by Carson Starkey
So you want to talk about “reasonable” alternatives to Donald Trump, who is an existential fascist evil without parallel, anywhere in American history? Maybe we should talk about a trombone first.
Let us read from The Gospel of David Simon, his letter to New Orleans, “Treme,” Season 1, Episode 5, as we examine our collective responsibility to one another in times of confusion. Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo) is a standard left-of-center respectable criminal defense attorney in post-Katrina New Orleans, seeking to retrieve a trombone that New Orleans police officers stole from her client Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) after they smacked him around and arrested him (wildly overreacted with unnecessary violence) for disorderly conduct. She is delivering a morality lecture to chronically disappointed Lieutenant Terry Colson (David Morse) about the injustice. She finishes her complaint by pointing out that the purloined musical instrument is an instructive microcosm for below-average public services in New Orleans (#NiceThings #CantHaveEm). Lieutenant Colson responds by pointing out that the police officers are competing against widespread financial hardships, missing family members, and a wave of resurgent crime now that cleanup has begun in earnest. “We’re overwhelmed and underfunded. The crime is coming back and we’re not ready. But you wanna talk about a trombone…”
America is mired in stagnant wages, and has been since 1973 (and feel free to Google that whenever you want, because the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic Policy both have nothing but time on their hands). We are burdened with the entirely unnecessary and avoidable debt, somewhere in the range of four to six trillion dollars worth (again, feel free to Google Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes), derived from two catastrophically stupid, unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of our two major political parties is overflowing with hysterical white nationalists, unapologetic financial criminals who believe that the rule of law only applies to black men who smoke/possess forbidden herbs, and religiously motivated sociopaths who desire wars with Iran, Syria, Iraq, Mexico, Canada, the country of Africa (as defined by Fox News or Sarah Palin), and Massachusetts. But you wanna frame the guy who sells ties and cologne at Macy’s as an existential threat…
When I say that one of the two major political parties is populated with unhinged, disreputable sociopaths, I’m not restricting that description to a handful of talk radio listeners who care passionately about Ted Nugent. The vast majority of American conservatives hold cartoonishly weird, dangerous ideas about public policies and governance. Allan Branstiter isn’t kidding when he says that your parents, and really all conservatives, will support Donald Trump, or any other self-proclaimed Republican candidate under any circumstances, no matter how preposterous, rather than vote for a treasonous-reverse racist-America-hating-welfare cheating-communist-socialist-terrorist (all one phrase, single breath) Demmycrat. We live in a society where nobody changes her/his mind. Which is why, in the course of the Obama years, we’ve witnessed American conservatives plummeting into previously unknown depths of shameful behavior. One especially painful narrative stands out for me. Remember that time when Republicans invited the Prime Minister of Israel to campaign for them in 2012 and 2015, with the sole message that what America needs is a war with Iran? So if you’re looking for a “reasonable” alternative to Donald Trump, you’ll have better luck finding a Super Bowl ring at the headquarters of the Minnesota Vikings. The non-Trump choices all worship at the Altar of Discredited Mythology.
To wit, while The Donald campaigns on his idea for a $9.5 trillion tax cut, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio call for equally absurd tax cuts of $8.6 and $6.8 trillion, respectively (“We’ve Lost Sight of How Wildly Irresponsible the Republican Tax Plans Are,” Vox, Ezra Klein and Jeff Stein, February 25, 2016). Donald Trump has proposed, although we all know that this would never happen with Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that we should invest trillions of dollars in domestic employment, denounced the Iraq War, and endorsed the broad contours of fair trade policies that would benefit American blue collar workers (“The shocking truth about Donald Trump: He’s actually the least terrifying GOP candidate,” Salon, Conor Lynch, September 3, 2015). Alternatively, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are both in strong agreement that they would abolish social insurance (presumably in separate legislation, which would seem unnecessary given the size of the millionaire welfare boondoggles that they propose). John “Medicaid Expansion” Kasich has spent most of his political career (when he wasn’t working for the eminently respectable institution of enlightened policy discourse, Fox News) attempting to criminalize collective bargaining, making contraception an endangered idea, and of course showering welfare checks onto wealthy people (“John Kasich Is No Moderate,” Salon, Luke Brinker, July 21, 2015).
So before you post another meme about the possibility of a Trump presidency being the end of America, take a moment to consider that you’re not original in your fears or thoughts. Plenty of other demagogues have come and gone. There’s a distinct possibility that The Donald has no intention of governing, and that this is all an elaborate plot to expand sales of his mediocre fashion products, as most conservative political machinations are expressions of subtle, highly intellectual satire designed to test the limits of cultural norms. Even if Trump does actually intend to win the 2016 presidential election, consider the fact that he makes Ted “Government Shutdown” Cruz and Marco “Eternal Warfare with All Muslims” Rubio look reasonable by comparison.
Do you still want to talk about a trombone?