For a long time, the educated observed the Republican presidential candidate from an ironic distance and belittled him. Now, too late, they realize how serious things are getting.
The signs are slowly getting stronger that Donald Trump is being recognized as what he really is: a political risk that has to be taken seriously. A week ago, the calm Washington Post titled an opinion piece from Danielle Allen, a political scientist from Harvard, with the line: "The moment of truth. We have to stop Donald Trump now."
Trump might not be quite Hitler, but he is nonetheless a case example of how a "demagogic opportunist" can profit from a divided country.
Two days later, in the same paper, Robert Kagan, a former standard bearer of America’s political neoconservatism, declared Trump to be the Republicans' "Frankenstein" — a creature that was only able to come into existence due to the anti-government furor of the last years fueled by the Republicans and the tea party .
Now the party cannot get rid of the monster it created. Kagan, who once located the Europeans on Venus and the Americans on Mars, signed off his swan song for the Republican Party with a personal declaration of surrender. For a former Republican like him, voting for Hillary Clinton will be the only choice. "The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be."
The Uninhibited Multimillionaire
According to an article in The New York Times, Hillary Clinton's election campaigning team is preparing itself for Trump becoming a serious presidential candidate for the Republican Party. The Democrats sense that the campaign against the uninhibited multimillionaire will not be a sure-fire success. He seems to know how to address the primal fears of the middle and lower classes, rattled and plagued by the fear of social relegation, with his undampened cockiness and his overly large entrepreneur ego.
While the Hillary camp is working on a defense strategy against Trump, the left-liberal political comedian John Oliver spent 21 minutes of his 30 minute show "Last Week Tonight" on Sunday debunking the self-made Trump legend.
He mainly used journalistic tools in a nearly austere way for this, starting off by dismantling the image of a doer, which Trump's fans have of him, bit by bit. Trump "tells it like it is,” "says what he means,” "is aggressive, strong, and bold,” "nobody owns him,” his supporters enthuse when asked by Oliver.
He opposes this euphoria with a checking of the facts, thus deconstructing Trump's edifice of fables. Of his "up to $25 million,” with which he claims to have funded his campaign himself, $17 million have so far come from recoverable loans and $7 million from private small-scale donations.
Only around $250,000 were actually paid by Trump himself. Oliver lists half a dozen of Trump's failed projects, from apartment complexes in Mexico to airlines to the vodka brand and the attempt to sell "Trump Steaks" in The Sharper Image technology junk shops.
Calling Trump a liar is not enough. Thus Oliver's conclusion is that he does not care about the truth. This is not important when it concerns a private person, but for a president it is fatal.
Candidacy Was Considered ‘Entertainment’
The interesting thing about Oliver's list of Trumpian failures, lies and atrocities was the serious way, with detectable concern, he presented them. A representative of the entertainment industry, of all people, remembers political responsibility, which the political spectrum has refused for a long time.
When Trump declared his candidacy last year, The Huffington Post wanted to report about it in its entertainment section. The online medium has revised these decisions, but they are nonetheless symptomatic of the blatant misjudgment that the entire political and journalistic spectrum has allowed itself regarding Trump's candidacy.
Multimillionaire actor Trump, who fired candidates on the reality TV show "The Apprentice" with the same pubertal-sadistic delight with which he is now shouting at his political opponents, was somebody the political-journalistic elite thought would fail as soon as he tried to get the most important political office that reality has to offer.
Brutalization of Customs
However, Trump transferred the rules of reality TV to the political arena. In reality TV shows, the loudest and most brazen person always had good chances of winning, as he gave "it" free reign and freed the public from the censorship of the superego.
The professionals interpreting such phenomena, who are baffled by the success of the political phenomenon Trump, are not without fault. They themselves delighted in the ruffian's entertainment value for a long time. He did get the ratings.
Since the rise of reality TV shows in the early 2000s, the demonstrated brutalization of customs was observed from an ironic distance and belittled — or even affirmatively celebrated — and not just in the feature pages.
While the educated classes were amused by the constant infringements of their aesthetic and cultural codes — furnishings, hairstyles, manners of speaking — they missed how the protagonists of this culture had become the heroes of the outclassed masses.
Save What Is Still To Be Salvaged
Their crudeness was able to become the dominant culture, and Donald Trump turned the presidential election campaign into a Jerry Springer-like talk show. Pretty much every episode ended in big brawl.
Trump's success reveals the political weakness of the educated mainstream's irony. Authors such as David Foster Wallace and Jedediah Purday had already pointed out the inefficiency of this seemingly superior gesture of the postmodern, pop-cultivated milieu in the 1990s with increasing desperation.
Now the political consequences can be seen. Typical enough, it was Barack Obama's ironic trashing of Trump's "birther" campaign at a White House press dinner that elevated the bad clown to a political figure. It is almost an ironic punchline, if comedian John Oliver now has to try and save what can be salvaged in dead earnest.