The Wilderness | Issue 66 | 5 . 10 . 2016 | Tweet
People rarely grasp history while they’re living through it. Watershed moments are rarely recognized for what they are while we’re in the middle of them. If your mind can’t process the gravity of what you’re witnessing, it’s because what you’re witnessing right now with the end of the GOP p̶r̶i̶m̶a̶r̶y̶ and the nomination of reality TV entertainer Donald Trump is one of those moments. Careers and conservatism will be judged based on where those in the arena stood at this moment. Believe it.
With the Supreme Court up for grabs, a Senate now about to tilt back to the Democrats, and a state legislature majority not seen in 75 years, the GOP base simply threw it all away. And now they are about to get everything they’ve claimed they were mad as hell about over the past four years. Why? Because they were mad, or rather told to be mad. They’re mad about “comprehensive immigration reform” that never passed, they’re mad at budgets that will be vetoed by an uncompromising president in Barack Obama. They’re mad about the national debt, whatever the hell they think that actually is. They’re mad about trade, again, whatever that means to them. They’re mad at whatever Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have told them to be mad about between pitching iced tea and soda streams.
Donald Trump is the perfect Fox News Nominee; a nonsensical congeries of every clichéd talking point the political Left has poked conservatives with for the past decade. He seemingly has formed his ideology from Greta polls and Breitbart comment sections. He’s your grandfather sitting in his favorite Archie Bunker rip-off chair screaming about how This Country Is Goin’ To Hell, but with about a billion extra dollars to burn and enough spray tan to lacquer an entire Real Housewives cast three times over. He’s the perfect soundbite candidate, and 40 million dollars’ worth of free soundbites is what carried him to the nomination.
Trump clinched a major party nomination based almost strictly on the short attention spans of his audience. Remember that unsubstantiated National Enquirer blockbuster exclusive about Ted Cruz’s purported five mistresses? Trick question: neither do Trump’s supporters. Trump is dependent on conspiracy theories, internet pontifications and outright trolls to maintain his flight of sensationalism. With Trump, the explicit strategy is to say the most outrageous thing he can about whoever opposes him and then make them prove the negative. This is the inevitable result of what happens when a mainstream media once tasked with finding truth is now more interested in finding narratives and clicks. 2008 changed everything — it was the moment when the network media decided they were all in for the magical story of Barack Obama and his promises of hope. Readers went elsewhere and voters turned to something else when hope never came. Truth no longer mattered.
This was how Trump became the first official social media nominee in history, a viral maven proving that high-profile celebrity and a high profile Twitter account can carry you to the Presidential nomination of a major party on the cheap. Barack Obama used social media and politics in a similar way: a great branding team basically told him to go out and say the right thing in the right way and they would do the rest. But Trump is social media. Barack Obama merely adopted the Twitter. Trump Bane was born in it, molded by it.
This will change politics more than even our own media can currently imagine in 2020 and 2024. It won’t matter if Hillary Clinton is a 74-year-old out of touch Miss Daisy wandering around the White House kitchen at 4am and attempting to microwave her Apple hologram texting device. The team around her will run her brand, advertise for her on Twitter and Facebook, and she will have the power of the White House brand behind her as well. Any opposing candidate will have to automatically have a social media following to even remotely stand a chance. The next 16 years of President Kanye and President Clooney are going to be awesome.
And herein lies the problem for Trump:
He now finds himself facing a general election opponent who has already survived tabloid accusations that she birthed a space alien and that her husband hired the 3-breasted hooker from Total Recall as an intern. She’s been through all of this before, back in the 1990s. And I hope you enjoy reruns, because over the course of the next 6 months we are going to relitigate Vince Foster, Chelsea’s “real” father, Bill’s illegitimate black kids, and whether Aliens Back Clinton this time, or are Trump-curious. Roger Stone, Jr. will be shouting “Webb Hubbell!” from the rooftops and resurrecting stories about Mena, AR cocaine deals, and Trump’s anonymous goon army will dutifully hashtag it and send it out.
The Info-Wartainment and National-Enquirerism has now been legitimized and will be allowed to fester because it will satisfy a part of the Republican base who wants to see Hillary take a beating for her sins. Trump exploits this with a barrage of cheap threats and call-in appearances where he is not made to account for his breathless declarations. What if Ted Cruz is Canadian? I’m just asking questions about Obama’s birth certificate. Hey man, Rafael Cruz never denied hanging out with Lee Harvey Oswald, it’s just a theory I read man. His online horde of Scavino-bots then pick these messages up, run with them to get them into the Breitbart bloodstream and voilà: a narrative is born. These are the stories Trump is allowed to nurture into existence and drop at a moment’s notice because journalists fail at their duty to hold him accountable for any of it.
This is the lifeblood of Trump’s batshit army of chainmail conspiracy enthusiasts, screaming into the Twitter tubes that they are mad as hell because no one listens to them anymore.
Here’s the thing: we stopped listening after their fourth forwarded meme from cryingeaglepatriot.tumblr about Frank Marshall Davis being Barack Obama’s real father or the CIA plot to assassinate Bristol Palin. These are our fathers, mothers, our uncles, our grandparents and our co-workers, and we let them get away with spreading such nonsense into the bloodlines of conservatism because we just didn’t want to deal with the drama of telling them how absolutely insane they were. We simply added their e-mail address to our spam folder and went about our day.
Well now the drama has found us and it has to be dealt with.
We have no interest in winning you over anymore. You don’t want serious policy solutions or explanations of why Paul Ryan allowed the Ominbus to pass. It’s much easier to tune out while Sean Hannity screams “Traitor!” into his microphone. You don’t want a physics lesson on how, barring the acquisition of a Kryptonian terraforming space machine, Trump’s big beautiful wall will remain a myth. You want to scream with outrage that lowbrow, quasi-thinkpieces like this one do nothing but “insult the base.”
Well guess what? You’re right. Because a base that chooses a Cheeto-dusted con-man hellbent on proving every lazy Salon.com cliché the Left has ever spouted about the “Tea Party” is a base that not only deserves to be insulted, but outright ignored and shunned going forward. No matter how loud and no matter how many in number.
Cliff’s Notes conservative establishment authors and entertainers have decided that anger sells and have millions off of it. They’ve spent a goodly amount of time making sure you’re angry and afraid of the Kenyan Obama and scary Mexican hotel workers. You’re angry listening to them in your car. You’re angry listening to them in your garage. You’re angry reading them before bed. We’re done trying to change it. We’re simply bidding adieu. The GOP is yours. Do what you will with it. We’re done fighting for the soul of it. It deserves to die along with most of Trump’s baby-boomer base.
You want your speeches about Big Gulps and the white noise of your AM Radio and you want to be left alone for the remainder of what’s left of the past 30 years of your wasted political lives. And you’re going to get your wish.
Fox News pocket catheter spokesman and Footloose preacher Mike Huckabee has told us kids to get off his lawn. In fact most of Fox news in general has made it quite clear through Twitter fights and ghostwritten quickie books that they are not interested in a non-Trump audience. For all of this raging against the dying of the light by millionaire TV and radio hosts, it’s time to ask a very simple question: What are you getting out of it? The “base” is really, really upset that they fucked everything up, and now they are going to do something about it!
There’s another facet to all this that is not only fascinating but downright comically bewildering: the online alt-Right has fallen into line with the same position as the establishment of Bob Dole, John Boehner, Jan Brewer, Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich. Yes, this plucky anon army of anime-bots is apparently totally fine with standing shoulder-to-shoulder with that special brand of God, grits, guns and crazy. Failed ideologies make for strange bedfellows and they both agree: conservatives and moderates who will not support Trump are no longer needed. This a declaration passed down from the lint headed God-Emperor himself. And that’s fine with us as well. We’re tired of defending the culturally illiterate Mike Huckabees, the bobble-headed caricature that is now Sarah Palin, the over-the-hill Ann Coulters and the incompetent Reince Priebus.
But know this: you cannot have it both ways. If we are told to pack our bags and go, we’ll go, peacefully without argument. We’ll go our way, you will go yours and that will be that. But you’re responsible for what happens next. There will be no MUH ESTABLUSHMUNT to blame this time. Trump is the candidate Rush Limbaugh has been screaming about for the past 20 years, and he finally got him. There are other fights in culture and media worth the time and effort. The 2016 election is no longer one of them. Madam President.
The GOP brand is now effectively the Trump brand, and the Trump brand is a garbage heap made to look classy and expensive. Those of you happy to scoop gold-leaf litter to cover the smell of the fanta colored cat turds are welcome to continue doing so; we are under no obligation anymore to explain, intervene, nor mitigate your desperate bullshit. And we won’t.
With Trump at the head of the party, the GOP has effectively become Trump University, and candidates looking to emulate Trump, Like Paul Nehlan, will begin popping up. These people are Frank TJ Mackey wannabes, more bent on proving their physical prowess than the soundness of their policies. A Ponzi scheme of jockhead fanatics all hoping to replicate Trump’s image of success, no different than a Jordan Belfort seminar. “You too can rise to the top of your primary field like Trump following these 12 easy steps and for just 9 easy payments of $39.99!!!1!!”
The Grand Old Party just became the Sell Me This Pen Party.
If all of this sounds hopeless and lost. It’s not. Not in the least. Being excommunicated out of a party and ideology is not despair. It’s an opportunity. It’s where all snakes and charlatans once under the ideological clan of protection can be purged. In the wilderness, new ideas can be nurtured and new talent can be grown and new allies can be found. Supporters can be recruited without the culturally leprosied shackles of people like Rick Santorum and his family’s matching outfits hindering us. Even if the Republican Party survives Trump, it will never escape accounting for him. The GOP has been demolished. Long live the counter culture of conservatism.
Let those that demolished it sift through the wreckage, then. A new pirate ship can and will be built without them and must be maintained without them. The Democrats spent 12 years sailing those rough seas throughout the Reagan/Bush years. They regrouped, found their footing with help of an outdated media paradigm, and have remained in the mainstream of culture and politics using that message since. Whereas it appears that the GOP and its unhinged base would have done better to study how Democrats and cultural liberals made it through those twelve long years without caving to the first snake-oil salesman to come along and hijack their ideas. They accepted the reality staring back at them from the White House and branched out into culture and academia and after a long 20 year slog, a broken and angry group of Republican voters is their miraculous coup de grâce. But what they’ve given us is an opportunity to shed an old outdated skin.
Trump isn’t the bold, fresh face of a new movement. He’s the shriveled, aged mask of a dying one.
He was able to complete such a rapid insurgency because the foundation of the party had become weak. The RNC became a circus tent propped up by TV and a leadership team who thought Fox News ratings were more important than big data, targeted voting, inner cities & college campuses. A white nationalist uprising filled the void that the party left open and for that the RNC should be held responsible–if not by us, then by Trump’s shenanigans for the next six months. Ah, nemesis.
The nomination of Trump is a signal that the RNC, Reince Priebus and primary voters have zero interest in the future of cultural conservatism. What they want is a celebrity endorphin. They want their own guy on ESPN & the Ellen Show screaming about how that group of shady Mexicans gathered around the entrance of the Home Depot is the end of the Republic as we know it. This is how Barack Obama changed the fundamental nature of what the presidency is, and once again Republicans find themselves as cheap imitators. Voters bought into it. They never wanted liberty or principled constitutional opposition. They want their own reality TV king to explain in as little detail as possible how great their country and their whiteness is. And for that reason alone they should be ridiculed as much as Deray McKesson is for his racial identity politics of loving his blackness and yours.
But ridicule aside, Avenging Conservatives cannot simply depart from the party without messaging and without goals. The goal should not be a third-party candidacy for the presidency, as some conservative elders recommend. (Notably, many of them also helped deliver this mess to our front doorsteps in a flaming paper bag) The only thing a third-party run invites is an opportunity for Trump and his merry horde of Reichbart commenters to blame anyone other than his rank unpopularity and political gameshow ideology for his inevitable November swan-dive at the ballot box. They will place blame anyway, but why give them a legitimate excuse like splitting a general election vote.
Conservatives who become Social Justice Warriors themselves, on behalf of Trump, are giving into a chintzy fad, one which ultimately only serves the interests of the man running the show. Worshipping a cult of personality still makes you a cult member, and make no mistake: no matter how many “TRUMP 2016” chalk-markings you leave on university sidewalks–and admittedly we all enjoy winding up the new squares of the “trigger”-happy generation–realize that you’re shifting exactly zero narratives in media and culture. Crusading over someone’s missing blue check mark is not moving the Overton window. There is no virtue to be found in living and dying by the news cycle or viral tweet. Any casual attendee making a face at a baseball game today can accomplish that. Social Justice Warriors on both the left and the right thrive on capturing the viral rage of a single moment in time and attempting to hit the home run with it. #NeverTrump is as pointless as #BringBackOurGirls.
The home run isn’t going to bring us back. This is what those that push Trump as an online meme do not and will not understand. “Crooked” Hillary Clinton has successfully clung to power and influence for over 20 years: she’s not going to be suddenly felled by One Brilliant Tweet or one Instagram video. Bold promises about a border wall that will never exist may make Trump fans feel better but it takes them no closer to Making America Great Again. It’s admirable that Twitter has become just another RPG video game, a distraction for some, and it’s good to look at that to a certain extent. It feels good to pound out the word “CUCK” from the keyboard of your clever /pol/ meme avatar, I’m sure. But it doesn’t change your miserable shitty life. No matter how many times you troll the staff of Commentary with frog-Twitter gas chamber memes for the lulz, you are not leveling-up in life.
In the end, in a country of three-hundred million people, choosing two that are hated most amongst the majority suits us perfectly at this moment in time. Another celebrity-built election on the back of those we loathe. We don’t follow Kanye West on Twitter because he’s a swell human being. We don’t watch the Kardashians argue about Caitlyn’s junk because we love and admire them. And we don’t nominate Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump because we love what they say about tax policy. We do it because it makes ourselves feel better. That’s the level of apathy we find ourselves in. But it can’t last and something has to take its place when we find ourselves at the end of this tunnel of shit. That’s the lesson to be learned from Trump and those that enabled him. Conservatives, now battling ideological opponents on both flanks, have to decide what that’s going to be, but if they’re going to do it, it has to be without any of the voices who have embraced, enabled or facilitated this catastrophe and that includes the Republican Party.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don’t waste it.
– SM –