Please Advise! How Nuts Could Trump's America Get?

Spin doc Steve peers unwillingly into the crystal ball of a crazily possible presidency.

By Steve Burgess 29 Feb 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

It's really happening, isn't it? Donald Trump is the likely presidential nominee of the Republican party. Which gives him a legitimate shot at becoming president.

How bad could things get under President Trump?


Perched on a Ledge

Dear Ledge,

I won't lie to you. It does indeed look bad. And shame on us for gaping like popcorn-munching kids at a 3D Trumpzilla movie, but how can it be helped? The guy is so appallingly entertaining.

There's really no telling how bad a Trump presidency could get, Ledge. But I am going to creep out on that ledge with you as I make the case that it might not be as bad as you expect -- if only because, you know, what could?

Trump is a huckster. Right now he is playing to his audience, and he knows who they are. They're the 13 per cent who responded to a recent Economist/YouGov poll by saying they don't approve of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, plus the 17 per cent who responded that they "weren't sure." (That seems prudent. Let's wait and see how it plays out -- it's just too soon).

Trump can promise them that someday commuters will travel from New Jersey to Manhattan via the John Wilkes Booth Tunnel. He can promise a new Guantanamo Trump Tower, with prisoners and a casino and a pool where you can swim, surf or waterboard. He can promise to defeat crime after getting bitten by a radioactive spider. Why not? Once you promise a giant border wall paid for by Mexico, everything's on the table.

Chameleon Trump

The greatest Trump irony is this -- his supporters are always saying that he tells it like it is. And they're right. Trump himself has been telling them that he's making it all up as he goes along. When challenged about his use of rude language at rallies, Trump told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren: "I will be changing very rapidly. I'm very capable of changing to anything I want to change to."

He's right. Trump was on the record as pro-immigration as recently as 2012. Combine that with the fact that Trump's promises -- the wall, the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, the Muslim ban -- are self-evidently ludicrous and it is clear that, horrible as they are, his proposed policies will have no more effect than prayers to end the Texas drought.

The GOP hierarchy hates Trump. Why? Is it the "Mexicans are rapists" thing, or the many ways Trump treats the Constitution like a snot rag? Not exactly. According to a recent New York Times report, the notorious Koch brothers dislike him because he supports government-mandated health insurance. And there was of course his outrageous assertion that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, which earned him boos from a debate audience.

To be fair, some like Robert Kagan despise Trump's racist bile. But others like Guy Benson dislike him largely because they don't trust him to be a real Republican. The man used to be a Democrat, for God's sake. And immigrants? He has married two of them and hired thousands more.

Signifying like a mofo

You want something positive to cling to? Remember this: you can't trust anything Trump says.

Political campaigns are about signals. Who am I? What do I value? Justin Trudeau campaigned on legalization of marijuana. Don't hold your breath. Bernie Sanders says he'll break up the banks. The day Sanders breaks up a major bank I promise to buy every single one of you a pony. With the expected return of a Republican Congress, President Sanders will be lucky if he can break wind.

It's all just signifying. And right now, Trump is signifying like a mofo. In the general election he will come up with a new set of signals, playing to a wider audience of suckers. The chances of this strategy working are roughly equal to the possibility of Trump and his lovely wife celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. But he does have a chance, and perhaps more than a Jim-Carrey-Dumb-and-Dumber chance. Hillary and Bernie both have their vulnerabilities. Just by getting this far, Trump has already made all the political pundits in the country look like permanent residents of the San Diego Zoo.

But Trump's quasi-fascist fantasy will never be realized for the same reason that painted cardboard box in your backyard never actually reached warp speed. As president, he'll need new policies that are more reality-friendly. Besides, by election day Trump will have moved on to some new brand of bullshit anyway. So take some small solace in the fact that Trump's real plans are a mystery, probably even to himself. May they always remain so.

But that doesn't mean Trump is harmless. Like a demented wizard who opens a portal to Hell, Trump has unleashed demons into the political world. He has shown the way and others will follow his lead. Without ever setting foot in the Oval Office -- I'll pause a moment for your reflexive shudder -- Trump has already scored a victory. From here on in, it's just about minimizing the damage.

Ledge? Hello? Where did you go?  [Tyee]

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