July 18th, 2015
AUGUSTINE BEACH, FLORIDA – The problem with the modern, extended campaign season, now nearly two years in length, is the need for news. The twenty-four cycle demands to be fed, demands twists and turns, narrative to fuel the machine.
This is why, as of this very moment, Donald Trump is the presumed favorite for the Republican Nomination for President of the United States.
And it’s also why, by this time next week, that shine will be gone and he could very well be out of the race altogether.
Though the long and strange history of politics is chock-full of queer and bizarre tales, the Rise and Fall of Donald Trump in the 2016 Election has to be considered way, way up there in terms of peculiarity.
Oftentimes people will use the phrase “a perfect storm” to describe any incident or action that has various explanations or facts contributing to their genesis. It’s an overused phrase, for sure, one that actually bleeds away the importance and preciseness of the expression.
But it is apropos to describe Trump’s success so far as the result of one of those perfect storms.
In all of the political publications and articles, pundits are tripping over themselves trying to explain his surge in the polls, an upwelling that has found the real-estate/reality show personality enjoying healthy leads in national and primary polls alike. Most contribute it to his attacks on illegal-immigrants, which does account for some of the points, no doubt, while others argue it’s a visibility issue, that Trump, via his celebrity, is outperforming an obscenely large field in recognition. This is also true, but plays such a small role it’s barely even worth mentioning.
It’s by piecing together these factors, along with a crowd of others, that we find the truth of the situation. Simply put, Trump has been performing so well because national polls, and this has been the case since the 1992 Election, and arguably as far back as Kennedy/Nixon, are primarily influenced by mass media coverage of candidates. In the past, when national networks NBC, ABC, CBS, and then FOX, covered campaigns, they gave nearly identical coverage to candidates, giving prospective voters a much more equal glimpse at the fields, a courtesy that cable networks, beginning with Ted Turner’s CNN in the early Nineties, have since refused to offer. Trump is the most recent recipient of this beneficial stare, and he’s among the most focused on candidates we’ve ever had as a country. And this is simply because Trump is throwing the networks something to run with, something to focus on, at a rate that candidates have refused to do, or simply couldn’t, ever before.
Additionally, the crowded field has only served to amplify the effect by being, quite frankly, one of the most inept and laughable hordes of candidates that have ever been compiled in modern times. Nobody has reached for the brass ring, most of them choosing to stay back with the pack like a bunch of also-ran race horses, with the possible exception of Jeb Bush, who has thus far proved to be a less than compelling candidate. It’s his vacuum, and the continuing sigh that is Scott Walker’s shadow candidacy, that have allowed Trump to suck up the air in the room and surge to the front.
Trump, a veteran of “unscripted” TV programs, has known better than anyone else that what the race needed was somebody to bring a little bit of The Fun. That’s why The Apprentice has morphed, over the years, from a competition between everyday people to a contest featuring pseudo-celebrities like Brett Michaels and Trace Adkins, why it has mutated from a skills clash to tabloid-in-realtime program. The simple truth is that, when highs are involved, the highs have to be continually higher and stronger, and why a junkie’s life is never sustainable.
This afternoon’s flameout was inevitable. Everyone knew it but nobody wanted to admit it. There were hopes that Trump would coast into Debate Season and then fight through a primary or two before taking his ungraceful exit. But those who pay attention knew it wouldn’t last. His fire, though it burned bright and hot, was too wild to continue forever.
Today, Saturday, July 18th, that blaze finally consumed the last gulp of oxygen as Trump stood in Iowa and told a disapproving crowd that John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam’s infamous Hanoi Hotel for five and a half years, wasn’t a war hero. The impetus was the developing feud between the magnate and the aging lion of the senate which is a few days old now, a dispute that, much like Trump’s many quarrels, started when something he said was questioned and he reacted like a spurned child by hitting back with a fist of nails. Here, McCain said that Trump’s recent crusade against immigrants and Mexico – which he also called for a general boycott of in the same speech – had “woke up the crazies,” which, in Trump’s world, was a declaration of war.
“I like people who don’t get captured,” Trump said, referencing McCain’s capture after crashing his warplane in North Vietnam, a capture in which he was tortured and ultimately bayonetted.
Reproach was quick, former Texas governor Rick Perry going so far as to say the comments were “disgraceful” as nearly every candidate reacted within seconds and denounced Trump. Already, just an hour after the speech, it’s pretty well understood that Trump’s political career is more or less over now, and that he’ll exit the race within the week.
Though I’m not sure he’ll be gone in seven days time, I can say that his time as a realistic nominee, at least as a front-runner, is over now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s gone before August 6th’s first GOP debate, but his ascent is important if for no other reason than being an interesting historical footnote. It’s telling that he achieved this position with a combination of anger and bluster, a partnership that candidates would do well to appropriate moving on, particularly Ted Cruz if he has any interest in playing a role in the contest going forward. It was this rage that really set Trump apart from the field, that capture the voters’ attention, because it was a magnification and expression of the fury that many Right-Wing voters are feeling in the era of Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, Immigration, and the Demise of the Confederate Flag. It’s a voice that’s oh-so familiar because it’s the same voice these voters shout at the television when FOX News stokes their wrath with the same twenty-four nonsense that Trump re-fed into the system in the first place.
Simply put, it’s an echo, a constant, self-contained loop that this particular sect of people need to have to survive in this changing world, an alternate reality created via a dialogue they’re going to be searching for now that Trump has exhausted his fuel of self-parodying resentment and has to return to the considerable comfort of his considerable living room, where he can settle back into his chair and yell with the rest of the idiots.
Photo: Donald Trump – Caricature by DonkeyHotey