Donald Trump Is Joe McCarthy's Doppelgänger, While the GOP Remains In a Dissociative State
If you're one of the few who's still not convinced that playing American football causes severe and irreversible brain damage, just listen to this: "I'm for common sense." Those are the words of former New England Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light, who, in Politico's words, "likes what Trump has to say."
Mr. Light was in attendance at Trump's nonfundraising fundraiser last night in Norwood, Mass., as was 83-year-old Joseph Fierro. We suspect Mr. Fierro also played football: "I don’t want to die in a socialist, progressive, Godless America, and Trump will save us."
Trump has made no secret of his support for the socialist schemes of Social Security and Medicare, he has advocated the ultimate in progressive ideology — single-payer healthcare, and he wouldn't know the Bible from the Bhagavad Gita. Yet Mr. Fierro shakes his cane in protest of all modernity, and in support of one — the very one among the GOP pack who most supports what Fierro opposes. A late-blooming case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy?
Barring brain-damage causations of the Trump phenomenon, we look to political psychology. Is there some occultlike secret to Trump's successful bamboozlement of the masses? Hardly.
Yesterday, Politico observed elsewhere that "Trump is rewriting the playbook in which politicians who offend respond by equivocating, clarifying or apologizing. Instead, he goes on offense." But of course Trump is not "rewriting the playbook" at all. He is, rather, borrowing heavily from Joe McCarthy's playbook. Never apologize; always attack, and counterattack. In pursuit of the White House, Ted Cruz got in on McCarthy's rhetorical racket before Trump did. Both men are now following the same playbook, and thus we see the simpatico and authentically offensive alliance between Cruz and Trump. At any rate, the old McCarthyite tactic of rhetorical bullying is often interpreted — "out there" — as a sign of strong leadership.
That much is obvious, and the tactic is easy to master; it requires no genius to be consistently unapologetic and unceasingly rude. Nor do bullies have a difficult time in gathering a following of weak-minded admirers.
There's something else, though, that lends to Trump's popularity. How many times, in how many stories, have you read one of Trump's followers say something to the effect of: "Wow, this guy is saying what we've been saying for years in our living rooms, at the kitchen table, around the watercolor. It's so refreshing. He just says what's on his mind — which is how we see the world — and he says it straight."
Now that takes genius, or at least no little talent — to fake, that is, extemporaneous sincerity. Trump is as calculated as Hillary Clinton, perhaps more so.
Not a syllable escapes his duck lips without prior, due consideration as to how it will play to the rubes. He is well rehearsed, he knows what claptrap will send hearts (not minds) soaring, and he has, you will note, stuck to a script. Each rally is pretty much the rally before: Jeb is low energy, Lindsey is toast, China (or Mexico or Japan or South Korea or Saudi Arabia) is eating our lunch, and the Donald will somehow make America great again. Like a polished stand-up comedian, on occasion he tests new material (last night it was Anthony Weiner). Like a polished politician, however, he mostly adheres to the stump speech.
Such withering sameness won't harm Trump for some time. The rabble likes the familiar (though it despises it in others). But we think back to the offensive, unapologetic McCarthy: His bullying sameness began to wear, his party knew it, and, in the end, it was Joe's party that "got" Joe. McCarthy had assaulted "the establishment" once too often, and the establishment finally struck back.
It is to our benefit that Reince Priebus and Jeb Bush seem — are? — historically clueless. Trump may well destroy them before they assist Trump in destroying himself. Go with God, Reince and Jeb. You'll need him, for you'll have nothing else left, after Trump destroys the GOP.