Pundits, commentators, reporters and civilian observers are shocked, shocked I tell you, by words coming out of the mouth of Donald Trump. Why? Have their hats been pulled down over their ears and eyes for eight years? Twenty perhaps?
Indeed, have they heard what Republican politicians have been saying lo these many years? Have they paid any attention whatsoever to legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate? Has jamming of their audio and visual devices left them unaware of the lunacy emanating from Republican legislators, local and national?
Did it really need to reach the point where the leading Republican presidential candidate is proposing manifestly fascist initiatives recognizable from the Europe of the Thirties? Wasn’t it inevitable, given the nonchalance with which increasing degrees of radicalism previously have been reported?
If elite media and supposedly elite observers have recognized this dangerous radicalism for what it is, they haven’t said much. There is no more persuasive reason for the emergence of a Donald Trump as emboldened as he is, than the normalization of rightist radicalism through the humdrum reporting of it by leading media outlets. As is always the case when extremist dogma and demagogic strongmen hold sway over populations, or segments of them, silence and looking away preceded it.
For the record, reporting upon the outrageous unremarked upon is legitimization by default, no matter what sort of phony “appearance of balance” principle media uses to excuse its failure to report the objective truth.
Ben Carson, until recently sharing the lead with Donald Trump in the Republican primary field, has said that affordable health care provided to millions of previously uninsured Americans through Obamacare is “the worst thing since slavery.” Honestly, is there really any legitimate, responsible way to report this that does not identify it and its originator as beyond the bounds of decency and sanity? But it was reported as just another statement on the campaign trail. Another day, another idiocy, and no one responds with as much as the blink of an eye.
Is Ted Cruz somehow less America’s Little Hitler rising from the extremist slime than Donald Trump? After a highly conservative Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage, Ted Cruz declared states ought to ignore the rulings. He declared Supreme Court decisions ipso facto “tyranny.” Is this any less pernicious, constitutionally or otherwise, that Donald Trump’s latest authoritarian ranting?
This craziness has been salient and commonplace for a long time, and we all know it. The press and the elites have damn well known it too, even if they muffled it to the point of effectively sanitizing the dangers it presented.
And what about the Republican Party itself?
54% of its members believe the President of the United States is a Muslim. A mere 29% accept that our President is a US born citizen. This goes well beyond abysmal ignorance to radicalization to the point of warped depravity. It is evidence of a successful mass rinsing of brains.
This should have been a shock, and a punch to the solar plexus long before Donald Trump started bellowing to the crowds in the Heldenplatz.
Indeed, is an ideological rejection of the scientific consensus regarding climate change, by leaders and rank and file of the Republican Party, strikingly less radical or ridiculous than Trump’s latest Fuhrer-speak?
Even now, many fellow candidates and fellow party leaders who have publicly distanced themselves from Trump’s “keep out the Muslims” fatwa, have either said affirmatively they would support him as the party’s nominee, or refrained from stating for the record they won’t.
The election of Bill Clinton was a new era in American politics in more ways than one. For the first time in modern history at least, much of the political opposition rejected the legitimacy of the other party, its serving president and serving members of congress. The American right devoted great sums of money and effort officially and unofficially, through methods orthodox and entirely novel, attempting to wholly de-legitimize, if not demolish an American presidency.
This was approximately the moment when the declaration came forth from the American right, and its principal vehicle, the Republican Party of something like total war on every form and source of opposition, including apostates and heretics among its own. It was the dawn of the age of rabid, inflexible dogmatism and absolutist hegemony.
One tradition, one precedent, one custom after another in governmental and political life fell by the wayside along the way, while the professional political classes and elite media rolled over to get their tummies rubbed.
So Donald Trump is suddenly shocking? Really?
This process didn’t sneak into American politics on cat’s paws, it thundered in like goose-stepping rhinoceros.