Weekend Reading: Josh Marshall: The Trumph of the Will

Josh Marshall: The Trumph of the Will: “This Donald Trump debate drama… …When I heard… I was quite certain he had every intention of finally attending… [after] engineer[ing] 48 hours of cable news drama [and] begging by Fox News… [with] Trump… deigning to attend… after all the other players had been sufficiently humiliated. But… it… seems clear it was never the case…. Being a no-show was the plan…. Pundits and political obsessives tend to get distracted by process and policy literalism. But… especially intra-Republican political battles are really about… mark[ing] the dominating from the dominated…. [Consider] all the… times… observers thought Trump had tripped himself up by violating some… taboo… [missing] some basic policy issue or just flat out lying…. Focusing on these indicators is like watching an opera and fixating on the libretto rather than the score….. How much do you need to know German to get Wagner?… Take Trump’s evisceration of Jeb Bush…. What has really hurt Bush is not so much that Trump is calling him names. It’s that Trump has used these attacks to demonstrate that Jeb is unable or unwilling to defend himself. Trump hits him and Jeb takes it. His responses are hapless and weak and generally meaningless…. Trump is engineering encounters that show that Bush is weak. In an election dominated by national security, this kind of demonstration of power and dominance has a profound impact…. This driving force of Republican politics has only become more salient and central as the GOP has become increasingly dominated by core constituencies animated by anger and resentment that things to which they believe they are entitled are being taken away from them. Trump doesn’t apologize. He hurts people and they go away. He says things that would kill a political mortal (ban members of an entire religion from entering the country) and yet he doesn’t get hurt. Virtually everything Trump has done over the last six months, whether it’s a policy proposal or personal attack, has driven home this basic point: Trump is strong. He does things other people can’t. This is why Trump has so shaken up and so dominated the GOP primary cycle, at least thus far. As I’ve said, this kind of dominance symbolism is pervasive in GOP politics. It’s not new with Trump at all. Most successful Republican politicians speak this language. And yet somehow for most it is nonetheless a second language. But it’s Trump’s native language…. Trump doesn’t kiss babies. Babies kiss him. He doesn’t have a billionaire backer; he is a billionaire. Trump doesn’t ask for support. He just tells you that you need to stop being a loser and get on board…. What is most striking to me about this game is that there’s really not even the pretense that there is any real dispute about debate rules or bias or fairness or anything like that at the core of this. There’s not even any there there in Trump’s supposed ‘feud’ with Megyn Kelly. It has all the emotive credibility of a professional wrestling rivalry. It really is more or less openly just him saying I’m going to jack you guys up for the fun of it and make a spectacle of this. Just to make trouble. Because I can. For… people who have some buy in to the normative political process… this would be the point where people would say, ‘Okay, you’re just too far outside the lines. This is BS. I love how he’s kicking ass but this guy does not have the temperament to be president.’ And frankly I’m not sure that won’t happen. But it does not seem to be happening yet…. These kinds of antics, really unprecedented in their nature, are less an attack on the ‘establishment’ than a deeper structure of the political system itself. And that bears paying close attention to.

Originally published on bradford-delong.com