Thursday, September 1, 2016

Normalizing Trump

The old Candid Camera show came to mind today. If I recall correctly, the usual setup was to insert something bizarre into a regular situation and then observe the lengths to which the unsuspecting participants would go to treat the highly irregular as normal.

What brought this to mind was a Bill Kristol tweet on Wednesday night:

“Lefty media types: Stop. Take a breath. You loathe Trump. Fine. But it's now hampering your ability to report & analyze the race accurately.”

A fair point (that also presumably applies to many NeverTrumpers like myself) but also not particularly insightful. If you are on Twitter during any major political event you know something like this is a constant.

A more interesting line of inquiry (he wrote modestly) is to explore whether something like the opposite of what Kristol is warning against is at play. What really stands out this cycle is the stubborn insistence of treating Donald Trump like a normal candidate. A notable political commentator can proclaim after Trump’s Wisconsin speech “that if conservatives hear this speech, he can win” and the same commentator and others on Wednesday were insistent that Donald appeared “presidential” in his meeting with the real Mexican president.

Both propositions would perhaps have merit if it wasn’t for everything else. We’re to take his reading of a speech in a completely different idiom from his other speeches as dispositive? To say of Trump that he looked presidential because he looked sober enough standing behind a podium for an hour or so is silly delusion considering the months of jackassery by the same Donald Trump.

Similarly, Rich Lowry tweeted at one point during the Arizona immigration speech:

Very important passage here on proposed changes to legal immigration system”

It probably was, but as the immigration speech was, per usual, a verbal Jackson Pollock, to fasten on a particular point seems quite wrongheaded. Like saying in regard to Pollock, ooooh that was a good paint throw! The upper left hand corner is very effective!

What’s truly extraordinary in the current election cycle is how adamant the commentariat has been in normalizing Trump. It’s now September and the candidate still hasn’t opened field offices in many states, still hasn’t stuck to anything like a message for 24 hours, still hasn’t given any indication that he has any knowledge of or actual interest in policy. The rest is just ephemera. Treating his playing around with the forms of politics as if they are were substantive out of habit is to concede too much to candidate Trump.

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