A Goblin of Nihilism

Daniel O’Hehir explains the dark heart of Trump support:

Being impregnable and invulnerable and indeed indecipherable — possessing no inner life, no discernible ideology and no personality — are not bugs in the Trump avatar’s program. They are essential features of its success. If he could fly or read minds or see the future he would be even better suited for the job of American dictator, and given the slipped gears in the reality matrix those possibilities can’t be ruled out. Trump is dangerous precisely because he does not seem like a real person, and the people voting for him do not think they’re voting in a real election with real consequences. He is an empty symbol with no point of reference, a goblin of nihilism wearing a mask of hope.

As an example of “no point of reference,” Matthew Yglesias points out that Trump’s “law and order” speech last night contained no actual crime policies. He spoke of “law and order” over and over, but his only policy statement was —

I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done.

But to his followers, this doesn’t matter. “The Government” is to them something unreal and alien, like Mordor, and they need an avatar to go in and straighten it out. Exactly what needs straightening and how it’s done doesn’t concern them.

Remember, these are the same people who perpetually complain that The Government, or Political Correctness, or Liberals, or some amorphous thing out there is oppressing them, but they can never provide a concrete example of actual oppression. Nevertheless, they live in a simmering pot of resentment because someone out there disrespects them. And time after time they follow whatever demagogue du jour gives voice to that resentment.

But back to actual Trump — lots of people are pointing to this bit from a New York Times article

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

Of course. Because Trump has never done anything himself. He’s just the guy who puts up the money to make the deals. The actual building and managing and running of the businesses are done by other people. He seems to think he can be President of the United States and delegate the entire job to others, except for the taking credit part. It’s what he’s always done.

But may I also say that Mike Pence is one of the last people on the planet I’d want in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Meanwhile, word is that Hillary Clinton is going to pick Tim Kaine for her veep. This is not official yet, mind you. But if so, this tells me she’s still not getting the national mood. Kaine is a very “safe” pick — from an establishment perspective — who will excite no one who isn’t already in the tank for her.

19 thoughts on “A Goblin of Nihilism

  1. This is who Tim Kaine is:

    “Tim Kaine Calls To Deregulate Banks As He Campaigns To Be Clinton’s VP”


    “Kaine, by contrast, is setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party. He has championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that both Sanders and Warren oppose, and he is now publicly siding with bank deregulation advocates at the height of Clinton’s veepstakes.”

    “Such large “regional banks,” Kaine writes, are being discriminated against based solely on the fact that they are so big.”

    “Discriminated against”? WTH is Clinton thinking?

    Hope I’m wrong, but sounds like dems are working on a let’s snatch defeat from the jaws of victory campaign.

  2. Pence, when he was in the House, was one of the dimmest bulbs.
    The only ones he outshone by a watt or less, were S. King, Gohmert, and Bachmann.

    Of course since then, the GOP House has added dim/nit/half/fuck-wits, who’d make Pence look like a beacon or searchlight!

    As much as I can’t stand him, compared to Pence, Christie is an intellectual giant – no fat joke intended.

    tRUMP doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about or he’s doing – nationally or internationally!

    A JHS kis who badly failed Civics (if they still taught it), and World History: Post WWII, would score far higher, than tRUMP.

    I can understand, that with GOP Governors in NJ, Ohio and Massachussets, why Booker, Brown or Warren are off the table:
    The Dem’s think the Senate is winnable.
    But, how about Perez!?!?!?

    But, H & B Clinton like and trust Kaine, so, I guess if not a silk purse out of a Wall Street sow’s ear, he might mahe a nice leather (non)change purse.

    Also too: Oy…

  3. I am not excited about the Kaine pick, but after reading about him a bit more, understand it better. He’s been elected several times, has run a state, and works well with others. He has strong relationships with his colleagues in the Senate, useful for moving nominees and issues through that chamber.

    No, he is not as exciting as others, but he’s definitely qualified.

  4. At this point Hillary could pick Sarah Palin as a running mate and I’d still vote for her.
    Trump is such a sham that it’s now come down to anyone but Trump. I knew instinctively when I first saw Trump descending down the escalator that he was a fraud and a joke, but after receiving so much enlightened analysis from external sources on how demented and vile he actually is, I feel it as a duty to my country to do all within my power to make sure he never attains the office that he seeks. He’s a canker, a necrosis on the spirit of decency.
    OK, I vented for tonight..will sleep like a baby…

  5. I’m satisfied that Hillary knows what she’s doing – applying for a job, rather than putting on a show.

    It seems that the reps have been trying to put on a show for the last fifty years. Now I just thank goodness they finally took off the mask.

    I’m also grateful to not be in a position where I have to respond to every idiocy and provocation that comes along. Thanks Maha, for serving as one of my filters of the outside world.

  6. Tim Kaine has done a fine job as my mayor, my governor, and my senator. Warren would have been my first choice for VP, but I’m happy with Kaine.

  7. Dolorous,

    It’s better to leave Warren in Senate. She is much more effective in that role and MA currently has a Republican governor. Dems don’t gain much by her choice as VP.

  8. I don’t think Kaine’s such a bad choice. Is fluent in Spanish, having worked with the Jesuits. He forged bonds with the black community there… becoming mayor of [Richmond], a majority-black city. These are important demographics to nail down.

    It’s a trade-off between attracting Bernie voters vs getting the blacks and hispanics on board. With Elizabeth Warren doing just fine as attack dog – and who would’ve been the lightening rod for right wing attacks that Kaine is not – I think Hillary didn’t do badly with this pick.

  9. Article in the New Yorker about Tony Schwartz, the guy who ghost-wrote Art of the Deal. The money quotes:

    “I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

    If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

  10. To me, the Kaine pick says she’s not worried about the election. Instead of picking someone who might have been useful in swaying undecideds or GOTV campaigns, she has picked someone she wants as her VP.

    That makes me nervous. I think she’ll win, but I don’t think anyone should be overconfident yet.

  11. Imagine that I wanted to be Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The game is currently being run by incompetents. I am going to Make Baseball Great Again. I have great leadership skills and a large following.

    Questions arise about my commands of the facts of the game. I cannot say what the designated hitter rule is, or whether that is in the American or the National League. Maybe I have trouble describing the infield fly rule, or whether it applies when there are two outs and a runner on third. But I know that I can take this game and turn it around, believe me. I can delegate the little details to others. I will be a great Commissioner.

    My true believers will stick with me. It’s only a bunch of elitist snobs who care whether the shortstop is between first and second or between second and third base. I will make Baseball Great Again, and I have the baseball caps to prove it.

  12. Now that it appears that the days of DWS at the helm of the DNC are seriously numbered, how about Sen. Warren for the job?

  13. WRT Caine: BOR-ING. But: 1) Va’s Governor is a D and can presumably appoint a D to fill for Caine; 2) Caine “does no harm”– he doesn’t hurt the ticket.

    Pence DOES add extra drag to Trump’s ticket. Not as much as Palin for McCain, but arguably more drag than Ryan for Romney, as Ryan probably does a better job of “appearing rational” than Pence will. Either Newt or Christie would have been a far stronger choice for Trump.

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