Trump. As in Rump.

February 23, 2016

                Let me begin by telling you, if the title does not make this clear enough, what I think about Donald Trump.   I stress that I am not trying to tell you what YOU should think about The Donald; I am merely telling you what I think, how I react to him.   I have despised Donald Trump for 35 or 40 years, however long he has been a national figure, and I don’t intend to give this up now, or after he becomes President.    Of all of the people who are running for President or have now dropped out of the race, Donald Trump is absolutely the last one that I would vote for.   I could summarize the reasons for this in five bullet points:

                (1) I believe that Trump is more interested in what is good for Donald Trump than in what is good for America, not that the same could not be said about many of the other candidates, but it seems to me that this has to be more of a concern in the case of a man who has spent 30 years plastering his name to everything he could put his name on,

                (2) I don’t think Trump’s background in business prepares him for the challenges of the Presidency,

                (3)  I think Trump’s hard-ass approach to problems, in the Presidency, would be very dangerous for our nation, and might have terrible consequences for all of us,

                (4)  I dislike self-promotion.   I intensely dislike self-promotion.   Donald Trump is the nation’s most notorious self-promoter—and was, before he decided to run for President. 

                (5)  I don’t believe that Trump is sincere in 99% of what he says.   I think almost everything he says is either an outright lie, or something he is merely saying because it is convenient for him at the moment. 

                We haven’t had a President since Harry Truman who mocked people, a President who was openly rude and vulgar, and I am not anxious to bring that back to the oval office.  Also, although I stress that I don’t know, I doubt that Trump is likely to win the election.   I would like to see the Republicans nominate somebody who could actually win, not that I necessarily am going to vote for him; I would just like to have better options, just as I would like to have better options in buying an automobile or a gallon of milk.  I would like to see Chevy produce better automobiles; it doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy a Chevy.   I don’t think that Trump can win, frankly, because I don’t think there are enough morons to elect him.    A certain percentage of the American public is just morons; that’s the way it is.    When you divide the public in two and then divide the voters in one of those halves among five candidates or more, a candidate can win by dominating the moron vote because it only takes about one-seventh of the total population to take the "lead" under those circumstances.   But when you’re talking about needing 51% of the WHOLE population, rather than needing 30% of half of the population, you run out of morons.   I hope we will; I hope Trump will lose because I hope that he runs out of morons to vote for him.

                Again, I stress that I am not trying to tell you what you should think about Donald Trump; I am merely telling you what I think about him.  Also, I resent the fact that the cable networks have let Trump sucker them into playing his game for the last eight months.    What the networks want, of course, is to draw viewers.   Donald Trump has been a public figure for 40 years and a reality TV star for 20 years, and he is much, much more savvy about attracting viewers than any of the other Republicans who have been seeking the office.   Because he is so much better than they are at attracting viewers, the networks have him on, constantly; you can’t get away from the egomaniac son of a bitch.   But the networks have done this, oblivious to the consequence.   The consequence is that, just as there is an attention effect in Hall of Fame voting, there is an attention effect in political voting.   Trump gets a grossly disproportionate share of the attention, and thus a disproportionate share of the idiot vote.   I resent the fact that the networks don’t have the tiny modicum of self-discipline that would be required to realize that they are dancing to Donald Trump’s tune like a bunch of rats being trained to ring the bell for a morsel of cheese.  

                Now, having said all of that, having hopefully dispelled any notion that I am a closet Trump supporter, let me speak on behalf of Donald Trump, or at least Donald Trump’s supporters, for the rest of this article.   What Trump is advocating, I believe, is courage; not that this is all that he is advocating, but this is a critical part of what he is advocating.   I believe in courage.   I am all for politicians displaying courage, and I think that Donald Trump has done a better job of displaying real courage than anyone else running this year.   Donald Trump has had the courage to say things and do things that people tell him he can’t do.   We need that, in a President.   We need somebody who is willing to stand up and say "You don’t make the rules for me.   I make the rules for me."   I applaud Trump for being that person.  

                Also, Donald Trump is advocating real democracy in a way that the other candidates are not, and in a way that is too subtle for most of the Talking Head class to understand.    We have in this great nation, blessed by God but not uniquely blessed by God, and not chosen by God to stand ahead of other nations. . . .we have a class of professional do-gooders who have made a lot of rules for the rest of us, and who have, with the knowing co-operation of the media, forced the rest of us to comply with their rules.   These rules were never voted upon, and were never agreed to by most of us.   Some of these rules are good and proper, and some of them are useless and counter-productive.   I will explain a little better what rules I mean in just a moment, but first my main point.  

                Donald Trump is saying "screw you" to the professionally self-righteous, and he is saying "screw you" to those people who are trying to force him to obey these rules that the nation has never really agreed to, but has been forced to accept by leaders who lacked the courage to stand up to the professionally self-righteous.  

                The rules to which I refer are emanations and outgrowths of completely legitimate rules (and laws) which were adopted for sound reasons.    Let’s start with racism, and, indeed, these rules do generally start with opposition to racism.   It used to be, in my lifetime, that one could express open hostility toward people of other races.   It used to be that you could use racial slurs on radio or TV, and use them in the most pejorative way, not teasing or mocking but carrying real menace.   You can’t do that now. 

                That’s great.   In no sense should we retreat from that.   Oliver Wendell Holmes dictum that freedom of speech does not extend to the right to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater may reasonably be extended to mean that no one has an inherent right to say disparaging things about a group of people, while those people are in real danger of suffering serious consequences from being treated unfairly by our society.  

                But extend that idea out without resistance, extend it outward without respect for its natural boundaries and without any respect for the other valid principles with which it may come in conflict, and here is where you wind up.   A couple of years ago I described Gino Cimoli, 1950s outfielder, as. . .I forget what the words were, but it focused on his being Italian.  He was super-Italian, actually.   He was part of the same Bay-Area Italian culture that gave us the DiMaggios, Ernie Lombardi, Billy Martin, Cookie Lavagetto and many others.    I am missing the point, somehow; he dressed like he came straight out of Goodfellas:  sunglasses, slicked-back hair, high-gloss shine on his shoes and glittery suits.  

                But when I described him this way, I heard immediately from the self-righteous rules makers:  No no no; you can’t characterize him by his ethnic orgins.   It’s racist stereotyping.  

                Well, but Gino Cimoli wasn’t ashamed of being Italian; he was extremely proud of it.   He wanted to be Italian; he wanted everybody to know that he was Italian.   You couldn’t miss it.    And I hadn’t in any way insulted him by pointing it out.    Why, then, are we not permitted to say what is true?

                It is wrong to extend the principles of anti-discrimination willy-nilly in this fashion.   It is wrong for four reasons.  

                First, to do this implicitly equates telling Polock jokes or making innocuous comments about Italians or Irish with the real harm that has been done to Blacks, to Native Americans, to Jews and to gay people.   What has been done to those victimized groups is not the same as teasing or even taunting.   It is not the same, and it should not be treated as if it were the same, and it should not be regarded in the same way.  

                Second, to do this extends a valid premise—that one should not discriminate against others based on their origins—beyond the point at which that valid premise comes into conflict with other equally valid premises. 

                Third, it tramples on the freedom of speech of other people.   It denies people the right to say what they have to say.   For you to make rules about what I can say and what I can’t say assumes that you have to right to govern me without my consent.   

                And fourth, this is turning us into a nation of whiners.  

                Petty story.   A few years ago, when my son was in the seventh grade, he brought home from school a handout about peanut allergies.   Many kids have peanut allergies, of course—which is a very serious condition from which 75 to 100 people die every year--so you can’t bring peanut butter sandwiches to school, and you can’t bring treats to school to share with your class on your birthday or Valentine’s Day, because somebody will forget and bring something with peanut oil in it.   That’s fine; make whatever rules you have to make to keep the kids with peanut allergies safe. 

                But then, there was also a paragraph about kids being teased about having peanut allergies, so each kid was required to sign a pledge stating that he wouldn’t tease the kids who had peanut allergies.  


                Let’s talk about, let’s say, lisping.    Kids who talk with a lisp get teased about it.   When I was in school, if my father had ever heard about me teasing the girl who had the bad lisp, teasing her about her lisp, believe me, I would have caught hell about that.   If we had ever caught our kids teasing a classmate about lisping, THEY would have caught hell about it.   It is not proper to do this, and it is not proper to tease kids about having a peanut allergy. 

                But also, if I came home from school and complained to my father that the other kids were teasing me about, let’s say, wearing glasses held together by masking tape, it would be the understatement of the week to say that I was not going to receive a sympathetic hearing.   I would have been told in an extremely direct manner to grow up and stop whining.  

                What exactly do you think you’re accomplishing when you try to ban that sort of thing, not by teaching proper behavior but by banning improper behavior?  Do you really think that that brings an end to teasing, among schoolkids?  What it really does is, it creates a nation of whiners.   Oh, Mrs. Templeton, Sally is picking on me because I talk with a lisp.   Oh, Mrs. Templeton, Johnny is picking on me because I’m short.   Herman said something bad about me because I’m Polish.  

                It is my perception—as it is the perception, I think, of almost all of the Trump supporters—that we are becoming a nation of whiners.   When you try to make rules about how others treat you, you are always a victim.   And the solution to that is simple:  you don’t make rules for how others treat you; you make rules for yourself.   You make rules for yourself, and you teach those rules to your kids, but you don’t make rules for other families.   

                The authors of the Constitution were dead wrong about many things, and they were right about many things.   One of the things that they were right about was this issue.    The Constitution doesn’t say that you have a right to be free from other people saying things that you don’t want to hear.   It says that you have a right to say whatever you want to say, and other people have to put up with that.  The Constitution is a barrier to infringing your legal right to say whatever you want to say, but the self-righteous majority, aided and abetted by the media, has made de facto rules which have infringed on the right of free speech in ways that invade our daily lives.   The Trump campaign, I think, is telling these people that they don’t make the rules because we’re tired of following their rules, and we’re not going to take it anymore.   And I second the motion.   

                The basis of Donald Trump’s campaign is not "conservatism"; it is the principle that you have to stand up for yourself.   That’s what his whole campaign is about, I think:  you have to stand up for yourself.    Our politicians have to stand up for us.    I don’t believe that anyone has ever run a Presidential campaign before based on this principle, and I think that what Donald Trump has done is to demonstrate exactly how powerful this is as an organizing principle for a political campaign. 

                Well, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the proposition that you have to stand up for yourself, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with making that proposition the centerpiece of your campaign.    I think it is a completely valid point, and I think it is high time that somebody did this.  

                Donald Trump tells us that he is going to make America great again.   I am not voting for Donald Trump because I don’t believe that he has any idea how to make America great again, nor do I even necessarily believe that America, all things considered, was ever greater than it is now.    It doesn’t appeal to me, but then, I have been a very fortunate person, and America as it is has been very good for me.  

                But it appeals to other people, and I think that I understand why it appeals.   The slogan "make America great again" has two parts:

                (1) It implies that America used to be something that it no longer is, and

                (2) It argues that the responsibility of the President is to stand up for America, and not to worry about what the Europeans or the Mexicans or the United Nations delegates think about this.  

                Trump is implicitly saying that we have lost touch with certain values that used to characterize America, and I think that that is absolutely true.   I think it is always true; every generation loses touch with certain virtues from the past, and then re-discovers those virtues only after the consequence of losing them becomes visible.   We have lost touch with the virtue of toughness.   We despise toughness, not as individuals but as a collective, and we sympathize with whiners when we should ignore them.   The consequences of this are becoming visible, and they will become more visible until we realize that toughness is a real thing, a real virtue, and that we need more of it.  

                And I believe that it is true that the responsibility of our elected officials is to stand up for America, and I believe that we have had many failings in this regard.  It is the responsibility of IBM officials to do what is best for IBM, and not to worry about how the people who run Microsoft feel about this.   It is the responsibility of the NFL to do what is best for the NFL, and not to worry about what the NCAA thinks about this.   It is the responsibility of the New York Yankees to do what is best for the New York Yankees, and not to worry about whether the Boston Red Sox fans are annoyed by this.    This is not to say that IBM is good or that Microsoft is bad, and it is not to say that the NFL is good and that the NCAA is bad, and it is not to say that the Yankees are good and the Boston Red Sox are bad.   It is to say that the system doesn’t work if the people who are running each part of the system don’t protect their own interests.

                I’m not saying "screw the Europeans" or "to hell with Asia"; what I am saying is that the United States President needs to do what is best for America, without any concern whatsoever for what the Europeans or the Asians or the Mexicans think.   I believe in the old phrase "Tough Shit" or, as we used to say to our kids about fourteen times a day, "Tough Bananas".   (Sometimes we would say "Tough Cookies" or "Tough Toenails", just for variety.)   You don’t like Guantanamo?   Tough Shit.   The rest of the world doesn’t approve of Water Boarding?   Tough Shit. 

                That, I think, is what Donald Trump is saying, mixed in with a lot of lies and half-truths and stupid self-promotion, but that’s the kernel of it.    I’ll vote for anybody that you put up against him, but neither do I believe that everything he says is untrue or is without merit.   He’s on to something.   Hopefully somebody who isn’t The Donald will be smart enough to pick up on it.  


COMMENTS (36 Comments, most recent shown first)

Marc Schneider
To me, one of the big problems with Trump-and really all of the GOP candidates, is that he appeals to the strain of anti-intellectualism that has always pervaded American society. And I don't mean the kind of silly pseudo-intellectual crap that masks universities. Trump appeals to people that want to believe that all you need is common sense (whatever that is) to run the country and/or that being a businessman with a lot of money qualifies you to run a country.

Moreover, it disturbs me that several of the commenters that support Trump seemingly have no problem with his catering to true racists. This isn't a matter of oversensitivity to perceived minor racial slights. This is refuse to disavow support from avowed white supremacists and Holocaust deniers. Trump is either completely oblivious to who these groups are-which suggests he is too stupid to be president-or is willingly allowing, if not encouraging their support. The fact that David Duke supports Trump should be disturbing.

So, whatever legitimate issues Trump has tapped into-if he has-they are far outweighed by the increasingly sinister nature of his campaign. I'm not someone that likes to overreact to things or toss around words like fascist, but a guy whose supporters routinely and proudly beat up protesters is, I think, much worse than just being vulgar. Yes, he is self-promoting but, more than that, he is bringing out the worst in the American electorate.
12:01 PM Mar 11th
Interesting stuff and a different take on Trump's popularity than anything I've read elsewhere.

Personally, I agree with Fireball. I don't really think he's tough - he's just egocentric, and is extremely whiny himself. I think we need to draw a distinction between genuine toughness (which is what Bill is talking about) and faux toughness.

Bill's way is good - correct bad behavior by teaching the good, rather than by encouraging people to whine about it. But I don't think that's really who Trump is appealing to - I think he's largely appealing to people who don't want to hear about other people's whining (because it would detract precious time that could be spent focused on them) but who are more than happy to whine about the slights they've received.
9:50 PM Mar 9th
Fireball Wenz
I think we can recognize that resilience and forbearance are admirable traits - we should strive to NOT take offence, to ignore foolish insults and inadvertent or even unintentional slights, and generally shrug off what are now called "microaggressions."

But how does Trump embody that? He whines about how he is treated all the time. He fires back any time he feels affronted. He calls the other candidates in his own party liars and losers. He can be goaded into vouching for his penis size during a presidential debate because someone made a lame joke. He won't participate in a debate if someone calls him out on his behavior. If he doesn't like what someone says or writes about him, he launches into a personal attack, or sues. What past American virtue does he reflect, exactly?

People are attracted to a "strongman" - someone who says we don't have to take crap from anyone. I'd say that these people wear out their welcome quickly, but who lasted longer in power in the 20th century than Castro, Franco or Salazar?

I agree Trump stands up for himself. But I don't see how that translates into him standing up for America. Our greatest president was Lincoln, and the story of his presidency is the story of a man who was willing to put up with all kinds of invective and slights and attacks WITHOUT behaving petulantly and irrationally, because unlike Trump, who is an egomaniac, Lincoln was secure enough to put up with Chase and McClellan and Wade and Stevens and the Blairs and Hooker and Sherman and Stanton and Halleck and every other problematic personality because that was what was best for the nation.
2:51 PM Mar 6th

I generally find your arguments compelling, and this one is not an exception.

On one point, though, there are rules, and they are in the Constitution. You write:

You don’t like Guantanamo? Tough Shit. The rest of the world doesn’t approve of Water Boarding? Tough Shit.

The rights to a speedy trial, and the against cruel and unusual punishment, are in the Constitution, and that has nothing to do with the rest of the world. That has to do with our own, internal rules, that we can't just turn off when it is convenient to do so.

Waterboarding is torture. Torture was prohibited by the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights. You want to waterboard? Then you are acting in a way that is UnConstitutional. You don't like that it's UnConstitutional? That's when you can say "tough shit."

12:04 PM Mar 5th
Marc Schneider
First, I'm tired of this nonsense about the Democrats advocating socialism. They do nothing of the kind. They are advocating some limited government involvement and regulation of the economy. This is hardly socialism as practiced in Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Calling the Democrats socialist is simply name-calling and, yes, bullying: How can you be for the Democrats; they want to turn the country into Cuba. It's such crap and when I read stuff like this from people that seemingly know little about the actual definition of socialism, it really pisses me off.

Second, Trump is a bully. His words are causing serious harm, even if indirectly, to the people he insults. If nothing else, he poisons the political environment. No, he isn't going around beating up people; he is just encouraging his supporters to beat up people they don't like. In the political context, being a bully is someone who says things simply to shut down debate or discussion or using simple-minded slogans to intimidate opponents. Trump is a bully-and, yes, there are bullies on the left as well.

8:55 AM Mar 3rd
I think people are missing the point on these two thing:

- Trump isn't a bully. A bully is not a loud mouth jerk, or somebody with strong opinions (whatever they may be), a bully is a really mean person that causes real damage; a bully is a person that seriously affects your life. I doubt that this describes Trump.

- Nobody is saying that our armed forces are whiners. It is us the civil sort that are becoming the whiners. The US military didn't come up with the term "micro-aggression", nor weren't they the ones that needed to fly with the emotional support dog. Adam Carolla wrote a book called "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks" and the book deals with this very issue. Jerry Seinfeld stated he won't go to campuses anymore because all of the whining. And how isn't increased whining that no conservative person can't speak at a campus without the obligatory protest? This is what Bill means by becoming a nation of whiners.

Also, Trump's appeal to the masses is that unlike pretty much every politician, he is not scared of the backlash of whatever he says, they are SO scared of saying the wrong thing that they become unauthentic. Most of us have never seen anything like it. It is not necessarily good, just different.

I'm a US citizen now, and my birth country is victim of socialism; I will not vote for a Democrat as I have seen first hand what socialism does to the individual in terms of entitlement and mediocrity; but Bill, thank you very much for making it easier (albeit just slightly) to prepare for a potential vote for Trump. Uhg!
2:39 PM Mar 2nd
Bill, I hear you. A Trump supporter, I am not. I respect your opinions or I wouldn't be reading it. Your opinions over the years frequently represented open thinking and discourse, and are about looking forward not backward.

Saw this daily quote today:

And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed."
-- John Steinbeck

Thinking about this quote I saw on SIFMA today, and having yesterday watched John Oliver and his gig on Donald Drumpf....

So I thought, instead of laughing at, or sighing in angry disgust at what Trump says, or even what his supporters say or represent, maybe instead my approach should be to recognize that Trump represents people who have felt repressed by society, by the media, even by government. Frankly that is an American feeling. And I think you touched upon it, Bill.

In recognizing people who feel repressed, if we all calmly listen to their thoughts even if they offend, even when we disagree with what they say, and if we do not immediately argue but instead we listen, does that lessen their repression? Maybe.

If we feel the need, we too can and should state our opinions, we can be heard, but let's do it in a positive manner, not an anti-manner. Allow things to be said, allow discourse out there in the public space without reproach. If Bill wants to say that maybe the Yankees are right, he can do that even if it makes me angry.

It occurs to me that some people who support Trump hear statements and even if they may not agree with what was actually said, they hear the media pushback, the opponent attacks, and feel those themselves, these supporters may have said things publicly that they genuinely felt, and were repressed by family, friends, or co-workers. So the supporters see in Trump, themselves. They engage and connect with what Trump or someone else says because they identify with repression. If the pushback, the direct attacks on what Trump says or does, if the pushback reaction does not occur, then perhaps a portion of the supporters realize they do not really identify and they move somewhere else. What it seems is being missed about his popularity is the repression, not so much his policies which seem to generate the aggressive public media reactions. This might explain why Trump can change policies daily, and not lose support. He is listening to the people he meets, and if he hears something new, he changes. And yes, Bill, Trump does not likely believe in those policies, but changes because he wants votes. He is a disingenuous panderer. Maybe that is a quality that Presidents of governments and corporations in America have found successful. You don't like it? Your vote is your voice, or don't buy stock in the company.

So, we have to ask, in attacking Trump, are we repressing other people in our own unfair way? They are after all, Americans, too. And last I checked, this is a democracy, their voices are equal. I know, that is difficult for all of us to accept.

Let's decide to be heard for what we positively believe, let's not focus on repressive attacks or arguments. I know, that may feel unAmerican, especially during an election. Can we learn from each other? Can the American people teach our Representation how to have discourse and work together for the greater good? Probably too much to ask. But let us, leave the 'Anti-manner' behind. So let us ask ourselves are human dignity and respect characteristics of an American society we desire? To have faith in the inner american, perhaps we have to help steward it.

So instead of reactionary backward looking slogans that are just wrong, as the Make America Great Again represents, our approach going forward could be, all of us, 'Let's Be Heard' on the front of the T-Shirt, and on the back, 'Let's Listen.' It is America, so we need to fit our meaning on a T-Shirt or bumper sticker! Which is perhaps part of our problem. And, of course always, respect our fellow humans.

When I sign-on to BillJames, that is what I feel, that I should listen and hear, Think, and if I want to respond, this is a place for open discourse. Thanks, Bill.

Thanks for listening.

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8:59 AM Mar 1st
Marc Schneider
Hilary Clinton is not my favorite person but to compare her to Trump is, IMO, absurd. Whatever her flaws, she at least knows what she is talking about, has a strong grasp of policy, and doesn't just talk out of her ass like Trump. Admittedly, I'm a Democrat, but I see no comparison between the two. Trump is simply a despicable human being. The last two comments, frankly, strike me as sort of a "get off my lawn" kind of thing. While I agree that both sides resort to oversimplification-and I'm no fan of Bernie Sanders, I would certainly blame Wall Street for our problems a hell of a lot more than the Mexicans.

IMO, the political class is no worse than it ever has been. People just notice more when things are going badly. And you can't just blame the politicians; Trump is a product of the populace wanting simple answers as, in a different way, is Sanders. Politicians always reflect the mood of the population, whether here or in Europe.
8:44 AM Feb 29th
It is entertaining to watch this circus - then I realize one of these people is actually going to end up being president. It's frightening.

Also being old gives me some perspective, but I wish I didn't have to feel so old in the process.

12:19 AM Feb 29th
The most appalling thing is that Trump has a lot in common with Hillary Clinton:

PHONIES -- Trump claims to be anti-establishment though he made a career out of working with the rich and powerful. Hillary presents herself as an independent feminist, yet she is only a public figure because of her husband.

FABULISTS – Trump say hundreds of Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks. Hillary faced sniper fire and talked to Eleanor Roosevelt.

GREEDY – It’s important to Trump to claim to be a billionaire, though he won’t release any tax returns. Hillary turned the White House and Department of State into fundraising organizations. Goldman Sachs paid her $6,000 a minute for a speech she won’t let anyone read. Hillary made a small fortune in rigged commodities transactions.

RUTHLESS – Neither one cares about rules or the harm they cause. Trump turned the debates into food fights. He tried to kick a widow out of her home to build a limousine parking lot. Hillary gravely endangered her country because she wanted to keep her e-mails secret.

CENSORS – Trump will somehow change the libel law so he can sue critics. Hillary will block documentaries criticizing her.

DEMAGOGUES – Trump blames Mexicans and Chinese imports for our problems. Hillary blames Wall Street.

Though he is a true believer, Bernie Sanders deserves a mention. He thinks he can give away trillions of dollars of free stuff, and only big corporations and the top one percent will pay. Sanders said that the wide variety of deodorants available in stores causes children to go hungry.

We have the worst political class in our history. I’m glad I’m old.

11:57 AM Feb 28th
Marc Schneider
I agree with much of what you say about the silliness of much of the sexual/racial politics in society today. Kids have now been brought up to believe that they should never have to be uncomfortable about anything and that anything that bothers them should be banned even if it's basically innocuous. It's using language as a form of power. My daughter, who goes to college in NY, sees that a lot. So, in that sense, I agree with you.

The problem with Trump (or one problem) is that he takes this to an extreme and uses derogatory language simply to play to the anti-political correctness crowd. Much of what he says is simply offensive; maybe not in 1956 but today. I mean, call it political correctness or whatever, but there has to be some measure of self-control over what you say publically. And you say he has courage but, in fact, he doesn't really have the balls to acknowledge what he is doing, as with Megan Kelly and pretending not to be referring to her period. To me, he comes across as a bully and someone who simply is taking advantage of people that can't defend themselves. And he uses half-truths and lies to do that. It's one thing to say we need to have better enforcement of immigration laws; it's another to say the Mexicans coming across the border are rapists and so forth. It's not just that he's wrong; it's that the language and tone he uses encourages outright hatred of those people. (Of course, his supporters already feel that way.) He simply makes the country a less nice place.

I understand, to a certain extent, why people support him. They think he is a tough guy that will defend people like themselves. As you suggest, they appreciate the idea that he is standing up for America (even if, in reality all he is standing up for is himself). And it's not unusual for people who feel aggrieved to look for scapegoats. Trump gives it to them. But he provides simple-minded answers (as does, in many cases, the left) to complicated issues that plays into the American penchant for action at any cost. Of course, IMO, all the Republicans do that. The fact that this is what the country has come to is, IMO, quite depressing.​
3:22 PM Feb 26th
The only thing wrong with saying Trump can't get 51% of the votes cuz there aint enuf morons, is that you don't get 100% of the people to vote. So he's only got to get 51% of the people that DO vote. And if he can work the electoral college right, he dont even need that much. Just ask John Kerry.​
5:47 AM Feb 26th
jdw, thanks for that link. I especially liked this: "What Trump understands better than his opponents is that NASCAR America, WWE America, always loves seeing the preening self-proclaimed good guy get whacked with a chair." This is perhaps another way of saying what Bill is saying, stripped of the idealization of the great unwashed.

But his thesis, that Trump is riding a backlash against establishment journalism and money-dominated politics, is persuasive. And it doesn't bode well for Hillary Clinton.
2:59 PM Feb 25th
P.S. To Studes: It depends on how we see the main message and thrust of those other Republican candidates. With the possible partial exception of Kasich (and maybe Carson, whose message I don't grasp at all), I think all the others are/were trying mostly to tap into exactly what the article is saying.

To me part of it also is in this thing that the guy told Buchanan back then: "....don't even use the word 'conservative.' It doesn't mean anything any more." Yes, the positions they're taking are positions that are currently thought of (sloppily) as "conservative," but, besides that I see their main underlying thrust as an attempt to tap into exactly what the article is saying, Trump for the most part is taking those same positions.
10:36 PM Feb 24th
A more entertaining look at Trump from today, which in and around all the snark and poking has a good deal on insight:

Taibbi has been covering this movement since he returned to the US in 2002. His 1997-2002 time in Moscow getting to watch and (carefully) cover the rise of Putin also gives him a bit more insight into a lot of what Trump is shilling since Putin also worked/works a tough guy nationalist gimmick.
8:19 PM Feb 24th
Studes: That's not the "thrust" of the article; it's a side comment.

How do you think it's anywhere close to central to the thrust?
8:17 PM Feb 24th
And y'know, the thrust of that article also underlies the thrusts of all the other Republican candidates too, doesn't it?

No, not at all. The article specifically states that Trump is as much anti-conservative as anti-liberal. He is tapping into something outside the reach of all political elites, regardless of party.
5:29 PM Feb 24th
Michael Brendan Dougherty, the author of the article that studes mentioned, has written a number of pieces on the Trump phenomenon that are pretty good:

Another source for some good Trump analysis is Rod Dreher at The American Conservative:
3:06 PM Feb 24th
Re that article: Did you know the word "pastoralization"?
I sure didn't. And I still don't (for that context), even after I looked it up.
And I even know about not only the Pastoral Symphony but even the Pastorale Sonata....

I see the thrust of that article as underlying the Trump thing, but Bill's article adds the flesh. And y'know, the thrust of that article also underlies the thrusts of all the other Republican candidates too, doesn't it? The things Bill talks about distinguish Trump from the others.
11:22 AM Feb 24th
This is the best thing I've read about the Trump phenomenon (from a month ago):
9:45 AM Feb 24th
Just to tag on...I have been involved in politics in New Jersey for 20 years, been elected -- I can not find a single Trump supporter among my acquaintances, in fact, I am not able to find anyone who knows of one.

Trump was known in this state as a punchline who filed bankruptcy like a regular heartbeat, promoted professional wrestling, turned on every ally and partner, and in general wore like a badge every appalling personality disorder from which you would want to shield your children's eyes.

And these aren't people who were just all-in with Christie...Chris threw a lot of elbows in his home state. These are life-long "New Jersey" Republicans (moderate) people who are actually thinking of holding their noses and voting for Hillary, just because Trump has lived his life as the perfect ass. In an unattractive way.
7:41 PM Feb 23rd
Bill, this is perhaps your best non-baseball pieces, or at least touched me due to the roiling I am having day-to-day with this fascinating idiotic campaign.

Canya fix the damn breaks so I can distribute? :-)
7:23 PM Feb 23rd
Our armed forces and armed contractors are deployed all over the globe, at gargantuan expense to us, and yet we don't make a sufficient show of toughness to both friends and enemies? Trump understands that belligerence reads as toughness to enough rabble to keep him aloft. That's as much thematic coherence as I can give him credit for.
6:58 PM Feb 23rd

Right now I'm just doing Mickey Mouse improv venues trying to earn my keep at the UCB, a generally open minded organization.

Mewling thinkpieces aside, it's never been easier to be yourself on stage and for that I'm grateful.
6:34 PM Feb 23rd
I agree with a lot of this article, especially the tirade against the word police. But hermitfool is right to point out that there is a difference between toughness and bullying. When the biggest kid on the playground beats up or intimidates the smallest, that's not toughness.

kingferris, where do you perform? Maybe I'll get a chance to see your act next time I'm in LA. And when you get away with offending everybody in the room and using each of George Carlin's seven words, offer a moment of silence to Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce.

And is this really what Trump's appeal is based on? From this side of the pond, it looks more like xenophobia.
5:47 PM Feb 23rd
I meant, "... rather than to vote for those who might attract you."
5:33 PM Feb 23rd
A high school teacher once told me that one of the best uses of the right to vote is to vote against the candidates you dislike, rather to vote against those who might attract you.
4:53 PM Feb 23rd
I do not and have not ever had much interest in politics. But I am more motivated than I ever have been to care and vote out of the fear of having this guy as President.
4:47 PM Feb 23rd
Trump is good for the USA electoral process in the same way Bernie Sanders is good - they are offering distinct choices to the people. Here in Canada we are just a few months past our last federal election which was won by the party with very distinct and very different positions - legalize marijuana, pull fighter jets out of the war with ISIS, increase the national debt and spend like crazy on improvements on intrastructure, launch a national enquiry on violence against native women. The incumbent government was against these things, the heir apparent party waffled on them. By offering real choice, we have a much different government in power now.
2:50 PM Feb 23rd
I'm not entirely sure where the notion that the nation "despise toughness" comes from.

The majority of the country loves going to war every time we go to war. They only decide that they don't like going to war when it drags on like Iraq 2.0. Everyone loved Iraq 1.0 because we were in and out fast. The majority of the country wanted us to go into Iraq the second time, and ate up all the nonsense and lies that lead us into it. They loved Afghanistan, until it bogged down into an unending war. Good lord, people loved Granada and puffed their chest even though it was a glorified military exercise. People loved us being tough taking out Bin Ladin... well... except for the people who don't like that it was under Obama that it happened, so just pretend that it didn't happen.

It's the same in sports. Tough guys who play through injury are glorified, while those who are injury prone are knocked. Tough, scrappy players are raised up, while a team of complainers like the Clippers are ripped, especially when it becomes known.

I'd have to see a dozen examples of the majority of the country despising toughness, and a similar number of examples of the majority sympathizing with whiners.
2:34 PM Feb 23rd
I think you underestimate the current toughness of our country. It is customary in the US for older people to complain about the supposed lack of toughness of the younger generations. I am 53 years old, and was always raised by the mantras suck it up, be tough, fight, ignore etc. However, I can't get past the fact that the institutions; meaning gov't, companies, universities, the very wealthy etc. are really BIG and really systemized. This leads to "bullying", not in the classic sense, but the big guy on the little guy. Let's take the NCAA and its universities for example. I ask the following question. Why is it ok for a coach, backed by his AD, university, and NCAA, not to mention alumni, to ask a high school athlete to commit to the school, GET THEM TO COMMIT! And then pull the rug out from underneath them at the 11the hour, after the kid has planned their life for 2 years around the commitment. I know, I know just tell them to suck it up that's life...toughen up. You know, just always saying that and never standing up to the bully leads to many injustices that have been accepted down through the years. Racism, Bigotry, Homophobia, sexism and on and on all have roots in just suck it up. Well, I've gone a long time, and I for one could give you a ton of examples about why the younger generation has to be tougher than they're given credit for. The old, wealth is this country just loves things as they are and has no use for any kind of change. Because they are entitled to it, they've earned it, they were tough. Oh and BTW, don't confuse toughness with being the BIG institution or guy. Many of them have made the rules to work for them and are cowards.
1:18 PM Feb 23rd
Astute article in general though no one in either primary whines more than Donald Trump...

I'll add this: I do comedy in LA and the more people say "you CAN'T" or "you SHOULDN'T" say something on stage, the more inclined I am to say it. And the irony is that the whiners and word police allow a certain danger to reman in comedy, which creates an artistic advantage. So as long as I'm not banned or arrested for language, I encourage the bitching and moaning. It makes the rest of us sound a lot tougher than we really are.
12:53 PM Feb 23rd
It seems to me that Bernie Sanders is standing up for us citizens against corportate power. He is also standing up for the 99% against the current advantages of the 1%.

One of the differences between these positions and Trump's is that they are Americans vs. Americans as opposed to Americans vs. the rest of the world. Another difference is that, while ISIL is a real threat, the balance of power of corporations and the very wealthiest has become out of whack and will likely to get even more out of whack if one of those Republicans is elected. Those are serious immediate threats. Immigrants sneaking across the border - probably do more good for our economy and our country than harm.

As to what the rest of the world thinks of us, I suggest that it does matter - at least, to some degree. When I visit a foreign country, I don't want to be discriminated against (or worse) because of my accent. Further, I do want to be a good example to the world.

As for torture - hasn't it been shown to be worth less than nothing? That it produces lies just to avoid the torture? It just works in movies - and people are saying bravo to the Trumps out there, because they believe the movies and TV shows they watch.
12:21 PM Feb 23rd
Interesting, well thought out piece. Trump may be seeking to recover the value of toughness, but he also seems to be out to recover the notion of admiring the bully. More or less, he tells people that (and always without specific plans) that whatever is bothering them, he will fix it because he is a strong man.

I see a lot of similarities between Trump and Mussolini. Both promises a return to greatness. Both lacked concern for consistency, honesty, and fairness. Both were demagogues with a genius for publicity and a dearth of achievements.
11:28 AM Feb 23rd
Bill: Thank you.

And, I think very well said about what's his basic appeal. That's an interesting thing for a candidate, maybe even a good thing -- but it's not enough. You also have to be able to do the job, and to be a right kind of person -- not the right kind, which doesn't exist, but a right kind, and in the ways that you said, I don't see that present there.
11:23 AM Feb 23rd
Small sample size, but the Trump supporters I know are not morons, not stupid. They may be incredibly short-sighted in my view, and willing to overlook all of the faults you've outlined, but if they weren't blinded by their anger and frustration they might see the Master Bloviator for what he is. Their mantra is 'at least he'll shake things up.' You well understand the reasons why voters are so enraged. Perhaps you've underestimated a tiny bit just how crazy mad people have become. Rage can turn a rational human being into a blithering idiot.

You once compared Trump to a tar baby, which was particularly apt. When he blamed 9/11 on Bush I thought he'd finally made the fatal mistake. Before the paint was dry on that crackpot outrage, a tone deaf pope weighed in, causing supporters, even if they were lukewarm, to rally against foreign meddling.

I try not ponder a Trump presidency or a Clinton presidency, although one of those seems likely. Instead I'm enthusiastically voting for my neighbor Ed, a quiet, decent human being with self-deprecating sense of humor and not a dishonest bone in his body.
11:05 AM Feb 23rd
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