Sometimes in the universe an unfathomable convergence of events unfolds that is quite literally inexplicable. Yesterday was one of those unimaginable intersections no amount of planning could engineer. July 21st was the ninetieth anniversary of the end of the “Scopes monkey trial” in Dayton, Tennessee. By pure happenstance, it was also national Masturbation Day in Japan. And for the proverbial hat trick, Donald Trump was the undisputed leader in polling for the Republican presidential nomination.
Go figure? Was this a fluke? Perhaps. Happenstance? Maybe. A stroke of luck on the cosmic roulette wheel of randomness? Quite possibly. Or was it providential Kismet for a Trumpanzee wearing a kangaroo scrotum as a hairpiece to lead a national poll by engaging in a vulgar display of ego masturbation?
Why would I spend your precious time writing about the Trumpanzee? Trump’s shenanigans not only hurt the Republican Party, but they hurt the country and all public policy in general. This is particularly true when we need a robust conversation around real issues affecting real people about all too real problems.
Over the weekend “the Donald” allowed his mouth to again go joyriding without the benefit of a licensed brain. He insulted John McCain and thousands of other veterans. What is amazing is that I’m betting this won’t significantly hurt Trump’s numbers. He is the poster buffoon for a disaffected slice of the Republican Party and while his insult would be cyanide to a normal candidate, it is merely catnip to the Trumpeters.
An explanation you are probably hearing on the teevee is much akin to something you probably heard from your mother, “It’s all well and good until somebody gets hurt and by then it’s too late to stop.”
It was all well and good for Trump to call out President Obama about his birth certificate and to blow the “Kenyan dog whistle” until he was more red-faced than usual. It was all well and good for him to indict an entire race as “rapists and drug dealers”.
Throughout these and other instances, nary a word was heard from any Republican during these episodic displays of bigotry. Now that Trump has directed his bluster at Republicans, suddenly he is a dangerous public enemy and must be stopped.
Here’s a hint for Republicans, Dr. Bruce Banner regretted being zapped by gamma radiation. On the other hand, the Hulk didn’t mind the radiation since it meant he got to smash stuff. The GOP created the Trump monster; they stood by giggling as it smashed stuff. Now it is their turn to experience their own handiwork.
This is the “how” of the Trump blast radius, but not the “why” – that is what I find interesting and illuminating. When you crawl around in the basement of the polling data and cross-tabs there are quite a few finds. Here’s one:
Trump’s voter rating has gone from a decidedly negative 20% favorable and 55% unfavorable in June to just a narrowly negative 40% favorable and 41% unfavorable rating now. He has also made an incredible surge among the Tea Party supporters – flipping his decidedly net negative to a decidedly positive 56% favorable to 26% unfavorable rating now. “It looks like Tea Party voters are really responding to Trump’s aggressive illegal immigrant message,” said one political scientist.
There is a core of the Tea Party-esque segment who vote more often, who are more politically active, and who are decidedly angry – very, very angry. These are the people who seem to have C-Span on speed dial and always seem to get through – totally clueless, but absolutely assured in their moral superiority. This segment, the “I’ve got mine, sorry about your luck bloc” sees every government program through a prism of “zero sum game” meaning if someone is helped, it will result in them being hurt. Rick Santelli is their patron saint.
Conveniently, this same demographic gets their news from virtually a single source and are influenced by identical screeches in the echo chamber. Fox is the trusted news source of 88% of reliably conservative voters and Limbaugh, Hannity, Breitbart, Glenn Beck, The Blaze, and Drudge are the sculptors of their opinions.
This was the finding of an extensive year-long study by the Pew Foundation. It points out the differences between the news consumption habits of the Right and the Left. The Right is virtually a single source operation feeding a preordained narrative. Conversely, the Left consumes news from a variety of sources with no one source predominating whether it be The New York Times, Politico, The Washington Post, or to a lesser degree MSNBC, CNN, or Al Jazeera America. (The next time someone tries to tell you Fox and MSNBC are the same thing, you now know they are not even vaguely similar in impact.)
So what does this mean? Let’s let David Frum, former speechwriter for Dubya explain it by way of dissecting the blunderbuss that calls itself Rush:
Every day, Rush Limbaugh reassures millions of core Republican voters that no change in conservatism is needed. Limbaugh claims 20 million listeners per week, and that suffices to make him a very wealthy man. And if another 100 million people cannot stand him, what does he care?…Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant.
The same holds true for Fox and the other scolds in the conservative stable. They have their ten to twenty million dedicated viewers or listeners, they fulfill the hyperbolic nightmares with preordained narratives, and all the while, they become richer than Croesus while lobotomizing a population of extremely active voters.
If just making Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh richer was the only pox of this epidemic, we could just chalk it up to an acceptable design glitch in capitalism, but we can’t. Corralling these rabid, lobotomized, purposefully misinformed activists is the holy grail of gerrymandering in every congressional district in the country. So even though they are a small sliver of the electorate, around ten percent, they are empowered with an electoral strength many times beyond their numbers – think of them as the Ant Men and Women of politics.
Peering up through the weeds of this analysis we can see what is causing legislative stalemate and the logjams of “do-nothingness”. It is impossible to forge a compromise when your conscience has been anesthetized to all suffering and need.
And how do we know this to be true? At least for now, one-quarter of Republicans want a guy wearing a kangaroo scrotum to be handed the nuclear football. Some days it just doesn’t pay to chew through the leather straps.
Your thoughts on any issue are encouraged and welcomed.
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