by Chris Davis
What separates us from animals, really? Elephants mourn their dead. Monkeys use tools. Octopi are creative problem solvers able to escape the tightest fixes. Even pigeons, filthy as they are, choose monogamy and mate for life. That leaves people with one thing — Self-delusion. And nowhere is this tendency more evident than motivational speaking events where famous and near famous people like former Minnesota Viking Fran Tarkenton dance to inspirational music, quote Vince Lombardi and tell ordinary schmoes the only person standing between themselves and the wealth we all deserve, is the person in the mirror. On second thought, it’s probably more evident at a Republican National Convention where delegates literally wrap themselves in the flag, pretend to care about minorities their platform is almost certainly designed to harm. In Cleveland last week, where Jersey Governor Chris Christie incited a slobbering mob, and G.E. Smith's band cranked out AC/DC covers between speakers, it was sometimes hard to make distinctions. “USA, USA, USA!”
On the closing night of the 2016 RNC, in the rust belt metropolis of Cleveland Ohio, presidential nominee Donald J. Trump tricked conservatives into golf-applauding a brave plea to not mass murder members of the L-G-B-T- Q community. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that brave, or even a plea, exactly. But that’s what passes for progress in the Ghastly Old Party with its explicitly heteronormative platform. It was a weird moment in a long, smug address that played out like an infomercial for the “Blue Collar Billionaire,” who grew his fortune through bankruptcy after bankruptcy, leaving investors to hold the bag for his profitable profligacy. To borrow from daughter Ivanka’s media-approved “smart” and “savvy”speech, you’ve got to judge the man by his results. He’s loaded, right?
While cliche protesters waved ignorant signs about Trump being the antichrist, chanting the same lame chants they’ve been chanting for decades, Trump, who knows a thing or two about get rich quick scams (cough-Trump University-cough) promised to make America rich again — FAST. That’s got to be an appealing message in a desperate place like Cleveland which was named the poorest big city in America in 2004. A decade later 1 in 3 Clevelanders still lived in poverty, and as Trump noted, it’s been a long time since anybody who wasn’t rich to begin with has seen a pay raise. Easy pickings for a master scammer who knows the con can’t work without establishing a modicum of trust and good feelings.
Let them eat Trump Steaks.
Misleading facts about poverty within the Latino community were accompanied by comments broadly linking Mexican immigrants to heinous crimes. He blamed President Barack Obama for racism, and African-American’s generally for violence in the streets. He said he would be this campaign’s “law and order” president, echoing tropes of Nixon’s 1968 campaign. Nixon used “Law and Order,” to capitalize on white paranoia brought to a fever pitch by Civil Rights marches, and urban riots like the one that tore Detroit apart after police raided an African-American club called The Blind Pig, igniting a powder keg of generations old marginalization. Trump’s doing the same, but with less diplomacy and grace.
Racial tensions have yielded a lot of nonsense talk comparing 2016 to 1968 even though the two years are nothing alike. For example, in 1968 America was embroiled in a deadly, heavily televised war in Vietnam. These days drones do most of our civilian killing, and all the action happens comfortably off screen, out of mind, and outside the context of a formal military conflict. So, in the absence of righteous fury, middle America can wallow in the unrighteous kind and Trump’s acceptance speech received some of its best applause when he promised to be the law and order candidate and end this reign of minority terror — FAST!
The unanswered question to most of Trump’s vague proposals: How? How will he make America rich — “FAST!”? How will a Federal executive end violence — “FAST!”? Does he really think he’s running for CEO in chief?
Critics have described his acceptance speech as being too dark. Fans have described it as brutally honest but hopeful. Better descriptives would be empty, incoherent and delusional. To his credit, there’s an enormous constituency for that.