I don’t understand Donald Trump, he is anathema to everything I believe in, from the inherent worth of hard work, to the importance of intellectual pursuit and excellence, hell, even the idea that class is best represented by less not more. But more than simply not understanding him, I didn’t see him coming, I never imagined he would be the republican nominee, let alone the president, I was completely blindsided by this. Now, when I encounter something I don’t understand I always try to learn as much as i can about it, so this is the first of what will be many books in my future about Donald Trump and his victory, to try and comprehend what was to me inconceivable.
Enter Matt Taibbi, a Rolling Stone magazine political reporter, who has long been on the campaign trail covering presidential elections. His book gives a blow by blow of the 2015-2016 presidential election, focusing a bit more on the republican side. He does an excellent job of describing the rogue’s gallery that is the republican nominee pool. His writing is funny and sharp, if a bit sophomoric. By examining the flaws of the usual expected nominees, Jed Bush, Huckabee, Rubio and all the rest of the usual suspects, he shows how a system that was built to give them control over an increasingly detached and rabid electoral base allowed the election of an abomination. From there he takes off to examine the complicity of the media in Trump’s ascendency, by making him the biggest show in town, by covering the election like it was a reality show and if there is one thing (maybe the only thing) that Trump understands, its realty TV.
The last accusation thrown is towards the political system as a whole, and here Hillary Clinton shares the blame (in fact the only one who comes out of this book with any dignity is Sanders). His main thesis, not a new or original one by any means, is that the professional political system was so out of touch from the American voter that they were blindsided by a bloviating orange idiot. Years of passing legislation that drove jobs to Taiwan and Indonesia, caring about wall street and not the flyover states and essentially ignoring the “the poors” until the next election cycle. The Washington political system willfully ignored the warning signs. The republicans would shout abortions and traditional values, the dems would shout gay/trans rights and gun control and their base would fall in line, while both sides would essentially care only about the concerns of a small group of rich plutocrats represented by lobbyists. Look, none of this new, Taibbi isn’t reinventing the wheel, I knew all these things, and yet me and the rest of the liberal left were all left with are jaws on the floor come election night, so It pays to rehash stuff you knew if it becomes relevant again.
So is the system so broke that it can’t be fixed? As Taibbi says in the book, any system that allows someone like Trump to win is broken and incredibly corrupt. If the system is to fixed, if we are to prevent hollow vapid con-men like Trump from rising to power, then we need to understand the environment that let them win (so much winning … sigh). Nothing brings me less pleasure than reading about Donald Trump, but democracy requires responsibility and right now, this is our responsibility, preventing this fool and his ilk from destroying everything we hold dear.