I’ve said this for many years and written it at least a dozen times, for publications and on my own dime, and I’ve seen no reason to alter a letter:
Most of us, me included, have lived our entire lives with this rosy certainty that America, at heart, is a moderate and decent nation, more concerned with What’s Right than with domination. It used to be an article of faith that the American voter was fundamentally moderate. Whole presidential races were predicated on this belief; two men struggling mightily to scramble right to Dead Center and viciously suppressing any of their personal impulses or attitudes that even smelled extreme. Remember Howard Dean?
Dean ran for president in 2004, not all that long ago. Lost in the Iowa primary and had what has come to be called a meltdown but was then called the “I Have A Scream” speech. In an excess of frustration, Dean ended a concession speech with a lusty, red-faced bellow of stubborn persistence and freaked out an entire country. It ended his candidacy because people thought he was unhinged.
Thomas Eagleton(left) and Democratic candidate, George McGovern
Slightly different was George McGovern’s choice of Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton (above left) for his running mate in the 1972 presidential race. Turned out, after a bit of digging, that Eagleton had undergone electro-shock therapy twice, between 1960 and 1966, as treatment for depression. This didn’t come out until after the Democratic Convention, dug up by investigative journalists. Voters saw Eagleton, a fundamentally decent, if a bit bland, person as an unsteady psychopath. End of the McGovern/Eagleton ticket.
Entirely different was the case of Colorado Senator Gary Hart, a supposedly happily married man who was the clear front-runner for the Dem nomination in 1988. He had narrowly missed the nomination (to VP Walter Mondale) in 1984 and seemed unstoppable. But, at a party at Eagles drummer/singer Don Henley’s house on New Years Eve, 1986/87, Hart met Henley’s then-girlfriend, Donna Rice, and began a fatal attraction that culminated in that immortal photo above that has become an emblem of martial infidelity: Rice sitting on Hart’s lap, in a clinch, wearing what appeared to be nothing but a very long t-shirt. The name of the boat they went cruising on was emblazoned right there on Hart’s chest – “The Monkey Business” – and Gary Hart sank instantly, like an anvil in a swimming pool.
In comparison to a hundred things Donald Trump has said and done, on camera and on videotape, not one of these incidents should have ended the political careers of Dean and Eagleton and Hart. The Dean Scream pales when contrasted with Trump’s mocking (above) of a disabled reporter. Eagleton’s medically-prescribed shock therapy is nothing compared to Trump’s golden showers with Russian hookers. And infidelity? Puhleeeze. Hart’s dalliance with Rice seems almost quaint and Disneyesque when compared to Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” and payoffs to Stormy Daniels, who is certainly just the visible tip of a very sleazy iceberg.
Trump paramour, Stormy Daniel
There was always an undercurrent of lunacy and insanity in the US. The KKK, The John Birch Society, The Aryan Brotherhood, The Atomwaffen Division, American Identity Movement, The Patriot Front, and dozens more – including those, like the American Family Association, which hide their agendae behind a facade of respectable mission statements – have always been rationalized away as tiny splinter groups that amounted to squeaky wheels in need to the grease of societal disapproval. Compared to the shenanigans of politicians, these groups are impossibly poisonous but have gotten nowhere hear the notoriety as those candidates because we refused to see ourselves that way and positively reveled in our communal abhorrence and indignation at people like Dean and Hart, willfully reinforcing our belief in our own piety and innate fairness. We’re decent people, right? Right?!?
Meanwhile, back at reality, the radical fringe of conservatism dug in and seethed in frustration because they could never sell their vision of a strictly ordered, bully-boy America and had no real advocates in DC. Both Bushes and Reagan were far too moderate for their tastes, Nixon was on the right track but largely dismissed their racism and bigotry, focusing instead on paranoia and his innate suspicion and rigidity. Ford was just a pace-holder and, to them, practically a Democrat, and we perversely kept insisting on electing those damned centrists and finally – gasp! – a black guy.
So, their dream butt-boy, Trump, happens along, egged on by his buddy, Vladdie Putin, and he is plenty crazy and extreme for that fringe. FINALLY, they have somebody who lets them fly their freak flag…Sure, it’s FINE if you hate Mexicans and LGBTQ pervs and foreigners (as long as they’re brown, black, or Asian. All you Nordic and assorted Caucasian types, come on in!) and especially all those Democrats and Libtards who’ve been standing on your necks for sixty fucking years!…What’s been their consistent rallying cry? “He tells it like it is!” – we’ve all heard that and assumed it just meant that Trump was willing to stick it to the Liberals but it goes a lot deeper: Trump told these folks – in carefully coded statements like “There are very fine people on both sides” – that their hatreds and suspicions are okay. Implied that they need not hide or keep quiet, anymore.
America is NOT – and never has been – “better”, in a broader sense, than any other country. More industrious? Sure. Richer? Check. More innovative? You betcha!…never mind that 98% of all that innovation, off of which fat cat conservatives made their billions, was created by people whom the far Right despise for their “elitist” educations and their liberal politics. The flip side of all that industry and creativity and progressive attitudes was always a horrendous rot at our very core. MOST people won’t even think about that and would endure torture rather than admit it but any objective look at our culture reveals it in a heartbeat.
Trump just pulled the cork and let all the venom splash all over the sane portion of American society. But he didn’t put that sour, brackish wine into the vessel, to begin with. That was sealed up practically as soon as The United States became a thing, just waiting for the proper fool to wander along with an Attitude and a corkscrew.