I am turning off the TV: Tell me when the Trump circus
has left town
The Donald has lowered the Republican primary to his crass, tabloid brand
By Bruce Kluger
Donald Trump has already won.
Like millions across America, I
have spent the last nine months
steeped in varying degrees of
denial over what has become
the most disturbing presidential
sweepstakes in modern history.
When Donald Trump first
announced his candidacy last
June, I barely shrugged,
recalling an observation I saw
a talking head make in 2011,
brings attention to himself and his brand for a few months, then once he’s seen his
name in the media enough, he calls it quits.”
Yeah, right. Only this time, he didn’t quit.
And so with each passing week of this self-serving, farcical, downright mortifying
mockery of our elective process, I have become increasingly convinced that Trump
has pulled off something of a miracle. Rather than adjust his crass tabloid persona
to fit the more elevated forum of presidential politics, he has managed to bring the
whole blooming process down to his demolition-derby level.
For me, the final straw in this bizarre carnival was the torrent of post-debate
headlines on Friday morning that talked about Donald Trump’s penis (I can’t
believe I just typed those words). This is what happens when your nation laps at the
trough of reality TV for too long. After a while, the conversation belongs to the
lowest common denominator.
Welcome to the United States of Dumb.
I am quick to add that I don’t credit Trump with any sort of genius in having pulled
this thing off. To the contrary, his strategy has been both opportunistic and craven;
and he’s been aided in no small part by politicos on both sides of the aisle, who
have happily accepted his campaign contributions in the past, lending him a false
air of credibility.
Still, the exit polls aren’t lying when they talk about the nation’s anger—there’s
plenty to be mad about. But rather than address the true cause of that fury (a
decline of the middle class, fueled by shocking economic disparity; a bitterly
deadlocked congress, led by ideology rather than reason), Donald Trump has
taken a much less nuanced tack: by vilifying anyone who doesn’t wear one of his
signature Trump baseball caps—from the president to the pope—while summarily
dismissing all those who don’t share his views with the same smug nonchalance
with which he fired contestants on The Apprentice.
And his fans are eating it up.
Perhaps the saddest moment of the past few weeks occurred not on the stump, but
in CNN studios, during the now famous debate between former Obama official Van
Jones and former Reagan aide Jeffery Lord. “I have a kid, seven years old,” a
clearly rattled Jones told Lord. “I used to tell him, ‘I don’t want you watching The
Kardashians; I want you watching the news so you can learn something.’ ... Well,
now we have him watching Nick Jr.—he can’t even learn civics!—because (there’s
so much vitriol coming out of) the circus wing of your party.”
Jones isn’t just speaking as a Democrat dad. Goodness and decency are
bipartisan, and I would imagine that even the well-intentioned supporters of the man
who would “make America great again” would be embarrassed to expose their kids
to the kind of bottom-of-the-barrel discourse that’s now playing in dens across the
And that’s the greatest irony of this whole mess. Candidates running for high
office—particularly the presidency—frequently invoke “our nation’s children” as
those who stand to gain or lose the most when voters head to the polls in
November. But in some perverse plot twist in the great American story, elected
officials are fast becoming the last place we should look to provide hope for our
kids. The language is too coarse, the tactics are vile, and any sense of humanity is
nowhere to be found.
Think about it. In this debate season alone, we’ve heard a ton from GOP
candidates about cancelling education programs, scrapping Obamacare’s family
plans, and deporting kids whose parents are here illegally—but precious little about
what we can do to lift our children up. Every day, more than 160,000 kids stay
home from school for fear of being bullied, and 4,600 a year commit suicide. Why
isn’t that being discussed at these debates?
Because the process has gone to hell, and the real bully—the leading Republican
candidate for the presidency of the United States—doesn’t have the time to look
into the hearts of his fellow citizens because he’s too busy looking in his pants.
So I’ll be turning off the TV now, thank you. Somebody call me in November and tell
me how it all ended.
(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)