What Worries Me About What’s-His-Face
Yesterday, I sarcastically tweeted that more has been written about Donald Trump in the past three months than all collected writing on any topic between the beginning of history and the year 2000. It seems that way. He provokes something in seemingly everyone and spews forth at such a rate that by the time the media is covering the latest provocation, he’s on to something new and better. He’s outpacing the news cycle and almost outpacing social media.
The Don may be the first politician to combine the worst of the past four decades into one id-driven monster— he embodies the excessive greed (and tasteless aesthetic) of the ‘80s financial class, the crass narcissism of ‘90s reality-show culture, the post-factual political tribalism of the 2000s and the virality of today’s social media. None of this is good.
If elected, he would be the most dangerous president ever, no question. But even as a candidate, he is doing severe damage. Ignoring the obvious, easy attacks on Trump the man, here are three things that give me an uneasy feeling in my gut:
Lack of Oxygen
Hardly anything currently being discussed that helps make our country better. Instead of talking about education, poverty and foreign policy, we’re talking about men’s locker rooms, re-litigating Bill’s Clinton’s infidelities and fact-checking a human random-reality generator. Sensation trumps content. The windbag is burning up the oxygen, and everything that is real and important is dying of asphyxiation.
The One-Party System
Ideally, the U.S. would have a political system that supported more than two viable parties. But we like it simple—we like a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” “Us” vs “Them” is an easy story to tell and simplifies our choices. And our two-party system is the minimum required for maintaining balance with extreme forces pulling in opposite directions.
But as an increasing number of prominent GOP voices dump Trump, there is talk of the GOP losing not just the presidency (which is feeling foregone), but Congress too. Dems are getting jittery with glee. I’m wary.
One of the great successes of the American system (and we’re only a couple hundred years into this experiment) is that the pendulum never swings too wildly. In the grand scheme of things, our electable candidates are more alike than different, our legislative course corrections are usually just minor adjustments. We’re fairly straight and narrow. Not awesome for rapid progress, but great for stability.
So anything that makes the pendulum start to swing wider makes me nervous. A landslide reaction to Trump which gives the left an overwhelming majority could easily be offset by an even stronger swing the other direction eight years from now. Big swings are fun in baseball in boxing, not so much in government.
The Trump Effect
The legitimization of racism. The normalization of hate. The acceptance of anger as a campaign platform. The (further) degradation of political discourse. The (further) move away from fact-based reality into opinion-based reality. Further proof that money, bluster and a willing tribe will get you 90% of the way there. There are a thousand theories about what the Trump’s candidacy means now and later. We’re in the Eye of the Hairicane™ at the moment, so it’s hard to know which predictions will play out. The most frightening are those that haven’t been imagined yet, because so much of this circus has been defined by “Well, it certainly can’t get any worse than this,” only to be proven wrong a day later. Who knows what the heck the true impact will be, but we can be certain that the term “Trump Effect” will be in our vernacular for the next half-decade, maybe longer. And it won’t describe anything good.