So what I think is, this whole Donald Trump presidency thing, it's important. It means something.
I think we can all take it as read that Trump is a buffoon. The thought of him being President of even a local bingo league is horrifying in extremis. According to current polls, however, he is--if not actually leading in the Republican primaries--then at least near the top.
If you haven't been following his candidacy--and if that's the case, then I'm sorry for you, because it's been excellent--the highlights are too many and too uproarious to even name. I'd urge you all to go to the Jon Stewart homepage and watch some of his dissections of Trump's various appearances and media hits. They're very excellent.
In brief, he's already stated that most, if not all, Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists; that John McCain, by virtue of being captured during Vietnam, and not having escaped, is not only not a war hero, but maybe a coward; and that, despite having a surefire, secret plan to defeat ISIS utterly, he can't tell us what that plan is, in case someone steals it.
Oh, and also, that he's very very smart. That comes up a lot. And also, that he's very rich.
What interests me about Trump is that he represents a sort of reductio ad absurdum of a certain growing strain of Republicanism. I'd call it Fox News Republicanism. Which is, essentially, the strain of Republicanism which believes that being conservative means being "free-thinking," and that being free-thinking means denouncing, as idiots, anyone else who's been in power. Mostly, that means saying that Democrats are corrupt and venial idiots, but if a certain stripe of Republican gets close to public office--Mitt Romney, John McCain, Jeb Bush--they can be defamed as well.
The logic, such as it is, goes like this: most politicians are stupid. Therefore most of their ideas are stupid. Therefore, most of the ideas and laws we've been given are useless. Therefore we need all-new ideas and all-new laws!
The emotion at the core of this view is anger. But the assumption at its core is that the world, despite is apparent complexity, is in fact very simple. Right and wrong are easy to differentiate, and [candidate in question] is able to do without any problems.
The Fox News aspect of this view lies in its inherent TV-friendliness. It's a view that's ready-made for television. It's a view that trades in controversy. It's a view that thinks in sound-bites. It's a view that loves the immediate and the simple, that rejects complexity or subtly as the province of liars and Europeans. All candidates have to kowtow to this way of thinking, of acting, to an extent, but Trump's genius, such as it is, has been to locate it at the center of his campaign/
And here's the interesting paradox. Fox News is clearly the organization, above all others, that should and does love Donald Trump. He is a never-ending goldmine of bullet-point discussion topics. Are all immigrants criminals? Why are our politicians so stupid? Why does (that whinging moderate) McCain get treated with such kid gloves? Where are our leaders?
And yet, even as he gives them, on a day-to-day level, everything the network needs, he is, obviously, a toxic poison to the Republican party. Can you imagine how happy Hillary Clinton would be to have Trump as her opponent? (I actually heard a serious roundtable radio discussion yesterday in which a number of people opined that Trump had been paid off by the Clintons to wreck the Republican nominating process).
So what does Fox News do? On the one hand, Trump makes great copy. He's far and above the most TV-friendly candidate. A whole network dedicated entirely to what he did and said could probably not only survive, but make real money. And yet, he's a death-wish for the party as a whole. So what does Fox News do? Continue to stoke the fires of extremism, which stoking has made them so rich over so many years? Or develop some kind of patriotic conscience, and try to purge the party of a known toxin?
It will be interesting to track.