Andersen: Trump and the politics of entertainment
God won the Republican caucus in Iowa, where Ted Cruz served as high priest. Still, Ted missed a golden opportunity. When he quoted Scripture, “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning … morning is coming, morning is coming!” he could have added, “and I am the rising sun of God.”
Proclaiming an end to separation of church and state, Cruz is only a sideshow when compared to Trump, whose close second in Iowa confirms that his Republican supporters are seriously twisted and that America is bored sick.
Social media has lost its revealing novelty. Lives are blase, no matter how many “friends” one amasses or how many selfies and plates of food are posted. America can no longer be shocked at the movies. An unrelenting deluge of violence, intrigue, corruption, sex, scandal, suspense and horror has dulled the collective sensibilities. Only decibels can boost the impact.
Americans are dulled to titillating news sensationalized by gutted reportorial staffs and TV personalities who contrapuntally report the visceral details of outlandish events and celebrity sociopaths. There are no wars to worry over, no financial panics to fret and only the Zika virus to fear. Life is ho-hum.
Politics has become the new entertainment, and Trump has taken ideological debate into the realm of a contact sport. His barbs and innuendos lampoon the political process with a persona “Saturday Night Live” can’t even caricature. Sarah Palin’s endorsement amplifies his Don Rickles insults with new heights of dudgeon.
Politics joins football for gladiatorial bravado and the concussive impacts of bloviated invective. Trump is the 300-pound tackle whose brains are scrambled, but he sacks his opponents as comely cheerleaders swoon at his machismo.
Politics is big-time wrestling where Trump, attired in a Tarzan suit, scowls while hurling “bimbo” referees into the turnbuckle and ranting obscenities into the camera with spit flying.
America loves the Trump show, and TV capitalizes on it with tawdry programming designed to relieve collective cultural boredom by trying in vain to fill the void of real-life experience. The revolution is being televised, and it will make a buck with high ratings and commercial endorsements.
America craves entertainment, so America craves Trump, a cartoon character who America believes is real. Trump is as phony as his cantilevered bouffant, but America wants to believe that this populist billionaire is a viable leader of the great unwashed masses whose pandering is insufferable.
Time magazine exalts Trump as the anti-hero of American political mythology: “Trump has shredded the political rulebook, scattering the pieces from his private helicopter. … Have mouth will travel. … What Flubber was to physics, Trump is to politics: an antidote to gravity, cooked up by a quirky but prodigious amateur.”
With mainstream media capitalizing on this radical miscreant, America is buying the validity of Trump’s candidacy. Media spin is all-important, regardless of content, of which Trump has little. You can laugh at Trump or laugh with him, but after the laughter comes a dark side that could blanket the world in an ugly shroud.
In his book “The Plot Against America,” Phillip Roth rewrites history with the fictional election of Charles Lindbergh as a Nazi-sympathizing U.S. president who ushers in a fascist government that persecutes minorities and restricts civil liberties.
Roth describes how paranoia over national security morphs into repression, anti-Semitic edicts and forced relocations of suspect citizens. Escape to Canada is complicated when America declares war on its northern neighbor.
America watches as gravitas becomes irreversible. Roth writes: “The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.” He describes a nation caught up in “petty corruptions that proliferate wherever people compete for even the tiniest advantages of rank.”
In real life, Lindbergh proclaimed that Americans must “band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only as long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races.”
One of Roth’s characters forebodes a Trump-like future with a shocking rhetorical query: “It can’t happen here? My friends, it is happening here.”
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays when he’s not in line to apply for Canadian citizenship. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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