Has America Jumped the Shark? – And Other Questions from the Age of Trump
Lately I have been wondering what it must have felt like to people in past eras as they lived through the early stages of unbelievable and often horrific political upheaval. Did they imagine that, as the famous title of the 1935 book by Sinclair Lewis put it, “It Can’t Happen Here”?
Did they hang on to the belief that no matter how incomprehensible the news of the day seemed, things would quickly right themselves? Everything would come back to some notion of normal? And then believing that to be likely until they had to admit the old normal was gone forever.
Yes, I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump and wondering, is this how it happens? Is this how America jumps the shark?
Okay, colour me hyperbolic, but this man is not only obnoxious, not only a fool, but he holds so many ideas dangerous beyond belief that I am gobsmacked. Yes, truly gobsmacked.
I’ve noticed as well that he says so many silly things it has become common to preface reports of his statements with a note that they are in fact things he had actually said and not simply things attributed to him to damage his image, as if that were possible.
One such comment making the rounds over the past few days is a Trump Tweet from May of 2013, an actual Tweet, in which he draws attention to the great number of sexual assaults in the military by writing, “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?”
And as if that were not bad enough, Trump then tried to distance himself from his own comment by writing this:
For all the morons who have been complaining about my comment on sexual assault and rape in the military, don’t you see that it was asked as a question, with a question mark at the end of the sentence! In other words, it wasn’t made as a statement. But rather as a question. I want your views. Many of the generals and military officials were not in favour of the male/female mix. What do you think of that?
Yes, that’s what he meant.
But the best part of the whole thing is a follow-up Tweet by Trump in which he says this: “Wow, I love stimulating debate and driving certain people crazy – the Generals were forced to do something they didn’t want to do (not me).”
I’m not even going to comment on the notion that men and women working or living together in close quarters must necessarily result in sexual assault. Not going to waste my time.
The point is that Trump says things, so many things, that are inappropriate and offensive by any standard, says that he was either misquoted or misunderstood, and then, somehow, gets away with it. Comments made about Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, women in general, John McCain, Hispanics, Muslims, the disabled community, etc., etc., come to mind.
The reason so many pundits and political watchers have long thought his campaign must fade and die is because no candidate for president has ever articulated so many noxious positions, made so many awful statements, insulted so many individuals and groups, and survived.
And, to be clear, we are no longer talking about an aberration. We are talking about the likely nominee for president of the Republican Party.
For now we may comfort ourselves with the thought that his negatives are so high he couldn’t possibly win the general elecion. And perhaps that is true, but I still wonder if Donald J. Trump will represent, as we look back, the moment something very wrong happened to American politics, when things changed forever.