America’s Crippled Political Discourse and the Trump Phenomenon

I have been thinking a lot recently about my attempts at fairly analyzing the two major scandals facing Hillary Rodham Clinton: the utterly-bereft-of-substance Benghazi “scandal” and the bona fide failure on her behalf that was the email server scandal.

For though I have concluded that, in a more perfect union, HRC would be denied the office of the presidency for her reckless disregard for information security purely out of what seems to have been a desire for personal convenience, I am left with what can only be described as an overwhelmingly obvious conclusion that no responsible individual could possibly cast a vote for Trump.

And this is a very, very difficult position to convey in our current political climate.  So, I’d like to offer some thoughts on why that is the case.

A Conclusion Up Front

I’ll put this up here to get quickly to a very important point; American political discourse has reached a point where the public is not willing to put in the effort required to judge between important matters of degree in suboptimal choices.  Perhaps the most important reason for this, I will argue, is that the Republican party has embarked over the last two decades on a relentless effort to instill in the American public a vicious loathing of the Democratic party by portraying them as insidiously, secretly treasonous dimwits who, in their buffoonish ignorance, hate American values.

The reason that this effort has any success, I argue, is that the American public is subjected to a woefully imperfect Democratic party whose genuine failures prevent the establishment of a categorical distinction between them and the Republican party.  This enables the Republican party to push the unfalsifiable position of the covert treachery of the Democrats with a mixture of repeated insinuation and overt claims to that effect, incessant, often false allegations of extreme wrongdoing, and genuine demonstrable failures to maintain a sense of plausibility in their portrayal of the Democratic party.

As a result, we have a system in which an obvious con man is being seriously considered for the office of President of the United States of America.  I am arguing that it is on account of the intentional corruption of American political discourse at the hands of the Republicans that Hillary Clinton’s genuine failures, worrisome and serious though they are, are somehow seen to eclipse the obvious, overwhelming evidence of Trump’s unsuitability for the office.

Given the partisan intransigence of the American public which is the subject of this article, perhaps this will be little more than a personal exercise in understanding and justifying my position, but I see no value in keeping such an exercise private, and I hope others will at least read and consider it.

As a disclaimer made necessary by the current political climate, allow me to make it clear that I have little affinity, and certainly no adoration, for the Democratic party.  Taken as a whole, I do not believe they are impressive, nor do I agree with many of the latest “social justice” issues they seem to so feverishly promote.  I share concerns of conservative friends about their unwillingness to critique the crazy far left and I, myself, often hold fairly conservative (or what used to be conservative) views about social issues.

However, at the same time, I just do not see how anyone can view all the available information and conclude that the Democratic party, in toto, is an inferior choice to the party which has led us under false pretenses into the most disastrous foreign policy debacle since Vietnam, and which has relentlessly corrupted our political discourse to push social policies aimed at the exacerbation of the severe problems with wealth distribution in this country which constitute perhaps the most pressing domestic issue of our time, adversely impacting just about everything in our society.

A Brief Introduction

Below, I will summarize four major issues with the Republican party which more or less prevent me from supporting them in their current state, much less with someone as willing to bullshit at every turn as Trump.  If his total disregard for the truth were not sufficient on its own to disqualify him from the presidency in my mind (say, if evidence were available indicating that HRC is equally bad, which there is not), I would still be tremendously disinclined to support the Republican party given its political behavior during my lifetime.

For a simple starting point in surveying the lay of the land before us, how about this:

Helpful infographic for disputing those who claim that Donald "The line of 'Make America great again,' the phrase, that was mine" Trump is better than/the same as Clinton

Yes, that little infographic (which simply grabbed the counts from the profiles of each candidate on politifact.org) shows recent Democratic candidates along with the more reputable Republican candidates firmly at the bottom. Now, one must consider that this is Politifact’s analysis of assertions which, in its staff’s judgment, are worthy of investigation on account of their importance to our public discourse.  They judge this by the prominence of the statements in our media, the statements’ repetition, and the apparent consideration they are given by the public.

Though Politifact is imperfect, it is adequate enough in my estimation as a rough statistical representation of the value of those more influential assertions made by our recent political candidates vying (in most cases; I guess that shouldn’t include Biden) for the most powerful office in the world.

So a plain conclusion is this: when you hear someone repeat one of Trump’s statements, you can expect a 75% chance that it is at least misleading, and a whopping 59% chance that it is outright false.  When you hear someone repeat one of Clinton’s statements, you can expect a 27% chance that it is at least misleading and a 12% chance that it is outright false.

And yet, Trump’s catchphrase for Clinton is “crooked Hillary.”  Despite his continual demonstration of his willingness to say downright anything to further promote himself and disparage others, he parrots allegations that she is among the most corrupt candidates in the history of American politics and Republicans continue to believe it is Hillary Clinton who is the more dangerous and egregious liar.

Something is very wrong with a country whose constituents are facing any semblance of a serious debate between these two candidates.  In my estimation, Trump is the only defense anyone needs (and rhetorically speaking, perhaps the only defense anyone should provide) for a vote for Hillary Clinton.

Emblematic Party Distinctions

I chose the four issues below because each of them meets two qualifications: (1) they are egregiously severe failures and (2) there simply does not appear to be correlate activity on behalf of the Democrats.  Remember, degree is important here, and I am entirely willing to be proven wrong, but in the process of this investigation we must maintain our awareness of a current propensity to fall victim to common political discourse failures which seek false equivalence.

That is, after all, what this is all about.  We must reason carefully in a noise-filled, careless environment.

Issue 1:  The Republican Poisoning of American Political Discourse

For basically my entire political life, the Republican party has seemed to be obviously batshit crazy, plainly and clearly interested in gaining political power over providing any actual plan or constructive use thereof.  Now, such an assertion should give any rational individual pause, for it reeks of dogmatism, does it not?  But in my decade of capable political awareness and rather in-depth investigation of issues facing the country, I have concluded time and again that this seems to be the case.

I thought I might go through the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama to summarize the differences in character between the two parties, but again, the issue I’m addressing here is that such research has been done, the arguments have been made, the conclusions reasonably drawn that the republicans are intentionally intoxicating the political discourse in this country, and yet, such work has met with partisan ears in the American public which refuse to see any qualitative distinction between the two parties as anything other than partisan hackery.

So, if you really somehow disagree with this point of mine, despite Mitch McConnell making it clear that the primary goal of the Republican party was to prevent a second election of Barack Obama, and despite the Republicans joining in lockstep to declare unconstitutional the individual mandate which formed the centerpiece of their own previous legislative efforts in healthcare (and previously supported by many of those who signed the declaration), and despite the quite obvious distinction in character between prominent conservative and liberal entertainers (see, e.g.: Rush Limbaugh vs. Jon Stewart), I will refer you to Mann and Ornstein’s work (linked above), for there is no need for me to rehash their in-depth analysis here.

Issue 2:  Deception in Support of the Iraq War by the Last Republican Administration

It is clear that President Bush lied as part of the effort to encourage a war with Iraq.  The single lie to which I link was but part of an extensively dishonest campaign for the war, as evidenced by the Senate Select Committee report produced on the very issue.  If one seeks an explanation for the pursuit of a needless war of choice despite a lack of evidence connecting it to the September 11th attacks, one will quickly find the treatise signed by Cheney and Rumsfeld as part of the Project for the New American Century which argues that regime change in Iraq is the foremost strategic goal which should be adopted by America in pursuit of cementing its political dominance over the world.

In short: we know that the administration took great effort to deceive the American public into the Iraq war and we know that at least two of the most important actors in that war had previously signed assertions that regime change in Iraq was an extremely important goal for American foreign policy, regardless of other considerations.  I consider it beyond reasonable doubt that this belief, and not any rationale presented to the American people connecting Iraq to the terrorists responsible for the attacks on September 11th, was the driving force for the war.  In fact, if I had to wager money, I would wager that they honestly thought they would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq despite a lack of evidence, and that they would use that to retroactively justify their previously unjustified position.  It didn’t work out.

Issue 3:  Torture

It is now clear that Bush and Cheney were aware of, and condoned the use of acts defined as torture per treaties to which America is signatory.  Worse, the extremity of the approval for torture on behalf of the administration is made clear in an interview with dick cheney wherein he asserts that torturing innocent people to death does not even concern him a little so long as he “completes” his “objective.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: cheney is the closest any American politician has come to evil in my lifetime.  I cannot with sufficient emphasis convey my disgust and horror at knowing that America is now understood to be a force for the implementation and justification of such heinous behavior.  That the Republican party supported this activity and continues to defend it to this day has earned from me a contempt which I do not know can ever be removed.

And it worries me greatly that so few Americans seem concerned with this.  We are a country who will impeach a president for lies about oral sex, but we refuse to impeach leadership which deceives us into a disastrous war of choice and breaks extremely important treaties to torture its adversaries.  This is unbelievably shameful.

Issue 4:  Flagrant, Organized Hypocrisy Committed by the Republican Party

Though the Republican party consistently laments the mounting government debt (a genuine issue), it has contributed extremely heavily to the creation and maintenance of that debt.  The war described above is the single most costly political venture initiated by an American President in decades.  Relentless diminishment of the top-tier tax brackets in America by the Republicans have cost the government billions, if not trillions of dollars of revenue.  The Republicans only care to concern themselves with government debt when they are not in charge of the government.

Regarding healthcare, as mentioned in the up-front conclusion above, the Republicans joined in lockstep to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional, though it had served as a centerpiece in their own legislative proposals all the way back to 1989.  I have unsuccessfully sought a comparable demonstration of unified hypocrisy from the Democratic party in my lifetime.  This, to me, is extremely important, for it shows an unparalleled prevalence of a willingness to sacrifice integrity to gain political power in the Republican party.  When combined with a bullshitting con artist like Trump, this makes for an extremely dangerous proposition whose severity is perhaps unprecedented in American politics.

A Short End Note:  The Liberal Accessories

It saddens me greatly that this data is (or should be) very widely known, and yet a potentially election-winning portion of the country somehow nonetheless believes it a good idea to put this party in control with a demonstrable con man with no regard for the truth at its helm.

I fear that the Democrats and far-left liberals bear a significant portion of the responsibility for this.  Recent wrong-headed, yet broadly supported headline-making pushes for flagrantly irrational positions are driving the voting base of conservatives who largely consider themselves simple folks to oppose these floppy-headed dumbasses at any cost, and at this time that means to us, precisely, Trump.  They’re tired of being called racist at every turn, and they’re tired of being told men are women.  This is exactly the kind of bullshit liberals have been accused of supporting in the past, and it seems to be reaching an all-time high in today’s political climate.

Intelligent moderates and liberals must defeat this nonsense front and center.  The defeat must be public and conclusive, or Democrats will continue to provide legitimate fuel for largely illegitimate contempt.  This is exactly how the Republican rhetorical strategy of the past two decades has flourished and brought us to this point.

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One Response to America’s Crippled Political Discourse and the Trump Phenomenon

  1. bryanmaloney says:

    I have performed a more explicitly analytical approach to a similar data set (Politifact rating profiles of the Presidential would-be candidates as of January, 2016). It can be found at http://nerdypolitical.blogspot.com/2016/01/presidential-candidates-politifact-and.html

    Please look if you have an interest in these matters.

    Thank you.

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