Years from now historians will look back at this presidential campaign with a mixture of disbelief and laughter. (That’s probably a pro-Hillary statement, since it assumes there will be historians years from now.)
They will wonder not just how Donald Trump hijacked the once respected Republican Party and ground it into national rubble but also how he did it with an issue that doesn’t even make the top five in problems facing the United States – the undocumented among us, whom statistics demonstrate are far more criminal-law-abiding than their homegrown counterparts.
Trump lathered that up as the “only important conversation” for Americans. If that were not silly enough, his Aug. 31 ravings about their invented criminality were accompanied by crocodile tears for photo-ops in Mexico and at a black church. Those acts of false normalcy and almost total reversal of his rallies were given equal media time.
Historians will spend most of their ink on why so many GOP leaders, knowing what they were saddled with, found ways to tolerate Trump, either gently steering their own campaign away from his toxicity or playing that crazy confounding game of saying they’ll vote for him but not endorse him.
Let’s also hope the historians don’t forgive the unforgivable. That is, the two faces of the mainstream media. One face has done a pretty thorough job dismantling the falsehoods, half truths and deliberate deception of the Aug. 31 speech as well as his broadside attacks on Clinton.
But the other face is ratings hunger, programming more for eyeballs than meaning. So in report after re-report after looped re-reports both the Trump yelling and the contrasting crocodile tears were pounded out relentlessly. And every mention of Trump must be followed by a mention of Clinton in negative fashion whatever the reality may be.
For me the most amusing was when she delivered a pretty sterling policy on mental health, but all the media could discuss were her emails.
We are in an era where visual images count more than analysis, and in this game of false equivalency Trump got an artificial leg up.
The best reporting these days is the mockery by faux news (late-night hosts and Comedy Central) who know exactly what to do when Trump points to “my African American” in the crowd or tells an incredulous congregation that the African American church is “so important, so important.” Even as the establishment media tries to explain him they are electronically plastering his poster on city walls, the way we expect streets to be lined in dictatorships.
Unquestionably the misdirection that Trump laces into his speeches are the biggest conspiratorial theories we have going, suggesting that Americans want to pick crops in the field or clean hotel toilets but are being deprived because of a porous border. Not by a needed wall around corporate greed.
On that real border, people are no longer a traffic problem – it’s more guns from American heading south and opium heading north. The real issue the wall can’t address is comprehensive immigration, since most of the Trump targets already are in this country or overstaying legitimate visas.
Trump the supposed businessman is under pressure from GOP regulars who want him to back down on long-held promises to deport all the undocumented. They represent sizable tax revenue and also add some $12 billion to Social Security, which makes the cost of educating their children (hello Jan Brewer) a mere pittance compared to the giant profits.
These days both sides are eager to exaggerate. I can collect examples from the far left as well as the far right. One key device: Angry and anguished relatives speaking about deaths of loved ones. This not only sells medical clinics in TV commercials. It has become a favorite emotional ploy for both political sides. The relatives of the fallen soldier speaking to the camera. The veteran denied the care he needs. They tug at our hearts as do starving dogs in yet another popular TV commercial.
But this pull was dragged to preposterous heights by Trump in his immigration tirade. At the end he lined up for sympathy and “Trump our savior” comments some parents whose children were killed by “illegal aliens.” Truth often bends before emotion, especially parental emotions. As manipulative as I realized the Trump display was, it still tugged at my feelings.
Until you examine the particulars of each case. All these lost relatives could have even more readily been killed by legal citizens. Actually more frequently.
There are 1,500 hit and run deaths per year in the US, but plucking out two committed by the undocumented is hardly a convincing statistic. If we could only lower the rape rate to those done by “illegals” that would be a great statistic to boast about. In terms of home invasions, gang beatings, recidivism and the like, US citizens unadorned by scapegoats are not only doing the majority but at far higher percentages. Crime statistics bear out that such atrocities emerge far more in non-immigrant communities.
This is not to make light of these families’ tragedies or the holes in our law enforcement or incarceration imbalance. But every moment spent deciphering Trump’s ramblings or his motives is a moment lost to genuine solution.
No wonder that Obama, stifled for most of his two terms because of GOP obstinacy, simply plows ahead doing what he can without Congress – and believe me, historians will have a lot to say about that.