Trump's Big Mouth/Big Money Campaign Is All Too Emblematic of the Era

Donald Trump keeps on saying stupid, hateful things. About Mexicans, women, John McCain, Megyn Kelly... And he keeps on leading the Republican presidential race. Gosh, could there be a correlation?

If anything, Trump has consolidated a sizable lead in the Republican race since the big debate earlier this month, as the new CNN poll demonstrates. And he is the most trusted voice on the major issues, even winning plaudits from supporters of other candidates. What that means is the other Republican candidates can't afford to deviate much from what this guy is saying. Let's keep that in mind in assessing the overall presidential race.

While Trump will not be President of the United States -- we're not that far down the devolutionary ladder -- the paunchy, loudmouthed egomaniac could continue to stun with strong showings.

Some highlights from Donald Trump's announcement speech for President of the United States. This was June 16, 2015 at, wait for it, Trump Tower in New York City.

And why not?

After all, "the Donald" is a perfect product of our fateful cultural nexus of "reality" TV, spiteful hyper-partisanship, financialized politics, "birther" BS, infotainment news, climate change denial, and Selfie Nation.

This is what has come of the media playing along with this buffoon all these years.

Who better to epitomize the rise of the Anti-Enlightenment?

In a culture which rewards the generation of heat rather than light, Trump's decades-long hot air perpetual motion machine is the "rough beast" whose hour has come round at last. His attention addict behavior fits our cultural attention deficit disorder to a tee.

Hey, he's worth $10 billion! He says so himself. Three billion of it the sheer value of his name! Who says ignorance is not its own reward?

The rampant know-nothingism that was so striking in Republican ranks when it came in the form of Sarah Palin no longer has shock value. It's perilously close to de riguer.

The Republican presidential debate in which Trump not only survived but thrived took place on the 70th anniversary of our atomic bombing of Hiroshima. That wasn't mentioned, much less discussed. I suppose it's not Foxonian.

Climate change wasn't mentioned, either. Why mention either of the existential threats to humanity?

Governor Jerry Brown, noting that greenhouse era California is beset by rampant fires and drought, challenged the Republicans to address climate change. Trump, perhaps preferring to joust with less adept characters, ignored it. But three others answered.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina answered.

What they said was straight out of the Palin/Trump/know-nothing playbook.

They all said that California needs more dams. So it's really the environmentalists' fault.

That, folks, is what we call a stupid non sequitur. Not that they know what a non sequitur is.

Why is Trump even talked about at all as a presidential candidate? Because he is ultra-rich. And because for years he has kept on saying he is a candidate, or may be one.

Big Mouth and Big Money meet at Trump Pass, which shows no sign of passing on any time soon.

It was Newt Gingrich's 2012 campaign which first showed the way for this sort of candidacy, albeit one far more thoughtful and benign in Gingrich's early iteration. The ex-House speaker engaged in what I called then a "Big Talk" campaign, one which eschewed the usual organizational spadework and extensive early state appearances in favor of a series of media appearances and ads funded by a few hyper-rich characters.

He shot to the front of the Republican field. Then, in classic Newt fashion, he declared that he would be the GOP presidential nominee and went on vacation. Disaster ensued.

Still, the way forward for a candidate who either didn't want to take the traditional course of campaigning or was otherwise too busy was clear.

It was the US Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, of course, that paved the way. As one longtime presidential campaign fundraiser who has raised millions told me, people like him are now perilously close to obsolete. It's a not so brave new world in which a few hyper-rich folks with a few electronic transfers can do more than most of the elite fundraisers of years past combined.

Most every new thing has a catch, though, in this case the capriciousness of the hyper-rich. When Mitt Romney decided he'd had quite enough of Gingrich, he went to Newt's principal angel, Vegas/Macau gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. He pledged undying support for Adelson's down-the-line right-wing Israeli agenda, and that was it for Gingrich.

Since Trump is his very own capricious hyper-rich guy, he only has to worry about himself. That's the one thing we know he specializes in. His campaign is the next iteration of the megabucks politics first empowered and now enshrined by the Citizens United decision.

Of course, there is one huge flaw in Trump's drive for the perfection of political absurdity. It's absurd.

Trump is a perfectly shallow celebrity. He's famous not for achievement or brilliance or good works -- Trump philanthropy? Heh. -- he's famous for endless self-promotional guff.

There's an unintentionally hilarious Newsweek cover story by a longtime journalist friend of Trump's which channels Trump camp arguments for a Trump, er, presidency.

-- He doesn't have to be knowledgeable because he'll hire good advisors. (Elsewhere Trump told Meet the Press that he gets his military advice watching TV chat shows. His favorite general or admiral? "Bolton." That would be John Bolton, who was neither a general nor an admiral. The neocon firebrand did enlist in the Maryland National Guard to evade the Vietnam War, though.)

-- He's really a beacon of courage because he freely vents his angry blather.

-- He's a fantastic negotiator because he can scream obscenities for an hour at folks in the New York real estate and Atlantic City gambling businesses. Because New York real estate and Atlantic City casinos are the top of the power pyramid.

I'm sure Vladimir Putin is shaking in his boots.

Actually, Putin (a real tough guy who could toss Trump into the East River without breaking a sweat), Xi Jinping, and Ali Khamenei are undoubtedly laughing their asses off at how decadent and deeply non-serious American politics suddenly looks.

Too bad it's not funny.

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