.  And Republican voters have believed all these abominable lies.  A few have profited handsomely from them, and the majority are worse off than ever, without knowing why--still not getting it, but still, above all, believing that the fault lies with those who are darker-skinned and poorer even than they are. 

So the wonder of the Trump candidacy isn't how a guy like that gets to lead his party, but rather how the GOP has managed NOT to have a Trump before--how it has succeeded in disguising its true motives and garbing them in respectability up to now.  Donald Trump isn't an anomaly--he's the perfect personification of Republicanism, without any cover-up, without any pretense at fairness or decency.  Republicans who think he doesn't represent them should take a good look not at him but at themselves, and if they really think the lies, hatred, disrespect, and absurdity he spouts on a daily basis don't represent their own beliefs, they should consider changing parties.  

Donald Trump is reminiscent of a scene from a cheesy movie about Satan, when the devil disguised as an ordinary human being is unmasked, however briefly, to reveal beneath his bland face the hideousness of true evil.  Or maybe he's like the picture of Dorian Grey, in the upstairs room, that bears all the ravages of time and dissolution and immoral deeds committed by its seemingly ever-youthful and handsome subject.  Either way, Donald Trump is the true face of the Republican Party in America.  If it horrifies or puzzles you, then don't blame him.  Blame the party whose standard he bears.  There is no "good" Republican Party, no "decent" Republican Party, no "traditional" Republican Party whose message he has distorted and misused and misappropriated.  There is only the party of Donald Trump, out there for all to see.

1 comment:

William Kriss said...

Tragically, very well put. And since this latest post from September, things continue to move in an ever accelerating downward spiral into the sewer. Is there no end to this? How low does it go? The other day I saw T-Rump pretty much claim to be equal to Jesus Christ as the only deity type who can be the savior of America, while scenes of engagement in “locker room” banter graced the air waves and multiple people claim to have been assaulted. Even when T-Rump loses, I foresee his minions causing all kinds of chaos because, of course, the election is rigged.