Harbingers of whatever the hell it was that Kafka was trying to tell us

Trump Middle FingerWhy do we insist on cloaking Trump fever in mystery?

There’s no mystery to the roll he has going. I mean, unless you haven’t been paying attention to the last twenty four years. Because from the moment Bill Clinton broke out his sax on the Arsenio Hall Show, politics as we knew it went the way of Nixon’s sweaty eyebrows.

There are plenty of folks who believe the 1960 Presidential Debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon changed the way political campaigns were run. Television viewers watched as a pale and sickly Nixon stumbled and mumbled, basically gift wrapping the debate for the telegenic Senator from Massachusetts. It’s a simplistic opinion, not to mention wrong. While Nixon did himself no favors with that Boris Karloff act, it wasn’t beauty that killed the beast in 1960. Kennedy simply ran a campaign that touched the nerve of a country ready for change. Kennedy ran the offensive by presenting voters with an updated patriotism which didn’t involve rubber stamp approval of the same old business model, while Nixon played prevent defense by railing on about the inherent risks. The country decided the reward was worth the risk, and Camelot was born.

In 1992, Clinton set the stage for every political campaign since. He harnessed the power of television, and he mastered the medium like no candidate had dreamed of doing to that point in time. Clinton waged war on the establishment thirty seconds at a time, traversing the theater of political war with surgical precision. There is a perception of accessibility that television engenders and Clinton pitched a perfect game when it came to this. The young felt empowered, the middle aged born again. Game. Set. Match.

Barack Obama introduced us to branding. His message of hope and change possessed all of the qualities of an IPO. Potential voters were akin to stockholders, buying the promise of an outrageously attractive investment opportunity whose volatility, they believed, was worth the risk. The symmetry of his social media campaign merging with blanket television coverage inspired an army of previously disenfranchised followers. It was as if John McCain was attempting to win the Daytona 500 with a 1975 Gremlin.

Enter Donald Trump. Last summer, the very idea that he might stick around for Iowa seemed as likely as the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl. His run was satirical, his political epitaph was written before Labor Day. And then a funny thing happened. The angry snowball became an avalanche and a Trump campaign built largely on gold wings and million dollar prayers became something very different. And while many pretend this away as nothing more than an anomaly, this ignores the very real prospect that Trump can win this thing. Not just Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Super Tuesday, but the nomination. And not just the nomination but- gasp!- the White House.

Laugh. Call it a mysterious blip on the political radar. But to do so is to ignore what Trump has accomplished over the last few months. Think about it. He effectively canceled out Jeb Bush- a two term reform governor whose last name owned a Presidential mailing address for twelve years. And while Bush fatigue might have canceled him out anyway, the manner in which Trump neutered Jeb cannot be overlooked. Brash, rude and pompous? Yeah. But also methodical.

Such is the lampoon of a Trump candidacy, that few- yours truly included– stopped to consider the business he was conducting. Through all the bluster, he became bullet proof. Through all the bullying, he redirected himself into the victim. His followers believe he is the antidote to business as usual politics. His middle fingered salute at the establishment is their anthem. Where Clinton promised access and Obama promised a larger investment, Trump filled loyalists with the idea that they had a guy on the inside.

It is Trump’s greatest coup, to entrench himself in a populism that runs counter to his bank account. He has successfully presented himself as the every man who will tear things down and start over. He is the master of grandiose proclamations- He’ll build a wall, send every illegal immigrant home, bomb the bad guys to hell, solve the debt crisis and he will do all this before the close of business. Easy. Never mind that he provides few details as to how he plans on going about the business of “Making America great again”. His promises are legitimized by the fact that his followers see him as a winner, and if you don’t think that can create the kind of carry over effect we have witnessed over the last few months, then you probably forget our national fascination with a train wreck by the name of Charlie Sheen.

Trump can do no wrong. He can say things that would prove political suicide to his opponents. He can deviate from the expected just because he feels like it. He can thumb his nose at the rules. And he can get away with it because he’s not one of them, he’s one of us. That’s the narrative his campaign has carved, stained, polished and buffed into a science fiction possibility. The idea of a President Trump is no longer an urban legend, it is a very real possibility.

If he loses? He still wins. Because his is the Rocky story- if Rocky was a billionaire. He wasn’t supposed to get this far. He took the GOP to the fifteenth round, and they sure as hell do not want a rematch. And if he wins?

Get ready for the West Wing Television Network, because it’ll be a thing.

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22 thoughts on “Harbingers of whatever the hell it was that Kafka was trying to tell us

  1. One more a Tour de Force Pilgrim. I can’t help but enjoy the way Trump goes about getting folks hot and bothered. He is the epitome of those who are tired of the Congress and the lying, cheating candidates that serve up the old pap of liberal lawbreaking. Well done.

    • Marissa, I cannot believe the number of people who are behind him. I didn’t see this coming, I really didn’t. Trump is too narcissistic to let a defeat ruin him. He’s an opportunist who would use the experience to fetch him another reality show, or maybe even a cable news show. As you can tell, I’m not a fan. But I admit I will be watching poll results tomorrow night.

  2. Okay, I’m over here learning. You’re talking to the chic who voted for Bush, followed by Clinton, followed by Bush. I loved Jimmy Carter and adored Ronald Reagan. I remember watching Jimmy at Camp David with tears in my eyes because I was so encouraged that there might be world peace–I was 11.
    I have belonged to both parties at one point or another, and I’ve finally decided that I’m woefully lost/uneducated/clueless about all things politics. I’m fiscally conservative, morally middle road and not educated enough to know about foreign policy. I’ve worked in healthcare for 25 years and know that both sides have messed it up.
    Phew! I feel like I’ve just been to confession, and it feels good!!
    As I watched the GOP debate the other night, I thought how Jeb, at times, seems the most reasonable, but he doesn’t stand a chance. Bush fatigue, as you’ve mentioned, is real! He’s too late.
    So, my friend, I’m still deciding and posts like yours help me wade through.
    Thank you!!

    • Mick,

      Don’t fool yourself, your grasp of politics is quite impressive. I’m with you in that I have voted on both sides of the aisle. Loved Reagan as a young pup, respected Carter for his work in bringing Begin and Sadat to the table. I always believed Carter was too nice a man to be President. I loved Bill Clinton, voted for Bush, and then voted for Kerry because I thought Bush used September 11th as a way in to the Middle East quagmire we still find ourselves in. I don’t have a side at this point, I really don’t. I think Clinton and Rubio are the most Presidential feeling candidates going. I like certain aspects to a lot of the candidates, but am not in love with any one candidate.

      Trump’s success is the result of the arrogance shown by both sides. People are pissed off at the same old promises being regurgitated over and over again.

      By the way . . . I didn’t peek into the Viggo posts this time, but I DID happen to see the images when I was grabbing mine for this post. Very patriotic, lol.

  3. I didn’t think Trump would still be around either. I just don’t understand. But we are a society smitten with in-your-face reality tv that doesn’t represent reality at all. One of the good things (which is also one of the things I can’t stand) is that he says whatever the hell he wants to say. Some of his sexist ugly comments about women? I guarantee you all the other male candidates have similarly ugly thoughts (maybe not about women, but about other sensitive “taboo” topics). So in a very weird demented way, I feel that Trump is more trust-worthy. Which considering politicians, ain’t saying much. And when other politicians try to follow his lead, they just sound mean and snarky, like Christie (“What do you want me to do? Bring a mop?”).

    I stand by my early beliefs though that if elected, Trump will piss off the wrong world leader and thus begin the next nuclear world war and get us all killed. It’s one thing to insult a female news analyst. It’s another thing to piss off a Kim Jong-un or Putin.

    • Your last paragraph is why I can’t see myself voting for him either. I can’t imagine him NOT pissing off the wrong world leader.
      What did you think of the whole Sarah Palin endorsement? I read the transcript first, and enjoyed it. Then, I watched the replays and cringed. It’s why I will never jump into politics – I get wiggly just talking about it – even with my friends!

      • I think Palin is jumping on the golden Trump bandwagon. I think many of the politicians want to align themselves with who they think the public is fawning over. Palin wants to say, “Hey, I’m for Trump. So if people like Trump, people are for me too! And maybe he’ll make me his running mate! And hey! I can see Russia from my window!” Trump wants to say, “See? Women like me. And I like women.”

        In reality I think it helps Palin, but ultimately hurts Trump. He started backtracking from her almost immediately after she came out for him.

        I think a lot of people tread cautiously with Trump because a) he’ll either win and nobody wants the President as an enemy or b) he’ll lose but still remain powerful bc of his money and influence and nobody want the Trumpster as an enemy. Either way Trump is a long term grudge holder. I mean how long ago was the Rosie thing? 20 years? He’s still bringing that up.

        Politics is tough to talk with most people. Because they let their emotions dictate their feelings and choices. And then feelings inevitably get hurt. But some special people you can talk about anything with. Even politics. And celebrity crushes.

    • I’ve always said, it ain’t reality when the peeps KNOW the cameras are trained on them . . it’s orchestrated.
      Couldn’t be more right about the off color stuff. These guys play like choir boys, but come on. This Trump run is comeuppance for all these candidates. They were content to keep doing the same shit over and over, and this is what happens when you take the process for granted for so long.
      If you’re right about Trump, we best all make provisions on where to meet for the apocalypse….

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