Sunday, July 24, 2016
DEMAGOGUE IN CHIEF
Donald Trump's speech at the Republican National Convention accepting the nomination for president was both surprising and unsurprising; on the one hand, it was free of the crazy conspiracy theories and childish insults that pepper his normal speeches. It appears that he mostly kept to his teleprompter and rarely went off script. And many of his early statements were typical political speech pronouncements about the importance of law and order. On the other hand, he still managed to stick to the message that has propelled him this far: that this country has fallen to hell, because of our weak president and his even weaker secretary of state. He painted a picture of a country beset by violent crime (even though violent crime rates are lower now than they were thirty years ago) and terrorist attacks and overrun by illegal immigrants (even though undocumented immigration has plateaued in recent years). And he claimed, ominously, that "the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored." As if his mere presence in office will magically end crime, because yelling about how tough you are solves everything!
Consciously or not, Trump was hitting the soft spot of his conservative base. Studies comparing conservative and progressive brain scans found that conservatives have a larger fear center, so it is no surprise that his fear mongering appeals to them. But will he also scare the moderates he needs into voting for him? I certainly hope not. Sadly, his speech, so enthusiastically cheered by the delegates, shows how hard compromise between conservatives and progressives is; I can't imagine most progressives today perceive America as the lawless hellhole that he and his party seem to. Truly, we do live in the same country but somehow in different worlds.
The most crucial line in the speech was when Trump announced that "I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order." There was no mention of working with congress or anyone else; it will be him, by himself, acting as more dictator than president, riding in on a white horse to save the country. He even eschewed the normal mentions of god or faith in his speech that every candidate usually makes; instead he held himself up as America's savior, encouraging worship of him and him alone. What an ego!
It 's that same ego that caused him to later call the convention "one of the best ever", ignoring the fact that it saw such highlights as pro and anti Trump delegates screaming at each other on the convention floor, his wife Melania being caught plagiarizing a speech by Michelle Obama, and Senator Ted Cruz refusing to endorse him openly and being booed for it. Hopefully, Hillary Clinton will be able to rally the country behind her by portraying herself at the Democratic Convention as the safe, sane and experienced alternative to Trump's Messianic view. Otherwise, I think the country is in serious trouble.