“Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is…” -Bob Dylan
Picture a dead Neil Young flopping around in his grave like a just caught fish as his song, “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” blasts from Trump Tower’s sound system while Donald and his wife Melania, looking like a sexualized calla lily, descend a glass sided escalator to a flag lined stage. Just as Trump makes the short, tentative first few steps toward the podium and into history, old Neil tears into his signature spasmodic raunch and swerve guitar solo- which is quick faded to silence like the smothering of a screaming bird as the future president unleashes a rambling list of beefs and half wit observations he would repeat throughout the most ridiculous and humiliating political campaign in American history. To our collective shame, here is what was required to become the leader of the free world in 2016-
We don’t win anymore.
America has terrible problems.
I beat China all the time!
When did we beat Japan at anything?
Mexico is laughing at us, killing us economically.
The U.S. is a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.
Mexico is sending people with lots of problems.
We have no protection, no competence.
Islamic terrorism is eating up the Middle East
They built a hotel!
They took the oil, when we left Iraq, we should have taken it.
I love the military.
I said not to hit Iraq because you will let Iran take over…bigly.
The wounded soldiers I love.
2,300 Humvees were left behind for the enemy!
Real unemployment is between 18-20%.
China and Mexico have our jobs.
Our enemies are getting stronger by the day as we get weaker.
Our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.
People are saying, stop the rhetoric, I want a job.
Obamacare will really kick in in 2016.
Doctors are quitting. It’s a disaster.
We have to repeal Obamacare.
Politicians will never make America great again.
They are controlled by lobbyists, donors.
Our country needs a truly great leader.
We need a leader who can bring back our jobs.
Can bring back our vets, our vets have been abandoned.
We need a great cheerleader.
Obama is the opposite of a cheerleader.
We need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again.
I will be the greatest jobs president GOD ever created.
I love China, but their leaders are smarter than ours.
They have bridges that make the George Washington bridge look like small potatoes.
We would never build an ocean.
You have a problem with ISIS, but you have a bigger problem with China.
People are tired of getting ripped off, of spending more money on education than any other nation.
We are becoming a third world country.
24 trillion is the point of no return.
I would do various things very quickly.
I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and Mexico will pay for it.
Nobody will be tougher on Isis.
Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.
I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
I will never be in a bicycle race, that I can tell you.
I will terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.
I will fully support and back up the second amendment
Education has to be local.
Rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
Save social security by making us rich again.
Renegotiate our foreign trade deals.
We will make America great again.
On June 6th, 2015 Donald John Trump, self described teetotaler, really good deal maker and incredible business man, appeared sauced as he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Those unfamiliar with his act were left dumbfounded. Is this real? His now infamous speech appeared improvised, sloppy and was most notable as a racist diatribe against Mexicans the future president described as rapists, murderers and drug dealers- with “a few good people” lurking across our southern border- he assumed. The speech came off like a very bad attempt at self parody. The assembled press were detached, playing with their phones, Melania and Ivanka were dutifully present, as if attending a ribbon cutting ceremony nobody would remember past lunch.
A few days later, on second hearing, ostensibly for laughs, I listened more closely to what seemed like babbling and detected a whiff of what was to come. Trump the orange-ish clown, continued his babbling at another event, sprinkling nuggets of simple minded anger at illegal immigrants, China, ISIS, Iran, the press, and Wall Street. His depth of knowledge on each subject expressed in the form of sentence fragments…”we’ve got to get ISIS, have to!”
What couldn’t be called political speech making morphed into a new absurdist art form, something like stream of consciousness sloganeering, or improvised hot button babbling delivered with twisted, sardonic menace, somehow producing long awaited manna from heaven for the incurably frustrated. Think of every troubling issue confronting Americans answered in the form of a bubble gum comic. It was impossible to know it at the time, but the world changed on 6-6-15.
Trump’s communication style is similar to that of drunk person wobbling towards unconsciousness after a long bull session on a variety of loosely related subjects. Near the end, the drunk will offer slivers of what was said or what he or she may have heard somewhere. With coherence, forthrightness and sincerity implied absurdities, the listener is free to participate in a rollicking free association game without the need to think or know anything about whatever it is Trump is pretending to discuss. A participatory loop is established not unlike the connection between jazz music and dedicated listeners; with the Trump loop appealing to our lower instincts, as opposed to the transcendental aspirations of the jazz form. The stream of one liners, non sequiturs, gaffs, bald faced lies, hate speech, and extremely low hanging fruit (I love the soldiers) create a kind of crackpot witch doctor’s poultice designed to soothe the wounded American soul. At the time, I couldn’t be sure, couldn’t believe the faint notion implanted after the second listen- but I thought I detected something different and possibly dangerous. After a decades long bloviating buffoon apprenticeship, could Trump have pulled off the awkward beginnings of an accidental foray into political uniqueness…one that might appeal to throngs of disaffected voters? No way. This is a joke, right?
While keeping the joke rolling with 24-7 Trump coverage, the media scoffed and sneered as his “message” took hold and never wavered. Trump then proceeded to destroy the RNC, the MSM and the Clinton political machine on his way to becoming the 45th President of the United States. In some ways his approach was numbingly simple- take the top four or five issues people are angry about and describe that anger like an unhinged drunk uncle, and NEVER falter, conform or even recognize accepted norms, traditions, or rules of the campaign road. Trump’s basic approach was simple- a drunk uncle with a silly hat goes on a grueling never ending tour of every airport hanger or shed who will have him, babbling incoherently, taunting the political establishment, making fun of disabled people, announcing he could shoot somebody and become more popular, and gaining momentum along the way, buttressed by 24 hour a day free advertising in the form of cable news blanket outrage porn, punctuated with constant Tweet attacks, Trump the billionaire became the one man David against the Clinton machine’s Goliath. The improbable had more than a chance because it gave the illusion of recognition to The Rabble, to people who felt ignored, shamed, talked down to, whose rage, born of decades of frustration and a growing sense of helplessness in an America supposedly on the rebound from the Great Recession of 2008, was ignored by the media and professional politicians.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” -Edward L. Bernays
Barack Obama inherited multiple disasters from the George Bush era. The global economy was on the brink of implosion, collapse, quick death- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on with no end in sight, no way to define victory and very little coherent messaging being related to the public. The Bush administration viewed any criticism and or questioning of the seemingly permanent WAR ON TERROR as an act of terrorism itself.
The Obama administration wanted to differentiate itself in tone and focus. Obama began a PR tour of Muslim countries to clarify ad nauseam how the West is not at war with Islam, there is no clash of civilizations, even speaking in Arabic. This tour, an attempt at measured reasonableness designed to diffuse the hysterical rhetoric of the Bush era, was an incredibly destructive miscalculation by the Obama team. At the very beginning of his administration Obama handed his opposition at home, easily verifiable “proof” of his loathing of REAL AMERICANS and preference for Muslims. The veracity of the claim was irrelevant. The match had been struck. The Rabble groaned when Obama said, “The Muslim call to prayer is one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset.” How could a man of Obama’s intelligence not realize the effect his reconciliation tour would have at home? When 83% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, how could a sitting president not understand the optics of cozying up to, as far as many Americans are concerned, the people who carried out 9-11? It’s as if Obama did not realize the level of mindless war propaganda the Bush administration produced to sell descent free, permanent warfare to a traumatized population. This attempt revealed Obama’s inexperience as a leader and was an understandable, well intentioned mistake; it also gave oxygen to the Trump movement that was to come.
Secondly, Obama was strapped with the unenviable task of selling a shit sandwich economy to working class people that have been left behind for thirty years for a variety of unalterable reasons. 2008 was the unnecessary economic head shot to millions of people already on the ground and bleeding out financially. Enter smiling Obama, the supposed secret Muslim (I wonder where that rumor started) and his amnesiac period. Forgotten were the vengeful promises related to Wall Street crooks and their deplorable lack of accountability. Were you looking forward to months of courtroom drama as the YES WE CAN President’s team of crack attorneys made somebody finally serve time for the biggest financial crime in human history? Crickets. Nothing. Move along please…Were you excited at the notion of Big Pharma and Insurance executives going pale as the United States entered the modern era and enacted some form of socialized medicine, single payer perhaps, as promised by BHO? You idiot, it turns out the single payer option was never on the table, and for the vast majority of you who work and don’t have a catastrophic health issue Obamacare means higher premiums, higher deductibles and less care, aka welfare for the insurance industry.
The third pillar in the erection of Donald Trump’s unlikely bid for president is a complicated horror show born of good intentions, perverted into a pervasive form of (mostly) soft fascism. Within the modern Left resides two conflicting factions, the Progressives and the Neoliberal Corporate Fascists. The DNC is owned and operated by corporate globalists who use identity politics as the high octane fuel that runs their political engine. Identity politics is comprised of centuries old classic divide and conquer techniques. Perhaps the most brilliant use of this strategy was employed during Obama’s reelection campaign during which the President, out of nowhere, floated the idea that employers are responsible for women’s birth control being included in company offered healthcare plans. The Republicans couldn’t help themselves and began screeching about abortion and the general whore-ishness of liberal women, handing the election to Obama. This success spawned a variety of ugly offshoots including a bizarre fixation on where the transgendered are supposed to go to the bathroom, an inability to say “Radical Islamic Terrorism”, and an obsession with police shootings, as long as the victims are black. I will attempt to unpack each of these topics, but notice how uncomfortable it feels? That’s by design.
Tragically, Americans cannot talk honestly about any subject whose import runs deeper than sports or pop culture. The trivial and inane are acceptable as long as frivolous topics cannot serve as a conduit to heavier issues. How can we survive when Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem! Why is he upset? Kaepernick can stand on his head, do push ups or hold any yoga position he wants during the national anthem. I am baffled by supposedly patriotic Americans so vehemently obsessed with conformity. Nothing is less American than conformity, at least in theory. Young Colin was kneeling to draw attention to the seemingly constant stream of televised videos showing young black men being gunned down by police. In 2016, 1,154 people were killed by law enforcement, 258 were African Americans. At 14.4% of the population, African Americans are being killed at a disproportionately higher rate than any other demographic.
The question is why?
According to the prevailing wisdom espoused by the media, the lingering race problem in America has devalued the lives of black young men such that police are far more likely to shoot first and ask questions later. Nuance is anathema to our media culture. To point out obvious contributing factors is not allowed. Could the elevated numbers have something to do with urban population density and crime rates? Are our law enforcement personnel being trained to use lethal force too quickly? If so, why? How can we work to lower these numbers? None of this thinky stuff matters to the adept, high paid political operative hell bent on stoking the flames of identity politics, one like John Podesta, who declared upon receiving an MSNBC news report on the massacre in San Bernardino, declared-
“Damn. Better if a guy named Sayeed Farouk [sic] was reporting that a guy named Christopher Hayes was the shooter.”
Why would one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, the head of Hillary Clinton’s campaign email such a statement?
If a white sounding name were linked to the crime it would fit the “we’ve got to do something about these gun nuts” narrative, whereas a Muslim sounding name fits the opposition narrative of a terrorist lurking behind every shrub. In the rough and tumble world of pre Trump politics, message ownership and narrative control were the keys to victory.
Where is the outrage over 896 Americans being killed by police? Where are the videos of these killings? Do African Americans videotape police interactions at a higher rate? It seems they should, but is it true that whites, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans don’t possess such videos? Here we begin to sound nuts, loony, tin foil hatted, conspiratorial. But the question is legitimate.
In Washington state, Turkish born Orcan Cetin murdered five random people in a Burlington mall. The story received minimal coverage and was then disappeared. Imagine five Mike Brown incidents receiving little or no media attention a year ago. Obviously there have been thousands of horrific incidents in which young black men have been abused, tortured, lynched and shot to death in the past, with no coverage, justice, or human concern by the culture at large, but I believe that contemporary political strategists are using African Americans’ deaths as useful tragedies, seeking to splinter further an already divided, and conquered nation.
Whitey, aka The Rabble, is also responsible for the terror and discomfort experienced by the trans-gendered among us. One wonders how people choosing to present themselves as a gender they were not born with have survived and prospered as long as they have, going potty without the aid of legislated accommodations. Perhaps by using common sense. When nature calls, whatever gender you seem to be to most people, pick that one and enter accordingly. To be safe, when possible, use a stall for maximum privacy. Oh, wait. If you present as a woman but possess a penis, you would always be using a stall, so unless someone is hiding in the stall with you, your penis would remain as it should, your own concern. If you are presenting as a man and are sporting a vagina, you likely would skip past the stand up urinals and head for the first open stall, thus keeping your personals personal. I imagine it that way; a world in which people brave enough to walk around as the opposite gender are savvy enough to survive public restroom etiquette.
The trans bathroom gambit backfired on the DNC. Like the birth control issue, the right wingers took the bait with the usual ferocity, and came off sounding like lunatic assholes. How does one enforce a bathroom law, genital inspections and birth certificate checks?
What the Left did not anticipate was that unlike marriage equality, supported by a majority of Americans, the transgender world is still a bridge too far for most people. Despite being portrayed as bigots, most people do not believe you get to choose your gender. You can play dress up, chop off your cock, grow breasts, put on a whig, look sexy as hell, and most of us will call you Brenda or whatever, but most of us do not believe you have magically transformed into a woman. This effort fell flat with the vast majority of Americans and pulled away moderates angry at being asked to get emotional about bathrooms.
It was a series of narrative gambles by the Left that opened up our hearts and what was left of our minds to an arrogant prick like Donald Trump. The simple fact is, the programming became too predictable, the outcome rigged. Early on, the DNC smelled a rat. Here’s Bill Ivy to John Podesta.
“And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.”
“Don’t be afraid to feel as angry or as loving as you can, because when you feel nothing, it’s just death.”
Finally, thank President Obama’s 2011 public roasting of The Donald for setting the course, for determining at that precise moment, that Trump would do anything to win the White House. Imagine the words burning into Donald’s touchy brain- and the iron will it took for him to remain seated as the barrage of insults continued for several minutes. Obama poked and jabbed at the carrot hued, thin skinned billionaire, and relished every moment- payback for Trump’s constant parroting of half baked questions about Obama’s birth certificate authenticity.
“Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac? All kidding aside, we all know about your credentials, and your breadth of experience. For example, on a recent episode of Celebrity Apprentice, at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the men from Omaha Steaks. There was lots of blame to go around, but you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. Ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf, you fired Gary Busey. These are the kinds of decisions that keep me up at night. Well handled, sir! Well handled.”
Trump had time to stew in the salty, vindictive broth Obama served, and the post working class economy worked on the hearts and minds of the hard working folks toiling in what the jet set refer to as “flyover country.” America felt played, done, gone for a very large percentage of its citizens. Our glory days were behind us. Add to this mass knot of anxiety and depression, an insurgent and mentally deranged cadre of social justice warriors screeching about safe spaces, trans-gendered potty rights, and hate speech to a compliant, gas pouring media happy to set cities ablaze for ratings, and middle of the road working people with a modicum of sanity were left wondering what had happened to the America they grew up in…hell, the America of ten years ago seemed unrecognizably different. Enter Trump and his seemingly asinine red hat. Make America Great Again. It was perfect, it was the year of the rabble.
a disorderly crowd; a mob.
“he was met by a rabble of noisy, angry youths”
synonyms: mob, crowd, throng, gang, swarm, horde, pack, mass, group
“a rabble of noisy youths”
derogatory: ordinary people, especially when regarded as socially inferior or uncouth.
noun: the rabble
synonyms: common people, masses, populace, multitude, rank and file, commonality, plebeians, proletariat, peasantry, lower classes.
In the American Colonies people lived their lives knowing exactly which class they belonged to. Upwardness, in regards to class or status, was largely unheard of. A gentleman wore his hat just so, passing his name and associated title on to his sons without regard to their personal habits or talents. A craftsman’s son learned the trade of his family and toiled as his fathers did. Of the laboring class, George Washington referred to commoners as “the grazing multitude” (Wood, 27). John Adams claimed, “Common Persons have no idea of Learning, Eloquence, and Genius” possessing “vulgar and rustic Imaginations” they were easily excited (Wood, 27). Jefferson described ordinary people as “the hackneyed rascals of every country” who “must never be considered when we calculate the national character” (Wood, 28). Alexander Hamilton noted that common people “knew how to fawn and cringe before a person of more than ordinary rank, staring like sheep at a gentleman’s laced hat and sword” Wood, 29). These are your founding fathers- men of their time expressing widely held beliefs about the order of things- but nonetheless, strange sentiments from those who supposedly birthed the free world.
The class distinctions have nearly vanished, but it took decades for working people, those “rank and file” to achieve wealth and the power of numbers. After WWII, with unprecedented economic growth and millions of returning veterans using the GI Bill to buy a house, go to college, or start a small business, a new burgeoning Middle Class emerged. They worked, spent and procreated like never before, creating (until recently) the largest generation in our history. Since the 1950’s, we have seen a slow dissolving, a hobbling of the great Middle Class.
2016 was the dying gasp of a forgotten people (working people of every race), people treading water financially, looking for anything that might upset the system that had successfully marginalized them for years.
2017 was a reactionary mess- a twelve month tantrum on the left, and a scattershot improvisation on the right, as Republicans scrambled to work with, and shine the Trump turd. Populist screeching gave way to Goldman Sachs appointees populating the MAGA candidate’s cabinet, greatly increased drone strikes, the bending over for Saudi Arabia and Israel, demolishing of environmental policy…or, right wing business as usual- but with a fresh scandal every week, usually involving Trump’s Tweeting habit, or mean spirited buffoonery. So far, Trump has managed to partially institute a ridiculous ban on travelers from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries (sparing the Saudis, of course), pass tax reform between Tweet storms, help annihilate ISIS (our allies in Syria), while managing not to get assassinated by the CIA for fucking up the script.
Perhaps the most illustrative and out of touch moment of 2017 came when the President played paper towel basketball, jump shooting rolls into dehydrated throngs in Puerto Rico, like someone playing with a pack of dogs in a tailored suit. Trump was upbeat, beaming with pride, convinced he was doing his part. When called out, he said it was just a bit of fun, enjoyed by all.
The pretend news networks enjoyed record viewership thanks to Trump’s unwillingness to pretend he isn’t a spoiled child masquerading as the most powerful man on the planet. Paradoxically, Trump supporters fed off the rest of the world’s incredulous loathing of their improbable leader. Many argued, Hillary was right in describing Trumpians as a “basket of deplorables,” and it’s easy to understand why. Unflinching support for Trump, The Clown President, says more about those who preceded him, than it does about 45. Visiting a devastated Puerto Rico, any sane President would have rolled up his or her sleeves, handed out a few cases of water, kissed a little kid on the head in a makeshift hospital, met with local officials, making that stern, I care so much I’m about to have an aneurism face, before giving the same canned bullshit speech about pulling together and the resilience of the American people in the face of disaster we’ve heard a thousand times. Not Trump. His inane, tone deaf jabbering is refreshing for many because hearing a normal politician speak ABOUT ANYTHING should make an awake person throw up a little in their mouth. Trump is a signal light flashing- the game is over– after The Clown, we can never, ever go back to the old system, the system controlled by tv news gatekeepers, lobbyists, and pundits, the system whose punch bowl he gleefully shit in.
With a clown as President, the DNC, unable to unshackle themselves from the corporate interests they serve, did absolutely nothing to improve their chances of victory in 2020. They spent 2017 pretending Vladimir Putin’s army of hackers and social media ad buyers were to blame for Trump’s impossible victory, instead of developing a platform that might appeal to working people.
Expect more of the same in 2018.
Happy New Year!