David Levi Strauss / Debates / Dispatch

Dispatch 31: Apprentice


DONALD J. Trump is very good at one thing, and that is drawing attention to himself. He has spent his entire life honing this skill, and he must now be acknowledged as a master of it, in the Century of the Self, when being famous for being famous is at its peak. Trump knows that the Media cannot resist this tautology. This is the New Reality.

But the most consequential serendipity, for Trump, has been surviving into a time in American politics when a large portion of eligible voters, probably 35-40 percent, are so disgusted with the actions of politicians over the past decade, so frustrated by the system, and so angry about it all that they are willing to risk tearing it all down, rolling the dice, and starting over. Ever mindful of popular trends, Trump picked up on this growing frustration as an opening on the Right years ago, and began re-shaping himself into a spokesman for it. When Democrats were popular, he was a Democrat. Now, he’s an apocalyptic Republican.

Up until now, perhaps until the third and final debate, the mass of the disaffected has been able to ignore the glaring character flaws of their messenger, including his naked bigotry. All that mattered was the core message of outrage, flung into the teeth of the hated Elites and their Media apologists. Yes, he’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk. Good or bad, he’s our Voice.

Tragically, the American Left has given them no viable alternative.

Trump’s triumph has been to bring the bigoted language and rhetoric of Social Media, Right Wing radio, and Reality TV into a Presidential campaign, for the first time. If that breach holds, political discourse is doomed in this country. I don’t think it will hold.

The event last Wednesday night was not really a political debate, but a psychological pageant. Hillary Clinton held her own in this new arena. She gave as good as she got. Rather than hold back and let Trump destroy himself, as many advised, she went after him, and dominated him. The Hillary Clinton that confronted and bested Trump in Las Vegas on Wednesday night deserves our support.

Just as there are Americans who could never accept a Black man as President, there are many Americans, male and female, who will never accept a woman as President. But they are a minority, and they are going to lose this election decisively. What they will do in response to this crushing defeat is unknown, and worrisome.

In refusing to say that he will accept the results of the election, Trump has set himself outside of the democratic process. The system may indeed be rigged, but it is not rigged in the way Trump is claiming it is. He is gaming the system the same way he always has, as a coward and a cad. But he’s right about one thing: this election has indeed become a battle for the American character.

David Levi Strauss
Saturday, October 22, 2016

LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches

[Photography: Jon Winet. October 19, 2016.   Debate Watch Party. Food 4 Thought Café, Learning Commons, University Library, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. Click on image to see an enlargement.]

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