“The Republican Ticket: Trump and Pence”

“Lesley Stahl: Let’s talk about what happened in Nice, horrendous, carnage, horrible —
Donald Trump: Horrible.
Lesley Stahl: Horrible. You said you would declare war against ISIS. What exactly do you have —
Donald Trump: It is war. By the way, it is war.
Lesley Stahl: No, but does that — when you say, “Declare war,” do you want to send American troops in there? Is that what you mean?
Donald Trump: Look, we have people that hate us. We have people that want to wipe us out. We’re gonna declare war against ISIS. We have to wipe out ISIS. These are people that-
Lesley Stahl: With troops on the ground?
Donald Trump: I am going to have very few troops on the ground. We’re going to have unbelievable intelligence, which we need; which, right now, we don’t have. We don’t have the people over there. We are going to use —
Lesley Stahl: You want to send Americans —
Donald Trump: Excuse me — and we’re going to have surrounding states and, very importantly, get NATO involved because we support NATO far more than we should, frankly, because you have a lot of countries that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And we have to wipe out ISIS. And speaking of Turkey, Turkey is an ally. Turkey can do it by themselves. But they have to be incentivized. For whatever reason, they’re not. So we have no choice.
Lesley Stahl: But I still don’t know if you’re going to send troops over —
Donald Trump: Very little. I’m gonna —
Lesley Stahl: But declare war —
Donald Trump: — get neighboring states and I’m going to get — we are going to get NATO; we’re going to wipe ’em out. We’re gonna —
Lesley Stahl: But declare war?
Mike Pence: Lesley —
Lesley Stahl: What does that mean — ”

I can’t even…

So, now I’m writing this longer reflection after a week, distant enough from the experience of reading the full transcript that I am no longer utterly overwhelmed, and I realize that reading the transcript gave me some valuable insights into the ways that he has been successful and why it is so hard to counter him: he is excellent at giving you nothing that can be pushed against.

Most people have their internal world full of their personal identity and their internal truths and parts of it are super solid and parts of it are malleable and parts of it are vague and gaseous or constantly shifting, and it’s all surrounded by a membrane that lets in some outside input and blocks other outside input, and if that membrane is itself malleable then it allows the outside world to squeeze and re-shape everything inside.

(I’ve been thinking about this metaphor ever since reading Melissa Harris-Perry’s much better phrasedCrooked Room Thesis”)

But some people have these mostly solid internal worlds and have membranes that don’t let anything in. If they encounter a social context that doesn’t have room for them, instead of shifting their malleable bits like other people do, these solid-people either forcibly shift that context or never try to encounter it.

Trump is a solid person. Trump barreled into the social context of the interview and pushed out everything that prevented him from fitting inside of it. Trump doesn’t seem to let anything in, he doesn’t seem capable of change.

It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t fit into the political process (or that there are very sound reasons why the political process wasn’t built for people like him) — Trump has demonstrated that he is capable of shifting the context so that he will fit. And we live in a country that tends to valorize that ability, for better or worse. Today (8/6/16) his polling shows that he might have reached his limits, but he’s pushed shockingly far into the system and we still have 3 months to go for him to work his social alchemy…

Related: “Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say”; an article about Hillary’s listening powers that underlines what it means to be a real politician (in the non-cynical sense of the word)

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