Trump, The Great Emancipator?

Could Donald Trump be the Republican party’s second Great Emancipator? Strangely, yes.

Oddly, it is his serial embrace of mouthbreather conspiracy theories that may liberate the party.

For the moment, put aside Trump’s preposterous and embarrassing views about President Obama’s birth, Vince Foster’s death, the vaccination-autism nexus, the murder of Justice Scalia, the involvement of Ted Cruz’s father in the JFK assassination and the healthcare industry/legal establishment cabal to railroad producers of that wonderful material, asbestos. (Yes, Trump has been a conspiracy loon for many decades.) The absurd Trump notion that really matters is his contention that climate change is a “hoax.” And not just any hoax, but one perpetrated by the Chinese to weaken our manufacturing competitiveness.

In an energy speech in North Dakota, Trump quadrupled down on his refusal to admit logic into any discussion of energy policy. What does Trump’s America need? More coal and less regulation on fossil fuels.

Why would anyone besides an unemployed coal miner see light at the end of this pitch-black tunnel? Because, according to the Politics & Global Warming report released by Yale and George Mason in March, most Republicans think Trump is out to lunch. Fully 47 percent of conservative Republicans believe global warming is happening, up 19 percentage points in just two years. And 71 percent of liberal/moderate Republicans think it is occurring. On no issue is the chasm between Republican voters and the candidates who seek to take advantage of them greater. (Interestingly, the survey found only 16 percent of all voters realize climate scientists are nearly unanimous in believing that human-caused global warming exists, so the issue might grow in importance by November.)

Trump won the nomination largely because he realized Republican voters felt betrayed by Republican politicians. Voters did not punish him for straying from alleged party orthodoxy. Ted Cruz’s attempt to brand him a Democrat failed abysmally, and Trump even wrested the evangelical vote from him. Paradoxically, though, on climate change, Trump has sided with the donor class and the wingnut fringe and against his party’s voters.

If Hillary Clinton is smart, she will make climate change a major issue of the general election and show it is yet another subject on which Trump is an ill-informed loose cannon. If she does, she should win. In the aftermath, future Republican candidates will conclude that Trump was rewarded for taking courageous stands in the primaries but penalized for being the craven tool of the fossil fuel industry in the general election.

This would be good for humanity because it would likely mean future Republican presidential nominees won’t deny climate change. Trump has already shown that, on some issues, the Republican base is more moderate, if wildly more racist, than almost anybody thought. He proved that by winning. Now, on climate change, he can do the party an even bigger favor by losing.

Viewed logically, both his nomination victory and general election defeat will convince Republicans that to compete nationally the party must be more moderate, not less. Party luminaries will recognize that the Cruz holier-than-thou conservative path will be a road to ruin.

So the rise of Trump might save the Republican party by making it an actual party again rather than a subsidiary of Koch Industries. But he must lose in November to really save it. And he must lose by continuing to promote an energy policy that could help destroy the planet.

Trump has shown it is the donor class that has kept the party of Lincoln in chains. The Republican party has been shackled to some ideas that are not only wrong-headed but also deeply unpopular because they benefit the few at the expense of the many. As in the antebellum South, the ideas seem tailored to help rich white folks and no one else. For the sake of the party, and the nation, it is well past time for another Emancipation Proclamation.

Baby DonDon Goes Ballistic

Watching Donald Trump melt down on Tuesday in front of the press at Trump Tower finally clarified something. He reminds me of nothing so much as your neighbor’s awful five-year-old son who has never been disciplined.

You know the type. You want to scream at the parents, but you can’t. You want to throttle the kid as a public service, but you know that’s not allowed. (Why not?) Finally, you just hope providence will intervene and the kid gets flattened by a crosstown bus. Trump is the five-year-old who hasn’t yet been squashed by the M57, who’s oh so proud of being the loutish snot no one can control.

Briefly, here’s what happened. Baby DonDon pooped his pants and the press noticed. At first, he denied it. Then he assailed the press for discussing the non-issue. As the smell got worse, he admitted there was poop in his pants but said the evil, “dishonest” press had put it there while he was busy doing a good deed. (This reminds me of a wonderfully disgusting Gilbert Gottfried joke, but I will not go there.)

Trump lied so baldly and insulted the press so venomously that even the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal compared him to enemies-list-keeper Richard Nixon and questioned whether you wanted this guy anywhere near the nuclear codes. Trust me, if they’re not mentioning China or Russia, you don’t want to be compared to Richard Nixon.

Finally, one beleaguered reporter at the Donniebrook asked if a President SmellyPants would abuse the press in this way and Trump said the equivalent of, “Yeah, asshole.”

The Donnie was so upset because the press caught him lying yet again and, for a change, pressed the issue. Led by the Washington Post, reporters found that the $6 million Trump said he raised for veterans in January—when he boycotted the Fox debate because he was terrified that a Megyn Kelly question might cause him to soil his boxers—hadn’t all found its way to the vets. By Monday May 23, vets had received only $3.1 million. And the $1 million check Baby DonDon promised on network TV? It was a no-show.

Last Monday—four months late—the Deceitful One finally cut a check. Now the vets have received $5.6 million. Allegedly.

Why did Trump wait so long? Well, he’s always been a notoriously slow payer and has been known to stiff charities. (Trump University, of all things, was initially supposed to be a philanthropic venture, but Donnie pocketed $5 million anyway.) And many of us know we’ll never see his tax returns because his cash flow isn’t nearly as robust as he wants us to think and because most, if not all, of his charitable contributions are non-cash gifts like free rounds of golf. Not that I don’t appreciate that, because there’s nothing a vet in a wheelchair wants more than a free round of golf.

Tuesday was a watershed for the DonDon/press dynamic. Reporters no longer seemed thrilled just to be allowed in the same room as the worst candidate to head a major political ticket in the history of the United States. They stopped according him the respect he never deserved. And the people who bet on politics noticed. The Democrats were 65/35 favorites to win the presidency before the Trump Tower debacle according to PredictWise. Now its 71/29. That’s a huge move in such a short time.

In Michael D’Antonio’s Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success, the author quotes Trump as saying, “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

After watching his grotesque performance on Tuesday, those words resonate. He deserves what he’s always given President Obama and the truth.

No respect.

Can you imagine the tantrum he’ll throw when he loses in November?

I can’t wait.

The Fictional Mr. Trump

In Four Score and Seven, my recently published novel about the 2016 election, there is a character who, some say, resembles Donald J. Trump. Which raises the question: How do you fictionalize a character who already seems made-up?

First, exaggerate his flaws. How would one do that? Well, it is difficult but not impossible. When Trump says “I never said that,” there’s over a 50 percent chance he said it. When my Ronald Crockenstock denies saying something, you know with certainty he said it. Denying it is his tell.

On many days when I was making stuff up about Crockenstock, I felt that Trump knew what I was doing and was competing with me. He was making stuff up too—with such frequency and brio it was tough to keep up. It was as if he were novelizing our collective lives. The star of reality TV was conjuring a reality that didn’t exist, but resonated with voters.

My first job was to give Crockenstock a different occupation. Something classy and innovative. Presto, he was the founder of the pay toilet colossus Pay As You Go. His toilets charged fifty cents a pop, but the real genius of the operation lay in the change-making machines attached to each marble-floored, gilt-mirrored porta-potty. You put in a dollar and got back 85 cents. Such capitalist alchemy leads Crockenstock to crow he could balance the federal budget in three months, maybe two.

This “turd mogul”—as he is fondly known to his enemies and, okay, his friends—is not above Olympian feats of pandering. To display his religious bona fides, he refers to the miraculous conversion of Peter, Paul and Mary on the road to Damascus. When corrected by a viciously pious senator who is fighting him for the nomination, he quickly regains his balance by saying he might well select God as his running mate—if He was available. (I guess that would be a short vetting process.)

Crockenstock is also something of a philosopher. When Abe Lincoln—yes, the sixteenth president is so horrified by our republic’s woes he comes back to life for two weeks in an attempt to restore sanity—accuses Crockenstock of being a compulsive liar, the pathological prevaricator says, “One could almost argue that, in helping to highlight by contrast what is true, false statements are actually more valuable than true statements.” Say what? This conspiracy nut who is more likely to read the National Enquirer than Foreign Affairs extends this logic by denying that an event in the book with 3,000 attendees ever occurred, pointing out that 323 million Americans were definitely not there. “You do the math,” he reasons.

Ultimately, it is only the candidate’s affection for violence, his mistrust of Hispanic surnames and his remarkably thin skin that threatens his bid for the presidency. And now I will give away part of the ending. Crockenstock does not become president. Phew.

Alas, that’s what happens in my fictional world. You and I have to cope with reality—even if what we see each day seems such a poor excuse for reality as we once knew it. Hey, I knew before now that many people, especially Republicans (I mean Herman Cain, really?), ran for president because even losing had career benefits (Fox talk show, book sales, speeches), but I didn’t know until recent Federal Election Commission filings that Trump and his family were profiting directly from the campaign.

You can’t make this stuff up. (Heck, I’m just upset I didn’t.) In the recently-reissued TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, Timothy O’Brien admits to being entertained and amused by Trump but concludes that the man is, above all, a “huckster” like P.T. Barnum, who was a pioneer in telling people that everything he touched was the biggest, best and most spectacular. Trump’s lust for attention is matched only by his greed, which may explain why he’s been involved in so many sleazy, if not outright fraudulent, deals that ultimately cratered. And it might also explain, if anything could, the fact that Trump appears to have billed the campaign for the fake “Trump Steaks” displayed on the table at a Mar-a-Lago press conference, even though that failed brand was discontinued at least two years ago.

Hmm, making campaign contributors foot the bill for fake stuff that contradicts the true “lies” that opponents are telling about you. That shows initiative. Imagination. Leadership.

I wish I’d thought of it.