Make no mistake about it, the message is driving the Trump Train far more than the messenger
A friend of mine – a Tea Party activist for whom and with whom any kind of rational, logical political/cultural/religious conversation is literally impossible – sent out an email blast one evening earlier this week to excitedly alert those of us fortunate enough to be on his mailing list that MSNBC was carrying Donald Trump’s latest ode to white privilege live from Somewhere, Iowa.
He closed his email by saying that “The Trump Train is pulling out of the station. Get on board now or get left behind.”
I find myself being “left behind” far more frequently these days. A fellow practitioner of my religious faith who buys into the biblically and theologically bogus notion of “The Rapture” not many weeks ago told me that I needed to “get on board” lest I be “left behind” when “the trump shall sound.”
Yes, in many southern religious circles, the word “trumpet” is shortened to “trump” when this phrasing is used; I’ll let the reader deal with the bountiful ironies. Now, by email, I was being told by another friend that I needed to “get on board” the “Trump Train” lest I be “left behind” when, I suppose, “the Trump shall sound.”
My only consolation in being so often “left behind” comes from knowing that I like where I am more than I think I would like wherever these two friends of mine are going.
It comes as no surprise to me that so many right-wing, Republican/Conservative types are taking such great delight in watching every clip of every interview, every speech, or every Q&A that features Donald Trump.
Nor does it surprise me that several of The Donald’s competitors for the Republican presidential nomination, feeling a bit, uh, “left behind” by his meteoric rise in the polls, are doing all they can to dismiss both him and his sudden emergence as the front-runner in what has truly become the Clown Car Campaign.
Rand Paul tried to explain away the Trump phenomenon by falling back on the trope that America is “a culture of celebrity.” But, if Senator Paul is that obtuse, and he is not known as a particularly discerning member of Congress, he needs to immediately close down his presidential campaign operation, resign from the United States Senate and get that Thorazine scrip filled.
Senator Paul and the rest of the Republican field may wish that Trump’s popularity is occasioned by his “celebrity” status, but my guess is that most of them know better.
Donald Trump’s attraction to Republicans, Tea Partiers, Flat-Earthers, Birthers, White Citizens Councils, Oath-Keepers, Militia Groups and the innumerable other elements of America’s increasingly angry/fearful/visceral/creepy/scary right-wing extremist community goes far beyond celebrity.
That Trump is a bigger-than-life figure certainly enhances the opportunity for his message to be heard, but make no mistake about it; the message far more than the messenger is driving the Trump Train.
In response to The Donald’s mind-bending call to immediately identify, locate and deport the over 11 million undocumented persons who currently reside in the U.S., the audience at his televised traveling tent show in Iowa applauded, cheered and engaged – pep-rally style – in a variety of chants such as “Round ’em up” and “Send ’em back.”
His characterization of Hispanic immigrants as being “rapists,” “murderers,” “drug-dealers,” and “gang-members” who, if allowed to stay, will render America “unrecognizable” to “the rest of us” was met with the same applause, the same cheers and the same chants of “Round ’em up” and “Send ’em back.”
And when he followed that up with a promise that “We’re Gonna’ Take America Back,” anyone present would have been justified in calling 911 and asking for a veterinarian – the crowd went rabid.
The visceral energy in the room was palpable. Those present at that rally in Somewhere, Iowa earlier this week were not applauding, cheering, chanting and even shouting “Amen” – for the religiously inattentive, “Amen” means “So be it!” – because Donald Trump is a “celebrity.”
They were applauding, cheering, chanting and even shouting “Amen” because they reflexively and viscerally resonate to his nativist, racist message.
When Trump goes xenophobic, he is speaking the language of the American White Right. When Trump goes nativist, he is speaking the language of the American White Right. When Trump goes racist, he is speaking the language of the American White Right. He has become The Voice of the American White Right, a group that thinks it hasn’t been listened to in a long time.
A Greenfield, New Hampshire resident, Lisa Carey, was asked by a New York Times reporter why she thought The Donald’s support remained so high, despite statements that range from the mildly insensitive to the grossly offensive. She said, “As inappropriate as some of his comments are, I think it’s stuff that a lot of people are thinking but afraid to say.”
As I said, he is speaking their language. He is giving voice to that about which they most passionately feel.
Unfortunately, in bringing that language back into the mainstream of the American Conversation, he has implicitly given fearful, ignorant white people permission to hang up their hoods and sheets, come out of the closet and publicly, even proudly, affirm that they have passionately embraced their darkest angels
It is not that nativism and racism have been resurrected, they never died and, for that matter, they have never been that far away. They have just been lying low in the viscera of white American conservatives, occasionally finding subtle and/or nuanced expression in the political choices and policies of the entitled/privileged.
But the dynamic has now changed. Nativism/racism and the obscene language/disgusting policies that give tangible expression to them have had the imprimatur of the Republican Party suddenly bestowed upon them and, with it, a measure of legitimacy. Looking for evidence of it? Just take a few moments and browse through some of the message boards on the Internet.
The man who called forth those darkest angels is, at this moment, polling at 24% of registered Republican voters and has a lead of 11% over his nearest competitor, the lifeless, bloodless, passionless Jeb Bush! On this Friday night past, he drew a crowd of 25,000 to a campaign rally held in a football stadium in Alabama. One could only watch and listen in wonderment.
A metaphorical shadow, a dark, dark spirit, a nasty meanness has fallen over this land.
The only people talking about Ronald Reagan’s illusory, rhetorical “shining city on a hill” are the visceral racists of the Republican White Right who believe the key to restoring its sheen is “Taking Our Country Back” by “Rounding ’em up” and “Sending ’em back.”
The only people defending the notion of “American exceptionalism” with any conviction are the visceral xenophobes of the Republican White Right who believe that “Making America Great Again” can only happen when they “Take Our Country Back” and that the process will only begin when an almost apocalyptic figure – Donald Trump? – issues an authoritative call to “Round ’em up” and “Send ’em back.” Oh, and getting rid of “the Black Man in the White House” is also a crucial element of “Taking Our Country Back.”
To properly symbolize the vision of America held by the Republican White Right, we would have to drape Lady Liberty with a hooded white sheet, damp her lantern and hang a sign around her neck that says “Whites Only.”
All things considered, I’d rather be left behind than go where they want to take us. It is a sad, sad time, our time. And, its darkest angels unleashed to roam free over the cultural landscape, America in our time has become a sad, sad place.