Speak of the Devil
(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Liberals have for a long time intuited that the more intelligent among us tend toward liberal politics and the less cerebrally endowed are more inclined toward conservative views; recent studies, of course, have borne that intuition out. Nevertheless, the US Republicans have tried valiantly but failed spectacularly to reinvent themselves in such a way as to reshape their reputation as the “party of stupid”. If there was ever any doubt as to the sheer stupidity and ignorance of the Republican base, the ascendancy and triumph of Donald J Trump within their ranks has once and for all removed it completely. The most cursory glance at a group of Trump supporters causes anyone with an IQ of room temperature or better a shudder of revulsion laced with a smattering of pity for the waste of DNA that is evidenced when those cretins gather. As far as I can tell, a Trump rally is indistinguishable from a village idiots’ convention.
But in a democracy, even cretins are entitled to their views, morons can vote, and idiots are entitled to representation. But what is truly disturbing about the Trump phenomenon isn’t his appeal to ignorance and sheer stupidity, but that his appeal is refined and honed with the very specific intention of appealing to the worst in human nature. In contrast, for example, is Bernie Sanders, whose doggedly stubborn candidacy is aimed directly at the very best in us.
Traditionally, contenders for the big job have appealed to the best in the people; candidates like FDR and JFK and even Jimmy Carter have appealed to the generosity of spirit shared by the people. There was always an assumption, shared by Democrat and Republican, that inclusion, decency, and kindness were intrinsic qualities of Americans. Even Bush the Elder spoke of a “kinder and gentler” America. FDR pulled the country together and overcame a previous incarnation of “America First” isolationism, in order to mobilise against true evil. JFK founded the Peace Corps and was working with all his considerable intellect and charisma to find a way out of the quagmire that Vietnam was becoming; only his assassination allowed Johnston to escalate the conflict. Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David accords. These accomplishments and so many more all fall on the “good” side of the ledger. These were commanders in chief who knew that there was a wellspring of decent humanity in their electorate; they appealed to it in their campaigns and post-electoral speeches, and they nurtured it, and put it to work for the greater good not just of the US, but for the entire world.
And then there’s Trump. He appeals to greed, he appeals to hatred, racism, bigotry, divisiveness, brutality, violence, and ignorance. He loves the notion of torture; he’s very much in favour of killing innocent family members of suspected terrorists; he despises immigrants and people of colour. He is the antithesis of what America’s great statesmen were. Jefferson was one of the most erudite and cerebral men of his time. Trump couldn’t find Syria on a map, doesn’t have a clue what the Marshal Plan was, and believes that he has “the best words…lots of them”. Lincoln gave us the Emancipation Proclamation; Trump wants to deport 11,000,000 Hispanics and wants to ban Muslims from entering the country. Barack Obama turned the economy around and protected the average American from the worst economic crisis since the great depression; Trump is okay with threatening to renege on the national debt. Donald Trump is not just stupid and breathtakingly ignorant; he is venal…he is, in short, a bad man.
Donald Trump is firmly against the positions held by his opponents on the Democratic side. What should we call someone who rejects: fair voting laws; reducing the levels of poverty and disease; seeking fuller employment and living wages; shrinking the gulf between the wealthy and the destitute; raising educational standards; making tertiary education available to all, not just the wealthy? Since all those initiatives are, to any rational person, good things, that would make someone who rejects them and wants to crush them, well,…evil.
Whether or not one is comfortable with the notion of evil, it is fair to use the word in its sense of meaning the opposite of good. So that makes Donald Trump evil; everything his supporters would have learned in any moral philosophy class or ethics course (had they ever been to school) would militate against supporting his brand of evil. Nevertheless, they swoon or shriek their delight in orgiastic frenzy when they hear him waxing nostalgic about the good old days when they could have crippled a protester with impunity.
And that is the most disturbing aspect of Trump’s absurd candidacy; he has tapped into a rich vein of hatred, a vein that hadn’t been tapped in a general election since the days of avowed racist, George Wallace. And, in truth, Trump is worse than Wallace; Trump is a far more comprehensive monster than Wallace, whose main hobby horse was the perpetuation of segregation. Trump hits the racist notes without breaking a sweat, but he goes on to mock the handicapped, insult women, Mexicans, Muslims, and anyone from elsewhere; he incites violence, and praises brutality and promises lots of it…his list of evil is endless. So far, the hatred which he vows to institutionalise is only words; but I, for one, am willing to take him at his word: if he were to be elected he would at least try to accomplish the vicious acts he has promised.
It is clear to anyone with a functioning brain that Trump is a nightmare; he is a disaster striving to enter the White House. It has been said by others, including, perceptively enough, Johnny Depp, that if Trump becomes president, he will be the last president of the US. It is true that a Trump presidency would be a disaster on that scale. So far Trump’s idiotic candidacy has destroyed the GOP; there is no reason to think that the party will survive in any coherent shape after this election cycle. Put him in the White House and that evil that he incarnates will pull down the country and with it much of the world. It is not unduly histrionic to say that this is a straightforward question of whether or not the American voters will support evil. The whole world is bewildered and not a little frightened by what’s happening to the only superpower; will the “party of stupid” actually persuade the people to follow them into evil and chaos?
We shall see.