Wednesday, May 04, 2016
I've been pretty sure that Ronald T. Dump was going to be the Republican nominee for president for a while now. Nevertheless, it does smack my gob. Sure, with a party that nominated George W. Bush and a country that actually elected him, at least the second time around, it may not seem that big of a stretch. But Chimpy was disciplined enough to repudiate white supremacists, not call his opponents "pussy," or accuse their fathers of murdering JFK, just to offer a few examples. He also managed to stick to a script and articulate reasonably consistent policy positions, even if they were untethered from reality. His racist dog whistles generally stayed above 20,000 Hz.
While I'm still pretty confident that reporters will be asking questions of Madam President at the first press conference of the next administration, the triumph of the malignant clown, even within the party of Goehmert, has many people questioning the fundamental premises behind electoral democracy. Could the smoke-filled rooms of yore possibly have produced such a result?
Scott Lemieux points to Sarah Palin to say "Well, yes." But Palin came along after the really decisive factor, which was not the primary process but the television. Reality today is what lies behind the glass in your living room. That's what made both candidates possible. Remember that democracy in the past produced plenty of atrocious outcomes -- presidents who supported slavery, and then segregation; the Native American genocide; the Vietnam war. Name your poison. We've never expected it to particularly yield good results, just candidates who are reasonably presentable in public. Trump would not necessarily be a worse president than Herbert Hoover or William McKinley -- although he would be scarier since they didn't have an atom bomb. He's just cruder and more impulsive. But the stakes today are much higher.