By Michael Howard
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz loves Donald Trump. Loves him. Know why? Because he has effectively guaranteed another Democratic presidency. Your own reasons for loving him, however, needn’t be so cynical, and I’ll tell you why.
By pushing the rhetoric so far outside the bounds of seriousness, and consequently dominating the media, Donald Trump has forced the other crackpots running for the Republican ticket to more or less abandon any pretense of credibility.
Trump, in other words, has hijacked the right (space, not morals) side of the election. In order to keep up, his competition has had no choice but to prove to the American people that he’s not the only one who can say shockingly stupid things. We can be absurd too! has been the GOP field’s indignant response to Trump’s electoral blitzkrieg.
The best article that I’ve read about the 2016 election was a short piece by Christopher Orr in The Atlantic, where he used the movie Caddyshack as a (rather profound) analogy for the GOP race.
In Orr’s analogy, the Republican Party is Bushwood (the exclusive country club where the film is set), and Trump is Al Czervik, the obnoxious outsider played by Rodney Dangerfield. Czervik’s personality is not one that the stuffy Bushwood members would normally countenance—he is rude, crude, and disrespectful to the social elite. But he has money, which means he can say and do whatever he wants.
According to Orr, Trump is “basically a real-life Czervik: rich, yes, but an aggressive anti-snob who says whatever the hell he pleases and misses no opportunity to stick it to the establishment.”
Which is why so many genuinely progressive people were – and perhaps still are – excited about Trump’s campaign. The initial hope was that he would eventually jump ship and run as a legitimate third party candidate, taking a good chunk of Republican voters with him and thus breaking up the unholy GOP. This would in turn threaten to subvert the inveterate two-party (or two-factions-of-the-same-party) political structure that makes real change in this country so impossible.
Unfortunately, Trump has assured the Republican National Committee that he will do no such thing. Disappointing, surely; but it doesn’t mean that his campaign is totally worthless.
During the first Republican debate last August, Trump pulled a Czervik, and made some heads in Washington explode, when he explained to the millions of people watching that the American political system is essentially founded on graft.
Here’s how it works. People like Trump – billionaires who dictate our economy – give money to politicians. In exchange for their charity, they receive political favors. That is the American system in a nutshell. Political influence is purchased; it’s a commodity, like healthcare.
This is how The Donald himself put it: “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”
Need a concrete example? Alright. Here’s Trump again: “Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding, and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave [money to the Clinton Foundation].”
How many times have you heard a presidential frontrunner speak so candidly about the inner workings of the Beltway? How many times have you heard one assert that the entire political system is “broken”? For all his vulgarity, Trump sometimes represents a flicker of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel—which in this context is very dark indeed.
Who else but Trump could have thrown the GOP into an existential panic? Who else could have exposed Jeb Bush as the feckless dullard that he is? Without Trump, Jeb would probably have cruised to the Republican nomination, and we’d have had a race between political dynasties.
It has been said, and should be repeated, that Trump is no crazier than his fellow GOP candidates. This is true. The basic difference between him and them is that his absurdities aren’t mitigated by a sheen of political class professionalism—he’s vulgar, he’s glib, and he doesn’t care who knows it. He’s lowered the bar and dared the others to limbo under it.
Some have taken the bait (Ben Carson hit the nadir with his anecdotes about his past life as a homicidal lunatic). Jeb Bush has not.
A classic, establishment politician, Jeb has stuck to the script, and has therefore suffered more than anyone from Trump’s invasion.
Americans, it seems, are getting fed up with the old image of what a president should look, act, and speak like. They’re also tired of having their public officials chosen for them. Jeb Bush represents the old guard of American politics—those who continue to give us inequality and war under the guise of Realpolitik. That his campaign has gone up in smoke is a positive circumstance. It implies progress. And Trump, more than anything else, is responsible. Whether or not he intended it that way is immaterial.
Owing to Trump’s antics, Hillary Rodham Clinton – Jeb’s female, Democratic counterpart – has thus far been allowed to fly mostly below the radar, and she is very grateful for that. Fox News et al. couldn’t even make the email scandal stick. After all, who gives a shit about emails when we’ve got Trump prescribing a moratorium on Muslim immigrants? If we are to believe the media, we may have a Hitlerian situation on our hands. That’s the juicier story. Until very recently, all Clinton has had to do is sit back and enjoy the circus. She can no longer afford to do so, of course, because of Bernie Sanders—a sort of Czervik lite. But I digress.
Because he has decided to go full demagogue, a lot of people actually believe that Donald Trump is the second coming of Adolf Hitler. Hillary’s cheerleaders in the media – MSNBC, CNN, Slate, the Nation, etc. – have done much to promulgate this notion. As an avid reader of popular news media, you would be hard-pressed to go more than a couple days without coming across a new (but not really) article about Trump’s fascistic qualities. It is the prevailing point of view among self-proclaimed liberals and leftists. A vote for Trump, we are assured, is a vote for Nazism. If we aren’t vigilant, there will be brown-shirted thugs patrolling our streets, smashing the windows of Muslim businesses.
So, Trump doesn’t stand a chance of winning a general election. Big sigh of relief, right? Not really. Considering his likely opponent (the Rodham woman), I’m not convinced that this is necessarily a good thing. In fact, lately, the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency isn’t so utterly terrifying to me.
Because lost in all of his vile rhetoric about Mexicans and Muslims is the fact that, occasionally, Trump makes a lot of sense—on really important issues.
During last December’s Republican debate, he said this: “In my opinion, we’ve spent $4-trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4-trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.”
Trump continued: “We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to the Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory. It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4-trillion or $5-trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart.”
Now, keep the foregoing in mind while you consider that Hillary Clinton is still defending her decision to militarily “intervene” in Libya. Which candidate is making more sense – both morally and practically speaking – on foreign policy? Which candidate, based on what we know, is more likely to kill scores of people in the Middle East with bombs and drone strikes? Has Hillary ever expressed anything approaching sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of people the United States government has killed since 9/11? Answer key: question one: Trump. Question two and three: Hillary, and no.
Trump took a lot of heat recently (from both the right and the left) because he doesn’t sufficiently despise Vladimir Putin. But why should he? Why shouldn’t the U.S., as Trump suggests, cooperate with Moscow on the Syrian quagmire? We have a mutual enemy. What is the use in resurrecting the Cold War? See, unlike his new peers, Trump is not obsessed with world domination. A conflict with Russia is, to put it mildly, dangerous. It should be avoided at all costs. This is common sense.
Where else is Trump making common sense points? On Syria, he has said: we can’t fight ISIS and Assad at the same time; ISIS is the priority. Nuclear proliferation: it is, in Trump’s words, “the biggest problem that our country faces right now.” (He could have substituted “humanity” for “our country,” but hey, nobody’s perfect.) Regime change: it evidently does not work.
The point is this. Trump may be grotesque, but it is only because he parades his grotesquery that we care so much about it. Hillary Clinton is grotesque in more consequential ways (what is more grotesque than killing and maiming people with bombs?), but she is a public relations pro—she knows what she has to say, and how she has to say it, to convince the average voter of her nonexistent benevolence.
The majority of voters are myopic: they care only about what they can see. Which is why Hillary and her establishment ilk can get away with taking remarkably militant and retrograde positions on momentous issues like foreign policy. The American people don’t understand, and don’t have the patience to learn about, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and Yemen and Libya and Palestine—therefore, they’ll take people like Hillary’s word for it.
For most Americans, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric (which, again, is mere demagogy) is more offensive than Hillary’s record as a cold-blooded war hawk. Religious discrimination is despicable, yes—but war, surely, is much, much worse. And what about when the people on the receiving end of that war are almost exclusively Arab Muslims? Call me crazy, but that sounds like racist, “Islamophobic” warfare.
Speaking of anti-Muslim bigotry, we should not forget that Hillary is a Zionist and a fervent supporter of the Israeli theft of Palestinian land. More succinctly: she hates Palestinians. How else can we make sense of her recent promise to be a “better friend” to Israel than Obama has been?
Let’s be clear: Obama has done absolutely nothing to redress Palestinian suffering. In fact, he has actively perpetuated it. Exercising his veto power, Obama killed a 2011 UN Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.
In the summer of 2014, while Israeli missiles rained down on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (killing over 2000 people, most of them civilians), Obama refused to join the rest of the world in condemning Israel’s excessive use of force. Hillary, taking a more callous line, denounced the global condemnation as “uncalled for and unfair”—a profound statement of empathetic concern from the left’s feminist superstar.
Part and parcel of the status quo I mentioned before – the one Hillary and her cronies mean to preserve – is of course the noxious Israel Lobby, which more or less dictates U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. As long as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its subsidiaries are calling the shots, Israel will have carte blanche, and Palestinians will continue to be plundered and imprisoned and murdered on a routine basis. War with Iran will remain a very real prospect, too. (On that note, it is worth recalling who Hillary, during the first Democratic debate, cited as having been proud to make enemies with: “The Iranians.” Wonderful. Why do they hate us again?)
A meaningful shift in U.S. foreign policy presupposes the fall of the Israel Lobby. That’s a fact. And the fall of the Israel Lobby presupposes a president who openly flouts the longstanding Zionist influence on Washington. Trump might actually be cocky enough to do that, in which case he would be a (legitimate) progressive hero.
This Lobby is not infallible—the Iran nuclear deal taught us as much. Is AIPAC on the ropes? Not quite. But you can bet that they’re wary of Trump’s Czervikian brand of politics, and understandably so. For them, Hillary Clinton is a safe bet; Trump is a dangerous outlier. And what’s dangerous for the Lobby is generally good for the world.
While there is a small possibility that Donald Trump is every bit the menacing fascist that the “liberal” media makes him out to be, I’m not convinced. What I do know is that Trump is unpredictable. This rightly scares the oligarchs and plutocrats who profit from the current system and refuse to see it altered. But it also scares the American public, who have been conditioned by the media (i.e. the aforementioned oligarchs and plutocrats) to fear change.
If Trump is scary, it’s because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about half the time; he’s a chowderhead with no experience and no policy initiatives. We simply have no idea what he would do as president of the United States. It’s safe to assume that he would not be a “good” president—but what does that even mean at this point?
Is Barack Obama a good president? If bombing seven (yes, seven) different countries, bailing out Wall Street miscreants with tax payer dollars, selling weapons of significant destruction to rogue states like Saudi Arabia, and serving the interests of the moneyed minority with agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership is what good presidents do, then yes, Obama is a good president. Of course, in that case, we’ll have to rethink the definition of “good,” as it has taken on decidedly negative connotations.
Let’s suppose, in what is sure to be a counterfactual, that Trump actually won the presidency. On the whole, a pretty disturbing circumstance. Might it be disturbing enough to shake the majority of American people out of their complacency? Imagine that. Donald Trump is our president—what in God’s name is going on here? Something would have to be done; things would have to change. It might galvanize the public into action. People might get organized; they might demand real representation. They might acknowledge that, because they have permitted the political and economic elites to run roughshod over them for so long, an ignorant blowhard like Donald Trump was the logical conclusion to the general disaffection.
In other words, a Donald Trump presidency might teach us all a very, very valuable lesson. At the risk of being called a fascist, I say bring it on.
Michael Howard is a freelance writer from Buffalo, New York.