By Charles Pierce
February 24, 2016
OK, here we are now. Entertain us.
It was a stunning show of momentum for his campaign, one that made it increasingly difficult to imagine a scenario where any other GOP candidate wins the Republican nomination. "We love Nevada," Trump said during his brief victory speech at his party in Las Vegas late Tuesday night. "We will be celebrating for a long time tonight." "We weren't expected to win too much and now we're winning, winning, winning the country," Trump said. "And soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning." He basked in his success across demographics. "We won the evangelicals," he said. "We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated."
Who looks after shitkickers like you?
In his magisterial biography of Huey Long, which I would advise everyone to read before this presidential election gets completely out of hand, T. Harry Williams explains the thinking behind the long game that the Kingfish saw himself playing as the Great Depression played out.
There was no doubt in Long's mind that that all would go as he had planned it. Of Roosevelt he said scornfully, 'I can take him. He's a phony…He's scared of me. I can outpromise him, and he knows it. People will believe me and they won't believe him. His mother's watchin' him, and she won't let him go too far, but I ain't got no mother left and, if I had, she'd think anything I said was all right.'"
The energy behind the two men is as similar as the parallel is inexact.
Huey Long actually did come from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed that he later enriched himself by championing. He relentlessly vilified the economic and social elite, first in Louisiana and then in the entire country. He, Trump, on the other hand, was a child of that elite, and he had never departed from it, except in his public persona, which is where we find him now. A huge portion of the Republican electorate—and, sadly, a not-insignificant portion of the American people—wants a strongman, the more vulgar the better. Huey Long came by his vulgarity naturally. He, Trump has had to work at it, buying bad taste by the bucketful with his millions and coming to embody it the same way the Kingfish did. I am one of you, they both said, you poorly educated suckers. Look how common and vulgar I am.
There does not appear to be any way to stop him now. Unless something completely untoward happens, He, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. At the moment, Ted Cruz can't catch him because no human being on earth likes Ted Cruz except his mother, and she could be jiving, too. Young Marco Rubio can't catch him because Young Marco Rubio is a big bag of feathers. Neither one of them is willing to step aside for the other. And John Kasich, quite frankly, is drawing to a low inside straight. In the Republican party in the year of our Lord 2016, He, Trump is simply the man of the historical moment.
And why shouldn't he be? For the past 30 years, the country has been told that its government is a strange, alien beast with little or no connection to the lives of the people of the country. At the same time, a series of political developments—most notably, a couple of dreadful Supreme Court decisions—has validated that argument by blocking the basic avenues of self-government with great barricades of unaccountable cash. At the same time, the country was encouraged by politicians of both parties to look at the political process as a television show. And now we're surprised that a guy who made his living at the latter has become successful at promoting the former?
This is the essence of what he's about. He, Trump will tame the beast of government. He, Trump personally will bring back jobs. He, Trump personally will solve the immigration problem by building a wall and making other people pay for it. He, Trump personally will intimidate China and outmaneuver Russia into accepting American leadership in the world. And all we have to do to gain these little bits of paradise is to bestir our stumps in November, vote for He, Trump, and then sit back and watch the show. Jesus H. Christ on a white grand piano, and people say Bernie Sanders is offering "free stuff."
As the Nevada caucuses opened for business last night, a couple of polling operations, including the good folks at Public Policy Polling, released some data they'd gathered in the wake of He, Trump's big win in South Carolina. The results were startling, if by "startling" you mean "completely fcking terrifying."
Data from Public Policy Polling show that a third of Mr. Trump's backers in South Carolina support barring gays and lesbians from entering the country. This is nearly twice the support for this idea (17 percent) among Ted Cruz's and Marco Rubio's voters and nearly five times the support of John Kasich's and Ben Carson's supporters (7 percent). Similarly, YouGov data reveal that a third of Mr. Trump's (and Mr. Cruz's) backers believe that Japanese internment during World War II was a good idea, while roughly 10 percent of Mr. Rubio's and Mr. Kasich's supporters do. Mr. Trump's coalition is also more likely to disagree with the desegregation of the military (which was ordered in 1948 by Harry Truman) than other candidates' supporters are. The P.P.P. poll asked voters if they thought whites were a superior race. Most Republican primary voters in South Carolina—78 percent—disagreed with this idea (10 percent agreed and 11 percent weren't sure). But among Mr. Trump's supporters, only 69 percent disagreed. Mr. Carson's voters were the most opposed to the notion (99 percent), followed by Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz's supporters at 92 and 89 percent. Mr. Rubio's backers were close to the average level of disagreement (76 percent). According to P.P.P., 70 percent of Mr. Trump's voters in South Carolina wish the Confederate battle flag were still flying on their statehouse grounds. (It was removed last summer less than a month after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.) The polling firm says that 38 percent of them wish the South had won the Civil War. Only a quarter of Mr. Rubio's supporters share that wish, and even fewer of Mr. Kasich's and Mr. Carson's do. Nationally, the YouGov data show a similar trend: Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump's voters disagreed with the freeing of slaves in Southern states after the Civil War.
Now some of this is unquestionably the lingering effects of the Lost Cause mentality that infected our study of our greatest calamity; these, after all, were polls conducted among the citizens of the home office of American sedition. However, I would argue that most of these distressing results derive from people who are proud of their ignorance and anxious to display it as a statement of purpose against "political correctness," whatever the hell that means anymore. Look at me, I'm telling a pollster that I'm for slavery. I am a courageous person. No wonder that He, Trump loves him some poorly educated people; he's gotten very good at pretending to be one of them himself. They are his latest mirror in which he can study endlessly the glories of He, Trump.
The only way to stop He, Trump is not, as the Boston Globe so tragically suggests today, to have unenrolled people pick up the Republican ballot and vote for John Kasich. I can't think of a more impotent suggestion than that. In the general scheme of things, Kasich is worse off than either Cruz or Rubio and, also in the general scheme of things, no thinking Republican believes that the Commonwealth (God save it!) is important in any way at all. It's like a Democratic operative suggesting that his voters finagle with the results in, say, Mississippi. Come November, the Republicans could put up Zombie Abraham Lincoln Christ and still lose Massachusetts.
No, the only way to stop He, Trump is to give up on the twin fictions that have given him life—that government is something alien to us, instead of being the political manifestation of the popular will, and that elections are purely entertainment. The only way to stop He, Trump is to re-engage as citizens of a self-governing republic again, to realize that politics matter and that voting is more than an excuse for the PTA to run a bake sale. It is not time to make America great again. It's time to make America America again.
Who looks after shitkickers like us?
We do, dammit.
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