Wednesday, November 25, 2020

At Long Last...

Trumpism, like McCarthyism, might fade away faster than we think.

People remember history as it is convenient to them.  The McCarthy era, we are told, was an aberration of a few deranged people looking for Communists under every rock.  The odd thing was, of course, that there were a lot of Communists in the government and Hollywood - some just people who joined the cause in the 1930's when everything was falling apart.  Others were merely "useful idiots" who inadvertently helped the cause of Communism.  Still others, actual Communist agents, which we didn't discover, in some cases, until the fall of the Soviet Union, where KGB files were available, for a brief period of time.

McCarthy, of course, exposed none of these spies or agents.  Like with Trump's "100 affidavits of fraud," McCarthy would wave around a piece of paper with the names of  "130 Communists in the State Department!" - but never showed this paper to anyone.  The young attorney advising McCarthy - Roy Cohen - would go on to advise Donald Trump later in life.  So it is no wonder the tactics of McCarthy and Trump are so similar in nature - wild accusations, but no real evidence or action.

What we conveniently forget, however, is how many people "went along" with McCarthy's pointless witch hunt, which destroyed some people's lives and damaged others.  McCarthy "outed" gays from the government - forcing many from their jobs. At the same time, he tried to pull strings to get his boyfriend out of the Army.  Hypocrisy much?

We might not be surprised that a young Nixon might go along with McCarthy's nonsense - but the Kennedys?   Being anti-Communist in that era was a prerequisite to a political career, so people "went along" with McCarthyism, until it all spectacularly fell apart - almost overnight.  And almost overnight, people distanced themselves from McCarthy and McCarthyism, claiming they were out-of-town that week or feigning memory loss.

Today, people are claiming that Trumpism will live on - that Trump will "control" the Republican party for years to come and run again for President in 2024!  His daughter-in-law, Laura, with no political experience, will run for the Senate in 2022!  And this could all actually happen!   Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

What is interesting about both McCarthy and Trump is that they were both creatures of the media. The media, to some extent, created them, because it sold newspapers and was good for ratings.  And when the ratings flagged, they destroyed them - because that sold newspapers and was good for ratings.  Yes, even though I voted for Biden and am glad he won, I do realize the media was a bit too happy to report him as the winner, very early on.  The turnabout by Fox News is particularly startling - but again, I suspect this is driven by the business case.  Not only are MAGA-hat wearing folks a distinct minority in this country, most of them don't have enough cash or the credit rating to buy a new Ram pickup truck.  So what's the point in catering to them?  Might be good for ratings, but it drives away the high-paying advertisers.

You may recall the brief period of time in the 1960's when every network had a hillbilly show - Green Acres, Petticoat Junction or The Beverly Hillbillies or the like.   They had solid ratings, but were all canceled after a few years - and no hillbilly shows replaced them. The simple reason was, that while the ratings were solid, they were solid among a group of people who didn't buy anything because they didn't have any money.  So while Ford might sponsor Green Acres and Chrysler The Beverly Hillbillies, the viewers weren't trucking down to the car dealer the next day to buy a brand-new car, because they couldn't afford it. 

The demographic might have skewed too old as well - advertisers want young males, age 16-35, for whom brand loyalty is easy to instill.   They are dumb enough to sign up for car payments that are dwarfed by the insurance payments.    Kind of hard to sell a Mustang or a 'Cuda to someone watching Petticoat Junction - better off to snag them with something like Hawaii Five-O or Mannix.   Something with at least a car chase now and then!

And perhaps that is the problem for the media with Trump supporters.  They tend to skew older, and the ones who are younger have no money, and what little they have, they spend on an assault rifle or survivalist gear.  Not the sort of crowd the car companies and lite beer makers want to cater to.  And then again, there is the "dirty halo" aspect as well - you advertise on Hannity and you end up soiling your own brand.   That, in short, is the problem for these obscure right-wing "news" sites and social media - you can't make much money hawking gold and penis enlargers as the odious Glen Beck discovered the hard way.

But the big problem for the media was that there are just not enough MAGA-hat wearers to make it worthwhile to appeal to that demographic.  And what few there are, aren't tuning in to the "MSM" channels.

Seriously though, while the MAGA-hat people are loud and visible, a lot of this visibility is due to the media.  If you figure out that only about half the people in the USA voted in the last election, and of those, only half voted for Trump, you can figure out that Trump supporters - at least the rabid kind - are less than 1/4 of the population. Why would a rabid Trump supporter not vote?   And of the people who voted for Trump, I suspect fully half (or more) are not enamored of him, but merely are voting to support standard Republican values.  I know a lot of people who voted for Trump - none of them own a MAGA hat.  So at most, the people with the giant Trump flags on their pickup trucks and giant Trump signs on their lawns (in front of dilapidated trailers), are maybe - at most - 1/8th of the population of the USA - and I'm being generous here.

Let me digress further a bit here and address the "Classism" argument.  People might say what what I put forth in the previous paragraphs is "classist" - that somehow we need to embrace and celebrate ignorance, racism, poverty, stupidity, and other forms of weak thinking. There was some stupid "controversy" (again, generated by the media to sell eyeballs) about a Netflix movie (and the book it was based on) called "Hillbilly Elegy" - about a young man who escapes poverty by leaving Appalachia and moving to the big city and becoming a success.  He goes back to his hometown - much as Thomas Wolfe did in "Look Homeward Angel" and realized "You Can't Go Home Again."  It is a story told time and time again.

I mentioned before my friend who left the projects in Philadelphia to become a lawyer.  I mentioned my friend who left the trailer park in West Virginia to become a celebrated Interior Designer. Should they go home again to celebrate their "roots" - teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, low expectations, laziness, poverty, and lack of imagination?  Or should they move on with life? And shouldn't we, as a county, decry slovenly social values and celebrate the more advanced?   It is like I said before, back in the day, if you called someone a "Redneck" they would hang their head in shame.  Today, they talk about "Redneck Pride" as if it was some sort of desirable trait to be poor, ignorant, and belligerent.  We should strive for more than that in life.

But I digress.

Trumpism is a form of mental illness. We were in New York State this summer - a State where being a Trump supporter is just a waste of time.  The electoral college cuts both ways.  A wealthy friend of mine in Oregon said, "I hope you don't mind, but we are voting for Trump!" I didn't have the heart to tell them that, well, in Oregon, that didn't make much of a difference.   My vote here in Georgia, did - at least this time around.  Anyway, we drove by this house on a residential side street in the North Country, and saw a guy with all these home-made Trump signs on his lawn - made of 4' x 8' sheets of plywood and covered with hand-written text.  All over this lawn.  All of it.  Sort of like those creepy old school buses that people live in and drive around, covered with bible verses. This is not mentally healthy - nor is it a good use of your emotional energy or free time.

So why did the media breathlessly report every Trump rally and every stupid, stupid thing a Trump supporter blurts into the camera?   It was good for ratings.   And it was good for ratings back in the 1950's when McCarthy was running his circus as well.  And when people got bored with it, well, it was good for ratings to tear McCarthy down - which wasn't hard to do, with someone so self-destructive.

This is not to say you will see a landslide of Republicans denouncing Trump - not just yet.  No, rather, down the road, they may claim they were out of town that week or something to that effect.  There is no profit in denouncing, but they just may conveniently forget about that time when they had a photo-op with the President.

Is Trumpism dead?  It is probably too early to write the epitaph just yet.   But the three-ring circus that was Trump's "fraud" allegations and meritless lawsuits would seem to be the "At long last, have you no shame, sir?" moment, which may play favorably to that less than 1/8th of the population that still wears Trump hats (but not Trump face masks), but was a turn-off to the mainstream Republicans who were willing to put up with his nonsense - up to a point. I notice most of my Trump-supporting friends are kind of quiet these days.  Trump yard signs have disappeared from the yards of all but the most hard-core supporters.

For those worried that Communism or Socialism will take over the country in the next four years, I would say, relax. If history is any guide, the Democrats will screw this up big time, even if they manage to win the runoff elections in Georgia on January 5th.  There will be holdouts in the party who think policies are too liberal or too conservative, and in fact, it already has started. Ms. Alexa O'Malley O'Cortez and the rest of "The Squat" have already come out with guns blazing, claiming that Joe Biden isn't liberal enough and that he should have put more leftists in his cabinet.  For some reason, Joe Biden being a centrist comes as a major surprise to them.  So expect her to fuck up a wet dream for the next four years.

And it won't be long before the New York Times and the Washington Post run editorials about how Biden is screwing everything up - just as they ran down Obama and Clinton before him.  It's not that they have strong political convictions one way or the other, only that attacking and tearing down is good for ratings and sells newspapers.  And they sold a lot of newspapers with the Biden election - they will sell a lot more destroying him as well.   You see how this works.   You live by the media, you die by the media.   You would have thought Trump of all people would have understood this.