The most remarkable aspect of the Republican race for the presidential nomination is the ascendancy of Donald Trump.
Currently the front-runner,not even the most prescient of pundits would have predicted this phenomenon six months ago. And what explanation is given by these experts?
Trump is the anti-Washington candidate; the Populist; the successful businessman who sucks all the oxygen out of a room when he enters.
What makes this situation so anomalous is that Trump makes the most outrageous and inaccurate statements and when challenged he doubles down.
In one of his most egregious remarks, he lashed out at Sen. John McCain who served five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp stating: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
What does that say about the hundreds of U.S. troops who were captured and died in the infamous World War II, Bataan Death March? An interesting footnote is that the Japanese soldiers who beat, starved and bayoneted Americans were reflecting a view that any warrior who surrendered had no honor and was to be treated as subhuman.
Trump called Sen. Lindsey Graham “a stiff”. He described Rosie O’Donnell as “a slob” who “talks like a truck driver.” He insulted Rand Paul saying he “reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain.”
His sexism surfaced when he opined that “Arianna Huffington is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision.”
No comment from “the Donald” about his two failed marriages.
Of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, this remark: “He put glasses on so people will think he’s smart.”
We all know how smart Trump is because he’s told us he went to the Wharton School and got good grades. What we can deduce from this small sample of Trump’s remarks is that he has no internal censor.
The thought forms in his head and emerges from his mouth in a nano second.
Yet, this is precisely what his followers seem to admire. This shoot-from-the-hip style and his politically incorrect pronouncements make him the darling of one segment of the American populace.
He likes to project the image of the successful billionaire businessman. Never mind the four bankruptcies which he purports were corporate rather than personal failures.
This sounds like a distinction without a difference coming from a man whose inflated ego does not permit being wrong.
Trump again made headlines during the first televised Republican debate. Megan Kelly asked him how he would answer the charge that he was part of the “war on women” when “You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs and disgusting animals.’”
Almost anyone else on that stage could have honestly responded — I never said anything of the kind. But Trump had made those heinous remarks and was forced to attack the messenger. He went on a pre-dawn twitter rant saying Kelly was “angry” and a “bimbo.” Trump knows that his supporters are willing to overlook his tasteless remarks.
One needs to understand why this is so. Is there anything in our culture which sanctions such outragous language?
I believe the answer is “yes.”
One need only look to the popular media, specifically radio and television, to find the culprits. While there are many exemplars of this foul-mouthed breed — think Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Michael Savage, this article will focus on two others.
First, there is Judge Judy Scheindlin.
This TV icon has a five year, $47 million contract, is number one in syndication, and has a likability rating on a par with Oprah Winfrey.
Here is a sample of Judge Judy talking to litigants. “Your story is a crock of baloney….I’ll wipe up the floor with you…You shut up…You are pretty thick…You’re an idiot.”
Such speech is a form of bullying. The judge uses her position on the bench to harass and intimidate. This, of course, is the antithesis of the objective behavior usually associated with one who dons the black robes.
Still the public can’t get enough of her. It can be argued that this is all “show biz” designed to titillate the audience. Whether that is the case or whether “the good judge” is really a shrew makes little difference.
This injudicious and intemperate behavior sets the tone for others—even prospective presidential candidates.
The second exemplar of crudity is Rush Limbaugh, America’s No. 1 call-in radio host. With income of $66 million in 2014, a net worth of $410 million, his audience numbered over 20 million at his peak in the mid 1990s. He is still a force to be reckoned with in Republican circles. What inane comments has he made over the years? “Obama is a clown….cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease…I love the women’s movement — especially when walking behind it.”
Racism is an integral part of his “spiel,” to wit, “The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
And if you truly want to understand the human condition, Rush simplifies it for you.
Some “people are self starters and some are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves.” And on nuclear disarmament these words of wisdom: “The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them.” His venomous remarks are used against Native Americans–“feminazis” and gays.
Regarding the latter, he said: “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation.”
My favorite Rush brouhaha occurred in 2012 when Sandra Flake, then a student at Georgetown Law School, was denied an opportunity to testify before a congressional committee. The question was whether the federal government should pay for contraceptives. Flake hoped to discuss a friend who needed contraception to prevent the growth of cysts. This is how Rush addressed the issue:
What does it say about the college co-ed…who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
Of course, this is a distortion.
The truth is that under the Affordable Care Act contraception was added to a list of prevention services that would be provided.
In 2000, the government had decided that excluding birth control measures was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rush is not hampered by presenting the facts and has mastered the fine art of name-calling.
The thesis here is that some portion of the electorate is enamored of Donald Trump because he posits simple solutions to complex problems.
It is further suggested that we have embraced the most angry and mean-spirited figures on radio and television as acceptable role models.
A culture this debased does not offer hospitable soil in which the tree of democracy can grow.
Dr. Hal Sobel