Monday, March 14, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: “Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is the monster that swallows it up.” Mahatma Ghandi
Welcome to the American Singularity.
A few years ago I was invited to a bi-partisan discussion about the vitriolic speech dominating politics. My counterpart pointed out that conservative talk radio was a major driver of incendiary language. I countered that ugly language, scandals and smears have been a part of our political lexicon virtually since the beginning of the Republic. After the even concluded, an older gentleman asked me what happened when we surpassed acrimony. I told him that I hoped I wasn’t around because when angry language is no longer a sufficient outlet, violence lay on the horizon.
In the past two weeks the temperature of language and action at Donald Trump’s events has escalated precipitously. Protestors and reporters alike have been the target of violent behavior from others at the rallies. In the case of the media, shockingly, one act was committed by a member of the US Secret Service and the other by Trump’s own campaign manager.
As an old advance man I can say that I’ve never seen anything like these events. Had a member of the audience physically attacked another we would have had them arrested. Had an agent or staffer had laid a hand on a reporter, they would have been shuffled off to the great political beyond. What Trump is inciting is not limited to those who support him. Within his orbit there has developed a disdain and lack of even basic decorum when it comes to those who cover and/or disagree with him.
The Noisy Plurality
Richard Nixon spoke of the “Silent Majority” – those Americans who didn’t make their opinions or beliefs widely known, yet served as an invisible hand on the tone, tenor and direction of American political life. When Nixon gave that speech in 1969, they probably were truly a majority – working class whites who were probably pro-Vietnam and anti-hippie.
In 2016, they’re no longer a majority and they’re no longer willing to be silent. Racked by years of economic turmoil, terrorism, war and stagnant wages, the Noisy Plurality has had it with the Republicans, the Democrats and anyone else who they see as bowing to everyone but them – special interests at home and overly-cozy relationships abroad. Between Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, they’re fed up with “the system” have been shaken out of their slumber by a world that no longer resembles the one in which they enjoyed better times or came of age. Middle class is a more difficult lot to achieve and their kids are staring down the barrel of decreased living standards – the first in generations.
Do I believe that some of those who arrive at Trump rallies share truly repugnant beliefs? A small percentage – and they tend to make the news. More of them, though, are those voters that Republicans carried for decades and have been sold a bill of goods on more than “conservative” or “Republican” values. They’ve been stashed away in the cupboard, only seen as assets to the political class during election years.
The Final Stage of Grief
Last week’s debate in Miami was the illustration of a slate of candidates specifically, and a political party generally, who’ve finally given in to Trump’s mania. Attack him and it bounces off. Play his game and your own supporters desert you in frustration and disappointment. So Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich largely played their own games, point to the people and places they need to win on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Rubio gave an interview to several outlets in which the exhaustion, frustration and bewilderment was painted all over his face and saturated his words. It’s been a long campaign – nearly a year for some of the candidates, and longer in the preparation. But Rubio’s visage is analog for most of the Republican establishment. Even if the Stop Trump forces manage to prevent his outright nomination, a Cruz victory or brokered convention leaves the Party in a damaged position and guarantees the discussion this fall will be more about the fractures within the GOP than who is best suited to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Super Super Duper Tuesday
Five major states vote tomorrow: Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. Rubio appears to have the steepest hill to climb in winning the Sunshine State and continue his candidacy. Kasich appears to be surging in Ohio – where as governor he enjoys broad popularity and a well-organized campaign apparatus. Cruz will try and steal a win in one of the other three states, continuing to build his brand as the only reliable Trump alternative. Regardless, we are likely to be another candidate down leaving us the final three; none of whom are regarded as darlings of the Establishment. Even Kasich, with his long experience in Washington, is not exactly a darling of the Party – and he likes it that way.
Should we see a true split in the first big winner-take-all states, all those stories and columns about how the GOP will deal with a brokered convention will be fruitful and multiply. If this election season continues to confound and confuse us, why should the Convention be any different?