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July 10, 2015

the actually to the donald trump problem

Donald Trump is obviously a problem.

He's not a problem for you and me, of course. For us, he's a freak looking for a sideshow, a vain, vain man with a nasty case of early-onset megalomania, an incurious chump who is just stupid enough to have absolutely no idea how stupid he is. And he's not only running for president, but he's doing quite well! And that may be problematic — in all honesty, it is problematic for me, in the same sense of when you serve jury duty and realize "These are my peers?" — but he's not a candidate we'd ever vote for and as such he is somebody else's problem.

And that problem belongs to the Republican Party.

Since the start of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign, a vexing question has hovered over his candidacy: Why have so many party leaders -- privately appalled by Mr. Trump's remarks about immigrants from Mexico -- not renounced him?

It turns out, interviews show, that the mathematical delicacy of a Republican victory in 2016 -- and its dependence on aging, anxious white voters -- make it exceedingly perilous for the Republican Party to treat Mr. Trump as the pariah many of its leaders now wish he would become.

And then the terrible outcomes are contemplated: Trump could last long enough to throw the debates into utter (racist!) disarray, or the eventual rebuke of Trump could irk these "aging, anxious white voters" or, and even worse, irk Trump himself to the point where he takes his voters and runs a third party candidacy. None of these are attractive outcomes for the GOP.

It is cute to speak of this in the language of politics, of candidates and campaigns, of potential voters and the Base and all the rest of that. It's clean, almost surgical. But the greater, greasy truth behind this, the invisible elephant in the room, if you will, is that the "aging, anxious white voters" are noxious in their entirety, picking toxic elements of each of the past six or seven decades to blithely wield as if they were virtues: the Red-hunting of the 50s, the overt racism of the 60s, the self-obsession of the 70s, the poor-shaming of the 80s, etc. Sadly, these voters, the regular folks pouring in to watch Donald Trump cuss, fuss and compare running a nation-state to building a golf course or licensing one's name for a line of steaks, are monsters. And yes, I'm speaking plainly, and, as one Twitter buddy (who is also a very practiced troll) puts it, that's no way for me to understand the motives of these voters, by calling them stupid.

But the thing of it is, they're stupid. And retrograde and a-scaired of any people that don't look just like them. Furthermore, I'm not actually here to understand them, any more than the Republican establishment is. The Republican Party also doesn't particularly care about what could cause people to believe for a hot second that Donald Trump is qualified to be state flower let alone President of the United States of America; they only care that these people vote, reliably. And when they vote, unless there's a Ross Perot or a Ron Paul there to muck it up, they vote GOP, in such numbers, in fact, that it's hard to imagine a path to electoral victory without them.

And that is the problem. This bloc of voters is indistinguishable from the stalwart souls who saw the backlash on the Confederate battle flag as some sort of pitched battle against white people and were so moved as to march around waving such flag in front of TV cameras, saying words that they had memorized without learning the meaning, like "heritage." Oh sure they vote, but their optics are terrible, and no one wants to be painted with that brush of oafish-yet-still-evil by association.

So then the quandary for the smart guys running the greater Republican effort is not just some academic electoral problem. Actually, the trick is how to give the impression of distance from the know-nothing dumb-asses that normal Americans dislike without actually convincing the dumb-asses that their support of GOP candidates is unwelcome. And I don't know if this reluctance is on some moral grounds, as there are an awful lot of near-hateful positions that are planks of the GOP campaign. But I do know that to publicly admit that this bloc of (awful) voters is integral to the success to the GOP would be to admit that the GOP is the party that nine out of ten know-nothing dumb-asses support, the party of bigotry and sexism and naked, very un-Christlike greed. Which it is, of course, but part of the self-delusion of this particular ideology is that as long as you never admit it out loud, you get to imagine yourself virtuous.

So sure, the temporary ascendancy of Donald Trump is an intriguing little labyrinth of pitfalls to be navigated by the Republican Party during this election season. But the real issue with the Donald is not that he's making a unholy mess of these well-laid plans (which plans largely consist of demonizing Hillary Clinton, but whatever). What Trump is doing is dog-whistling too loudly, and when the normal people can start hearing it, there's a whole bunch of very uncomfortable party-wide explaining to do.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:36 AM

July 8, 2015

yes it's time to start talking about candidates again sorry

There's really no other way to read this than as an epic burn, or as we used to say in junior high, "FACE!" The NYT, intrepid as ever in its coverage of the '16 presidential race (and also judicious considering the sheer number of candidates wandering across Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina) runs a very by-the-numbers story of Sen. Marco Rubio on the trail, rolling out some thoughts on education reform. Let's go to the videotape:
As part of his higher education plan, Mr. Rubio has proposed two innovations that are aimed at making student loans more affordable. First, he said, he would put into effect an income-based payment system to allow graduates earning lower salaries to repay creditors on a timetable that he said would cause "less strain." Those who earned more would have to repay their loans at a faster rate.

A form of income-based repayment plans for student loans already exists.

Not so by-the-numbers after all!

And I read that on the train in to the office (sorry, B train, I was the dude who went, "Whoa!" somewhere over the Manhattan Bridge), but looking it up to share with you I discover that this epic burn is now a titanically epic burn, because in the online version, the phrase "income-based repayment plans" is a hyperlink to an independent summary of student loan repayment, reduction and forgiveness programs. Which is makes it then a titanically epic servicey burn.

Between you and me, I don't know why Rubio doesn't suspend the campaign right now, if not for his general lightweightedness, then for the prospect of coming in third behind Donald Trump in endless polls for the next couple months.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:52 AM