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Trump Is Not the Carnival Sideshow – The Political “Normal” Is

With Donald Trump now out of the presidential race, can we take a moment to consider the context in which he existed?

First, here’s Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank with the conventional bit:

Having Donald Trump in the presidential race gave it the feel of a carnival.

ABC News described his “roller-coaster flirtation” with a run for the White House.  The Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote of the “circus-like speculation” about his presidential aspirations. The New York Daily News put Trump in clown makeup and called him “Sideshow Don,” while the Post’s Jennifer Rubin dubbed him “Trump the Clown.”  President Obama himself used the term “carnival barker” in an apparent reference to Trump.

But I think a different theme-park metaphor might be more relevant to the last 90 days of the Trump pseudo campaign: the House of Horrors.  He showed us how truly scary our political system has become….

Here’s where I beg to differ. Donald Trump is only one of many reminders of what is a bigger problem. It is not that nutsos and self-promoting empty shells running for president are signs of “how truly scary our political system has become.”

What is scary is how elections themselves have very little to do with anything—yet they suck up a tremendous amount of energy from the media and the public, leaving little left for the hard work of actually figuring out how to make a go of this country and this world.

They principally provide material for distraction. There’s a reason that many of the people who spend a lot of their time thinking and talking about celebrities’ private lives, and/or memorizing the statistics of scores of sports stars, also derive deep satisfaction from the seasonal political game. It…is….an….amusement.

For even Dana Milbank gets an entire column out of how much he finds Trump emblematic of “our political system, which rewards hucksters.” That’s the kind of theme that makes columns go round.

No, the bigger problem is that we fail to properly study the system itself in terms of the “non-hucksters” who get to the top.

How is it, do you suppose, that an exciting reformer like Obama would turn out in so many ways to be rather like the other men who came before him?

How do you suppose it is that the ones who really seemed even a tad fiery, who talk a lot about big money, about accountability for the Pentagon and the CIA, who talk openly about ordinary people getting screwed, that sort of thing—the Howard Deans, the Gary Harts, the John Edwards’, the John Andersons—for one reason or another never manage to get in? Usually, they don’t make it through the primaries. And it’s not just because some of them have an eye for the ladies, or whatever their personal defect supposedly is.

The truth is there’s something wrong with our shining democracy itself.

The range of permissible options seems permanently constricted.

Do you want some war overseas, or a lot? Do you prefer that workers give away all of the gains they’ve made in the past century, or just many of those gains? Do you want to do nothing about climate change or make some noise but still do very little? Do you favor one group of investment bankers determining economic policy—or another? Which Ivy League crew is your favorite?  What’s your flavor—Dick Cheney or Rahm Emanuel?

The Donald Trumps, the Sarah Palins, and their ilk are not a sideshow to the real, substantive campaign. They are a distraction so that, by comparison, the rest can seem to offer us something.

When in fact, they do not.

(More to come on this subject)

 

GRAPHIC:  http://www.smugnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/donald-trump-obama.jpg


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  • Dave

    IMHO, the whole political conversation is off on the wrong track -  Like the track to nowhere.  We’re being entertained with many sideshows and missing the main event, while the pickpockets are working the crowd.

    This is our country that we’re concerned with, and MSM just talks about personalities. Serious problems require conversations and reflection. TV is a one-way medium, so no conversations are to be had there. The real give and take on ideas can happen at town hall meetings, if they’re not interrupted, but even more can be taking place here on the www.

    I like the comments pages where the good ideas can get voted up to the top, and online polls (but sometimes, even they get corrupted). As non-inclusive as the www is, I think it’s where lots of progress can be made toward refining the ideas and the message.

    I don’t have a TV

  • Anonymous

    Right on Russ.  In retrospect, I think Obama was a ringer from the start.  The Gary Hart thing is interesting.  Go back and look at the connections between Donna Rice and Bush (only a few degrees of separation) if you haven’t already.  And look at Strauss-Kahn.  And Assange.  And Spitzer.  The public is kept so dumb it’s pitiful.

  • http://welcome-to-pottersville2.blogspot.com Suzan

    Talk about circus acts . . . what do you think about Paul Craig Roberts’ (and others’) take on the Strauss-Kahn perp walk coup d’etat in a country that never even arrested our own biggest criminals (Wall Street)? Let alone, perp-walked them (and Madoff was just another distraction).


    How is it, do you suppose, that an exciting reformer like Obama would
    turn out in so many ways to be rather like the other men who came
    before him?

    How do you suppose it is that the ones who really seemed even a tad
    fiery, who talk a lot about big money, about accountability for the
    Pentagon and the CIA, who talk openly about ordinary people getting
    screwed, that sort of thing—the Howard Deans, the Gary Harts, the John
    Edwards’, the John Andersons—for one reason or another never manage to
    get in? Usually, they don’t make it through the primaries.

  • KGB

    One could argue that Trump and Co. were/are not a side show at all but actors on the main stage along with the rest of the cast. Trouble is, if you say that you start to sound ‘conspiratorial’.

  • Shrugged

    You have joined the carnival by repeating the canard about “climate change”.  So much for your integrity. 

  • Oldblevins

    When I was in college, some of my friends worked in a dog food packaging plant. There was only one dog food, sometimes stamped into different shapes, but still only one dogfood, which they packaged into various bags with various labels. Some gourmet, some bargain brand, to be sold at varied prices. We need to stop looking at the political labels and start evaluating the dogfood. 

  • Anonymous

    Great article Russ.  You have whet my appetite.  It seems more and more people are starting too look at the system itself and it’s systemic issues rather than the personalities who result from the system as the source of our ills – thankfully, because it is overdue.   I look forward to more on this subject.