In 2016, the presidential election became electric. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have separately disrupted the fixed matchup of another Clinton and another Bush, and flat-footed, for now, the mainstream consensus about everything from who ...
In 2016, the presidential election became electric.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have separately disrupted the fixed matchup of another Clinton and another Bush, and flat-footed, for now, the mainstream consensus about everything from who can be elected and what they can’t say, to what Americans want from both their leaders and their political process.
The Iowa caucus is days away, and what was laughable in the springtime now looks entirely plausible. Meaning upsets, betrayals, collapses and mis-coronations — all of which works well as pure drama.
Frank Rich is the perfect person to watch this shaggy-dog primary as a theater piece. At TheNew York Times, Rich began as a theater critic, then grew into the paper’s leading columnist who saw a mix of policy and performance, news and entertainment.
Today he practices both, with a column at New York Magazine and as executive producer of Veep, HBO’s fictional sendup of the very real pettiness, over-packaging and obscurity of our politics.
There’s more than a few irresistible storylines so far in this reality show of a primary process (and it’s still early).
If Jeb Bush were caught, on a secret recording, dissing John McCain for getting captured by the North Vietnamese, he’d be denounced by every Republican living, even his dad. If Ted Cruz told a female staffer she’d look ...
So why is that from the billionaire candidate Donald Trump, wide-open narcissism, sexism, and anti-Mexican racism are accepted, even applauded? Maybe because Trump fits so comfortably into a mood of malcontent skepticism. Think George Wallace and Curtis LeMay before him: crazy or cynical, maybe, but in a familiar, American way.
So this week we’re looking for the many meanings in the Donald’s for-now popularity, and asking what his long candidacy might mean a new understanding of what America’s looking forward after Obama. So with historians Rick Perlsteinand Heather Cox Richardson, and a chorus of voices, let us count the ways.
1. Trump’s a TV brand.
Trump has brought a certain televisual atmosphere with him — the look of entertainment news, The Apprentice and advertising, roasts and resort vacations — into an otherwise stale and overcrowded horse race. Our guest Jeet Heer says the Trump candidacy works like professional wrestling — it becomes scripted battle, and spectacularly vulgar. (We shouldn’t forget Trump himself has thrown a few punches at Wrestlemania.)
2. He’s a high-school archetype.
The novelist of Election and screenwriter Tom Perrotta told us that Trump’s a kind of callback to high school: the entitled-and-he-knows-it prom king who has the car, the girl and the grades (despite not working). And all he sees around him are losers. Look at Trump’s first appearance in the New York Times: at age 27, already with a monogram license plate on his Cadillac.
3. He’s an aspirational figure.
Through it all, says Mark Singer of The New Yorker (who’s gone ten rounds with Trump), Trump represents a hypercharged version of the American dream that appeals to blue-collar voters, what Rick Perlstein called “a poor person’s version of a rich person”: he bet on himself, against the odds, damned the doubters, and built what they call a “personal brand” long before that was mainstream. Now he flies a jet with his name on it, and he’s willing to lie or go bankrupt to keep the show going.
4. He’s a truth-teller in a corrupt country.
Trump is leveraging Citizens United the way Stephen Colbertdid before him: slamming our “broken” system and at the same time proving it’s broken by his mere presence. Trump donated to the Clinton Foundation, so the Clintons came to his wedding (see above). Before they were adversaries, Gov. Scott Walker gave him a thank-you plaque for his support — now Trump won’t let him forget it.
5. He’s a populist clown — and some clowns are scary.
Trump’s not alone: he’s part of a global class of outré anti-political politicians. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, once the Senate’s hippie scold, has preached socialism to a hundred thousand Americans on the trail. Rob Ford, Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor, remains a city councillor. For now Italy’s second-place pol is the ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, and Geert Wilders, a xenophobe with almost Trumpian hair, is way up in the Netherlands.
But Buruma conjures prior clowns with a caution: Hitler, Mussolini, and Putin were all laughingstocks before they won power — on an aura of emotional connection with their people and a promise of national resurrection. All this, Buruma’s clear, is not to call Trump Hitler, but to remind us that outrageous demagogues can turn serious in a hurry. The dynamics of The Great Dictator are in play:
Arizona’s 8th Congressional District stretches north from the border to a bit of the southern Tucson suburbs, but a Democrat up in Tucson doesn’t necessarily want the same things as a Democrat down south. Tucson ...
Arizona’s 8th Congressional District stretches north from the border to a bit of the southern Tucson suburbs, but a Democrat up in Tucson doesn’t necessarily want the same things as a Democrat down south. Tucson Democrats, explained Michael Marizco, author of Border Reporter, are more likely to volunteer to come south to supply water stations for border crossers; along the border, Democrats and Republicans both are more likely to have had their houses broken into as the same crossers emerge from the desert, desperate for food. In any case, Marizco believes, the closer you live to the border, the more likely you are to believe that the current policy of law enforcement isn’t working.
According to The Arizona Daily Star, Republican Randy Graf has made border security the centerpiece of his campaign, but trails Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, even among voters who say immigration is an important issue. The GOP has pulled advertising support from Graf’s campaign but can’t have given up completely; Graf has a local fundraiser scheduled with Karl Rove.
Marizco, no softy on border issues, believes the only solution is a guest worker program. How does the immigration debate change as you move toward the border, from up here in Boston down to Arizona, and from Tucson down to Douglas? What does a district that lives the border issue every day think about the national border postures of both parties?
Blake Morlock, GOP committee’s foray into CD8 like a bad hangover, Tucson Citizen, September 25, 2006: “Maybe you know this guy. He’s drunk, walks into your house late at night, breaks something, tries to put it back together but makes a bigger mess. Then he leaves loudly and knocks over a trash can, waking neighbors as he disappears into the night.That’s how the National Republican Congressional Committee entered and then left the race to replace retiring Republican congressman Jim Kolbe.”
GOP Coming; Giffords Playing Huffman Dodgeball, Arizona 8th, September 26, 2006: “A recent GOP fundraiser where Click announced his “150%” support for Graf is another indicator that the party is coming together and making an effort to repair the damage inflicted during the primary.”
Jim Nintzel, High noon for immigration, Salon, October 2, 2006: “Democrats are poised to pick up a U.S. House seat in Arizona. Can Republican Randy Graf stop them by exploiting voters’ fears of illegal immigrants?”
AZ-8: GOP Wounds Healed?, Real Clear Politics, September 8, 2006: “Giffords, the Democrat, focused on Iraq and healthcare during the primary, but is now going to be in a contest where immigration dominates the political landscape.”
Marie Horrigan, Conservative Graf Scores Win Over Moderate in Arizona’s 8th, CQPolitics.com, September 13, 2006: “The race turned decidedly negative in recent weeks, with the National Republican Campaign Committee taking the unusual step of choosing sides in a primary race by launching ads supporting Huffman.”
Daniel Scarpinato, Demos find border a top issue in rural areas, Arizona Daily Star, June 18, 2006: “Elsewhere, [Democrats] use words like compromise and comprehensive. In this neck of the woods, Democrats talk enforcement.”
Mickey Kaus, Frist Fence Fakeout?, Slate, September 25, 2006: “Has Sen. Frist given up on the border fence? It sure sounded that way on George Stephanopoulos’ This Week.”
This fall we’ll go state by state, examining some of the most contested Congressional and gubernatorial races in the country. Tuesday we start with the Rhode Island Senate race between Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee and ...
This fall we’ll go state by state, examining some of the most contested Congressional and gubernatorial races in the country. Tuesday we start with the Rhode Island Senate race between Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee and his Democratic challenger, former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse.
Chafee is sometimes seen as a maverick – he was the only Republican Senator to vote against the Iraq war, and wrote in George H.W. Bush for President in 2004 – but his primary campaign was staged with the full weight of Karl Rove and the Republican party behind him. Strategists consider Chafee’s seat, one of 55 held by Republicans, among the most vulnerable of 15 GOP-held spots up for grabs. But Election Wiki contributor Old Doc Keller writes:
[The race is] too close to call, since Rhode Islanders value Chafee’s independence while disliking the policies of the administration his party supports, but do not yet have faith that Whitehouse will be able to change the balance of power in Washington.
Can Whitehouse win “the Chafee seat”? Will Rhode Islanders choose Chafee for his politics or reject him for his party’s? Is this an opportunity to re-invigorate the state’s small but feisty Republican party?
If you’re in Rhode Island and you’d like to weigh in, leave a comment here and contribute to our Election Wiki here.
We recorded Blogger Gail Murray, Common Sense Evangelist, earlier today. She’s been living in West Greenwich, RI for 34 years and she has great insight as to how things have changed. We love the tape but we couldn’t figure out how we would integrate it into the show. We encourage you to take two minutes and ten seconds out of your day to give Gail’s interview a listen.
Click to listen to Gail Murray (1.2 MB MP3)
Update, 9/26/06, 8:02 pm
Special thanks to David Ivanick, who recorded our Providence sound.
Extra Credit Reading
For a full reading list, check out the The 2006 Election Wiki.Chuck Nevola, A Modest Proposal, The Senescent Man, September 14, 2006: “I agree that we’d be better off with a Democrat who is at least vulnerable in 6 years as opposed to 6 more years of Chafee. I mean, I’ll have wait 12 years to see a chance at a real Republican in that seat. By then I’ll be gumming my food and too arthritic to write a word.”
Jim Baron, Difference between Senate candidates likely too subtle for average voters, The Woonsocket Call, September 18, 2006: “Whitehouse’s One Big Issue is that if you elect Lincoln Chafee, you are voting to put Republicans in charge of the Senate for two more years to advance the agenda of President George W. Bush and the right wing. I hate to break it to you folks, but that is not only the One Big Issue of this senatorial campaign, it is virtually the only one.”
Matt Jerzyk, And So Begins the War: Chafee v. Whitehouse, RI Future, September 14, 2006: “Can the Democratic education effort aimed at convincing voters that Chafee is pro-Bush and Whitehouse is anti-Bush actually work?”
Mark Comtois, Lessons Learned, Anchor Rising, September 13, 2006: “I guess that perhaps I did learn one lesson: while not ideologically conservative, Rhode Islanders are functionally conservative. They go to the polls and reafirm their support for the Kennedy’s and the Chafee’s every 2, 4, 6 years. They like their patricians.”
Brian McGuirk, A Democrat critiques Chafee’s progressive apologists, briSite, April 30, 2006: “Chafee’s deal with the Senate Republican leadership is this: given the small Republican majority in the Senate, Chafee allows bills and amendments that…he personally opposes to get to the Senate floor anyway, and, after that, he’s free to vote as he wishes while the Republican majority passes the legislation.”