On the comic-book election.
Given a day to digest the dire results of the Ides of March primary elections, The Washington Post went into what could only be described as a meltdown over the suddenly looming prospect of a Trump presidency. Clearly it was all hands on deck for the war against the bombastic billionaire. The paper even opened its columns to its pop music critic, Chris Richards, to warn readers about “Authoritarian hold music: How Donald Trump’s banal playlist cultivates danger at his rallies.” It also had Garrison Keillor warning: “Think moving abroad will save you from Trump? Think again”—not to mention its regular Republican on the anti-Trump beat, Michael Gerson, writing for the umpteenth time something to the effect that: “Republicans stain themselves by sticking with Trump”
But the most amazingly over the top attack against the bloviating bully came in the same day’s editorial titled: “To defend our democracy against Trump, the GOP must aim for a brokered convention.”
Wait a minute. “Trump” in this context means the winning numbers of votes he has been getting in the primaries, without which there can be no threat to our democracy and with which there is—democracy! The Post would defend democracy in theory by thwarting democracy in practice, a project that, however sympathetic we may be to it, is intellectually incoherent. But then the whole editorial is pretty incoherent—with a positively Trumpian degree of rage:
Mr. Trump resembles other strongmen throughout history who have achieved power by manipulating democratic processes. Their playbook includes a casual embrace of violence; a willingness to wield government powers against personal enemies; contempt for a free press; demonization of anyone who is not white and Christian; intimations of dark conspiracies; and the propagation of sweeping, ugly lies. Mr. Trump has championed torture and the murder of innocent relatives of suspected terrorists. He has flirted with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. He has libeled and stereotyped wide swaths of humanity, including Mexicans and Muslims. He considers himself exempt from the norms of democratic contests, such as the release of tax returns, policy papers, lists of advisers and other information that voters have a right to expect.
Talk about demonization! Most of this bill of indictment has been manufactured out of the media’s own “narratives” of the recent past (for example, “Bush lied”) or their attempts to bait the candidate—into renouncing, for example, the support of some people he may never have heard of on the say-so of the media themselves that they are racists. That, is what they mean by the alleged flirtation with the Ku Klux Klan. If that’s a free press, it’s no wonder Mr. Trump has contempt for it. So do I.
The only other thing I have in common with him is a desire to see America great again—which is enough, I suspect, for millions of my fellow Republicans if not for me. But it ought to be enough for everyone to resent efforts by the Post and others in the media to make Mr. Trump into a comic book villain. Their own vitriol must be getting in the way of seeing that it has been his genius as a candidate to play up to this. He has intuited what the rest of us are only now beginning to realize: that in our postmodern, celebrity culture it’s just as good, maybe better, to be a supervillain as a superhero. The media’s Trump is just the mirror image of the media’s Obama of eight years ago, the Joker to his Batman. Personally, I think both are childish nonsense, as is the whole comic book genre, whether in film or in politics, and unworthy the attention of a serious person, but the Post, having led the way, both in making Mr. Obama into a superhero and Mr. Trump into a supervillain, is very ill-placed indeed to start expecting us to take it seriously now.
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