Ways to lose to Donald Trump: Call people stupid for supporting him now

Enough votes to cancel out everyone you know

Enough votes to cancel out everyone you know

Donald Trump is the worst major-party candidate in modern history. He stops spouting nonsense only to lie, and his lies contradict one another. You’d have to be stupid to vote for him, which is weird, because he obliterated 15 other Republican candidates in the primaries. But that was the GOP, where the stupid enjoy a plurality. Now that we’re basically into the general, Trump’s idiot supporters are overwhelmingly outnumbered by those of us who look down our noses at them. That’s why Hillary Clinton enjoys an insurmountable two-point lead in the polls. It’s also why this satirical report by Andy Borowitz, Stephen Hawking angers Trump supporters with baffling array of long words, is so hilarious.

Agreed that “baffling array” is an inherently funny phrase, which is probably why it verges on cliché. I suppose it’s also funny to dismiss Trump voters as morons who don’t understand the sophomore-level vocab words we do:

Speaking to a television interviewer in London, Hawking called Trump “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” a statement that many Trump supporters believed was intentionally designed to confuse them. Moments after Hawking made the remark, Google reported a sharp increase in searches for the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking.”

Ha! Those stupid assholes look up the meanings of words they don’t know. Can you believe they didn’t know them already? Wait, I feel weird. It seems the path of our satire has intersected a swifter vehicle.

If you want Clinton to beat Trump in November, a person who currently thinks he would make a good president is like someone who doesn’t know what the word “demagogue” means. You can laugh at him for not knowing and thereby convince him it’s the kind of word assholes use. Or you can hope he looks it up—even encourage him to do so or, if you really consider yourself a deft hand, explain to him what it means. Then maybe he will start using “demagogue” too, instead of voting for the billionaire who talks like an ordinary guy hating you.

Saying Trump appeals to stupid people is not the first step to winning over his supporters. Hillary already fights the impression that she’s smug, living a life ordinary people cannot imagine, and married to a president. Two out of those three are true. Perhaps the best way to counter the popular appeal of a charismatic huckster is not to work the “you rubes” angle. That’s how you play the heel in Memphis.

I do think Trump appeals to common denominators, and I don’t want him to win in November. I sure would feel better about the slim lead standing between me and President Trump if it were larded by a few points—possibly one or two percent of Trump supporters. I guess we can hope to lure them with our disdain.

Donald Trump embodies core conservative principle of winning

Donald Trump in Des Moines earlier this year

Donald Trump in Des Moines earlier this year

Back in 2010, newly-minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Heritage Foundation, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” It was a blunt statement of Republican principle. Lower taxes and deregulation are well and good, but the central plank in the modern GOP platform is winning. Maybe it started when John McCain mortgaged his reputation for Sarah Palin. Maybe it began with the election of Barack Obama and the party’s redefinition of itself as his negative image. But it ends like this. Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination for president on the strength of saying whatever works. And between now and November, most of the people who called him an unqualified catastrophe—party leaders, conservative commentators, other Republican politicians—will get behind him.

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On the appeal of the Trump message


There is no Trump message. There’s not enough of one, anyway. His signature move, rhetorically, is to deplore the problem for 45 seconds and praise the solution for his remaining 15. We’re going to have better deals with China, and it’s going to be great. We’ll get rid of illegal immigrants. If you ask him where he plans to hold the illegal immigrants before he deports them but after he rounds them up, he says it will be great. From a message standpoint, his campaign is like if you went car shopping, and one guy was just selling a picture of you and him riding in a Corvette with boners.

His message doesn’t make sense to me. But it makes sense to a lot of people, and more of them have voted for him than for any other Republican candidate. They can’t all be dumb. Some of them must like something about him besides that he is brightly colored and easy to understand. There is a Trump message. It is under-articulated and thick, like a walrus flipper, but it is strong enough to heave his campaign up onto the ice floe of popular democracy, where it can devour the penguins of cable news. He’s saying something, and it’s not “make America great.” It’s make America great again.

The oft remarked premise of this slogan is that America sucks now. He’s not wrong. Something does suck about America in 2016. It started in the last decade, when George W. Bush made the economy work really well for rich people until it broke. Don’t worry: it’s working well for rich people again.

That’s how you get a candidate like Trump. For the last 30 years or so, the American system has worked increasingly well for a dwindling number of people. When the middle class shrinks and the ruling class gets richer but stays the same size, society gets weird. People lose confidence in the existing system. Their taste in leaders becomes more personality-driven, because they don’t believe specific policies will get anything done. They’re cynical and broke. They don’t care how we fix this broken system. They just want some dynamo to cut through the bullshit and set things right—someone to make America great again.

Trump’s message is “everything sucks, and I will undo it.” It’s a call to either action or apocalypse, depending on how far you think it through. I think it’s nuts. But if you only consider it for a second or two—basically, the time it takes to decide whether you like that guy—it’s true. The first part is, anyway. America is not great right now. The system has become unfair. We used to be the country that didn’t care who your dad was, but then the president’s son fucked it up.

Or immigrants and women’s studies majors did it—it depends on what meetings you go to.  On one side of that divide, the president’s wife has offered to make things more fair and merit-based, plus fight another war to clean up after the last two. On the other side, “make America great again” has won more delegates than “make America constitutional again” and “neither of these maniacs.” But it hasn’t won a majority. The GOP could broker its convention and keep Trump from detonating the party and/or United States of America.

But maybe they shouldn’t? If Trump wins the most delegates and somebody else wins the nomination, the GOP will prove him right. It will demonstrate the truth of his message and disappoint its largest single bloc of voters in one stroke. The Republican Party blackballed the guy who said democracy is rigged even though he got the most votes, huh? I guess I’ll vote for Clinton—no, Hillary Clinton.

FiveThirtyEight believes people agree with Trump’s message that the Republican nominating process is rigged if it doesn’t give him the nomination. Quote:

Last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 62 percent of Republicans thought the “candidate with the most votes in the primaries” should become the nominee in the event that no candidate wins a majority of delegates, compared with 33 percent who said Republicans should choose the “candidate who the delegates think would be the best nominee.” Only 40 percent of Republicans had Trump as their first choice in the same poll, which implies that there’s a group of Republicans who personally don’t prefer Trump but wouldn’t want to deny him the nomination if he finished with the plurality of delegates and votes, as he is almost certain to do.

The Republican Party stands to lose more than Trump supporters if it nominates someone else. I submit that denying him the nomination would make his message more convincing—the larger one about how this country works, not just his micro-message about the convention. I don’t care for Donald Trump. I think he is a symptom of an unhealthy democracy. But I don’t know if another insult to our system will cure it.

Trump almost never forgets 9/11

Donald Trump reports for jury duty in August 2015. Photo by Andrew Burton

Donald Trump reports for jury duty in August 2015. Photo by Andrew Burton

It’s callow to laugh at Donald Trump for misspeaking, especially when he says so much risible shit on purpose. But there’s something pleasing about this flub:

I think what I want to do is I want to talk just for a second. I wrote this out, and it’s very close to my heart because I was down there. And I watched our police and our firemen down on 7/11, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down. And I saw the greatest people I’ve ever seen in action. I saw the greatest people I’ve ever seen including the construction workers, including every person down there. That’s what New York values is about.

As Rudy Giuliani will tell you, New York values are about running for president of September 11. Trump almost does that competently here. He declares police and fire fighters the bravest people on earth, and then expands that superlative to everyone in his field of vision. He makes heroes of us all. He almost never forgets. But then he says that thing about 7/11 and the whole edifice comes crashing down. Questions:

  1. Is this the first time America laughed at 9/11?
  2. Is this the first time Trump admitted to writing down a speech?

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Friday links! Our shared inheritance edition

A reeve directs serfs on a feudal demesne, circa 1310.

A reeve directs serfs on a feudal demesne, circa 1310.

Much of my week has centered on a lawsuit. It’s not a trial; it’s a binding arbitration, and I am neither the plaintiff nor the defendant. But I appeared as a witness, with all the logistical wrangling that entails. In the process, I developed a sense of just how tenaciously we come to contest anything we contest formally. Once we hold an advantage—be it a parcel of money, a position in a market, or an inherited privilege—we become loath to share it with anyone, even in situations where sharing would seem completely reasonable if lawyers weren’t present. Today is Friday, and we cling to our inheritances fiercely when someone tries to take them from us. Won’t you put property ahead of propriety with me?

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