Monday, August 15, 2016

Larger than that little office

Yeah, I know I said I would mostly ignore the presidential candidates...

But what's up with Donald Trump?

He lies, he tells vile jokes. The GOP establishment is appalled.

Let's start with the "jokes." Trump says, in an offhand way, that Hillary Clinton should be taken out. He says Obama is the founder of ISIS (Hillary too) and then claims it was sarcasm.

Jason Steed replies through a series of tweets. He did his dissertation on the social function of humor. Racist jokes, for example, define an in-group, an out-group, and then spread the idea that it is good to alienate people by race, that racism is acceptable. All such jokes do something similar. The out-group is appalled and for that the speaker says, "just joking," defending the joke. The in-group doesn't need the defense, they got the message loud and clear. Thus "just joking" is not is not an excuse. Trump is using humor to define his in-group.

Then there is his comment about Hillary and Second Amendment people. Many media sources decided it was ambiguous enough to let it pass. Melissa McEwen of Shakesville says nope. His meaning was clear. Trump is calling for violent incitement against Hillary using Stochastic Terrorism. Trump's message is vague enough to provide him with plausible deniability because he didn't address a particular person or group. But the message is plain enough that there is a reasonable expectation that someone will do the deed.

The message is plain enough that the NRA bought $3 million of advertising for Trump. Excuse me for a moment while I go turn off the irony alarm. The NRA ad says Clinton is "out of touch" because she lives under Secret Service protection – which is needed because the NRA is pushing such easy access to guns.

McEwen is appalled at the way this is playing out in media. They are debating what Trump meant. But little to nothing is said about Hillary, the target or about the Secret Service agents who have the task of getting between Hillary and a bullet. No one is talking about how Hillary now must campaign under this threat or to debate the guy who called for her to be killed.

Then that thing about Obama being the founder of ISIS. McEwen says this also is incitement. Trump is declaring Obama to be a terrorist. And Trump has already said plenty about what he is going to do to terrorists.

Is the media discussing this? The top story at CNN appears to be Hillary's emails. There is a lot of digging into the email non-issue while little is said about Trump calling for the assassination of his opponent and calling the president a terrorist to be eliminated. Oh, that's just Trump. McEwen, discussing what is acceptable behavior in a candidate, replied,
At this point, we've moved the goalposts so far they're not even in the stadium anymore. They're on Neptune.

Some of Trump supporters are saying don't worry, Trump will have advisors so he won't say and do these nasty things. Pardon me, but he has advisors now and is ignoring them. What makes you think he'll listen to them while in office?

I heard last week that Trump appeals to those who are left out of the current economic recovery (and haven't made much gains in the 25 years before then). We should acknowledge their economic pain while pushing the message that Trump's proposed policies are pretty close to the GOP policies that got the working poor in to this mess. The only way Trump's ideas would impact the poor is to make their situation worse.

But Terrence Heath, in his personal blog, reviews latest polls and says Trump's appeal isn't economic, it is racism.
What appalls the rest of us feeds the ardor of Trump’s base, because at his most crass and vulgar he is saying and doing what they long to, and he’s saying it to the entire country on their behalf — and winning, at least in the primaries. He is their hero, because he gets away with it where they can’t.

Trump may be using racism to sell himself to the GOP base, but that’s only because it works. It works because Republicans spent decades making sure it would.
And if Trump loses? He says he'll go play golf. But Heath doubts that. Trump is energizing these people and Trump will probably continue to do so after the election.

About that losing thing...

Lots of GOP politicians are now disavowing Trump. Many more are being asked if calling for the death of your opponent or calling the president a terrorist doesn't cross the line, the one that causes someone to say you've gone to far, what does? And what does that say about your own morals?

And recent polls, including Fivethirtyeight, say Trump is losing badly.

Back to my question: What's up with Trump?

Peter Daou is a former advisor to Hillary and to John Kerry. He is also the CEO of Blue Nation Review. He has been studying what Trump is doing. And he has an idea.

Trump's campaign isn't about winning the presidency. It is about awakening the white supremacist movement, calling them to arms, and perhaps becoming the leader of the new movement. Win the presidency? That would be great! Lose it? No matter, the real goal is so much larger than that little office. The things he is doing don't make sense for someone campaigning to be president. They do make sense for someone using the platform of a presidential campaign to incite a white supremacist uprising.

Consider all those "jokes" and ...
his meticulously crafted words of incitement and exhortations to violence; his attacks on a federal judge; his description of President Obama as a terrorist (the “founder of ISIS”); his birtherism; his eliminationist language toward Hillary Clinton; his fierce misogyny and indifference to sexual harassment; his feud with the Khan family; his Muslim ban; his use of anti-Semitic symbols; his embrace of torture; his capriciousness about the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons; his praise for dictators; his flirtations with Putin and Russian hackers; his undiluted xenophobia; his racist dog whistles (“look at my African-American”); his infamous border wall and relentless anti-Mexican bigotry; his claims of a “rigged” election; his unconcealed calls for voter intimidation; his refusal to disavow ties to white supremacists.
...use the language of the Tea Party and white supremacists. It is increasingly hard to believe all this is accidental and unintentional. And what that is doing is pivoting us towards his bigotry, making extremism mainstream. The "law and order" candidate is using the language of lawlessness.

And white nationalists here and abroad love him for it.

Is this claim over the top? Has Daou read the situation all wrong? If Daou is right, Trump won't go play golf in November. He'll be quite active in guiding the hornet's nest he has stirred up.

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