Donald Trump led the field with support from a whopping 24% of Republican respondents to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted late last week, beating Scott Walker by 11 points. I bet you didn’t think you’d be pulling for Scott Walker in 2015, did you? But the Post seems to have buried the lead in its story on the poll: although Trump polled very well Thursday and Friday, his support plummeted Saturday night, after the media widely reported his remarks about John McCain. It seems Trump has defined some contours of the contemporary Republican Party. You can call Mexicans rapists, but you cannot attack a veteran.
A few weeks ago, I noticed yellow jackets flying in and out of the gap between my stair and the siding. “I don’t need to do anything about this,” I thought, and went inside to vomit. Then this week, as I was chaining up my bicycle, one of the greatly increased number of yellow jackets stung me on the calf. “That’s it,” I said. “I’m going to do something if this happens again.” Yesterday they got me twice, on that one big vein that runs over the top of the ankle. I could feel the venom going up my leg. Generally, it is against my ethics to kill living things; I’m the guy who catches spiders in a rocks glass and turns them loose outside. My personal code also forbids doing chores around the house. But wasp appeasement had clearly failed, so I went to the hardware store and bought toxic spray and foaming sealant. Today is Friday, and we all must do what must be done. Won’t you poison whole societies with me?
Poker strategists sometimes describe unskilled behavior as “coinciding with correct play.” For example, the way most people play poker badly is by calling every bet. If you bluff such a player, even in a situation where he absolutely should fold, he will call your bet and win. His mistake coincides with correct play. From the perspective of conservative Republicans, the Islamic State coincided with correct play when it banned the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution from schools in Mosul. Also, the Islamic State is establishing public school curricula in northern Iraq now. At least we don’t have to worry about Saddam Hussein anymore, right? Guys?
Is this the face of a machine politician who unquestioningly executes whatever obscure directives party apparatchiks give him? Um, yeah—now that you mention it, it kind of is. Especially if you mention it along with the news that Scott Walker appointed 27 year-old college dropout Brian Deschane to a $65,000-a-year supervisory position in the Wisconsin Bureau of Licensing and Regulation. Deschane has no management experience, only a short history of full-time employment and two drunk driving convictions, but he is the son of Jerry Deschane, head of the Wisconsin Builders Association, which sent Walker over $120,000 in contributions during the 2010 campaign. Two months after he was hired at L&R, Brian Deschane was promoted to a supervisory position in the Wisconsin Commerce Department, where he got a 24% pay raise. Then a bunch of articles came out about that, and Walker demoted Deschane to his earlier job. He’ll also be in charge of Walker’s exploratory team for the 1882 election.
If you’ve spent any time teaching rhetoric or composition,* you’ve likely noticed that many people understand on an instinctive level what a sentence sounds like but have no idea what to put inside it. I became fascinated by this phenomenon in the years before I withdrew to my mountain lair, back when I used to spend hours a day watching high school students compose sentences. “Although,” they would begin, and then lapse into a state of deep concentration, as if they A) had no idea what they were going to say but B) knew the second part would contradict the first part. In the same way that we all learned language by mimicking sounds before we knew they were vehicles for meaning, many of us have mastered the art of building the shape of a truthful statement and then filling it with total bullshit. This week’s link roundup features statements, actions and ideas that resemble decency in silhouette, but which turn out to be crassly unethical and vapid in content. It’s the perfect preparation for a weekend whose structure will be exactly the same as every other, but which will of course turn out to be an unprecedented, irreplaceable experience that will probably involve throwing up. Won’t you bring a little bile to your mouth with me?