Cruz and Kasich are out, and many now are beginning to fear that Trump might actually win. The question is being asked, “How is this possible?” How did it happen that Donald J. Trump could be in striking range of being president?
I can tell you exactly how this happened.
In order: Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Rupert Murdoch, George W. Bush, the Koch Brothers, and Sarah Palin. Allow me to walk you through it.
Ronald Reagan opened the doors in two ways. First, he was an actor who made the presidential race a scripted, fictional play on a stage, where someone who was more about flash than substance could be president. People embraced it because it made them feel good, feel hopeful. Second, he began in earnest to create the “Narrative,” an alternate reality populated by Welfare Queens and Job Creators, a faux reality that people could believe existed based solely on partisan politics and faith. “Reaganspeak,” using euphemisms for political gain, were a significant development which helped establish and build The Narrative.
Rush Limbaugh was one of the biggest innovators of the partisan media, which he used to further The Narrative, using what Stephen Colbert would later term as “Truthiness.” Limbaugh used demagoguery, never worrying about whether his “facts” were actually true. His high ratings and broad appeal triggered the generation of dozens of talk radio personalities of the same ilk. They justified their value by creating the myth of the “Liberal Media,” setting themselves up as the disseminators of actual truth.
Newt Gingrich began the Congressional trend of the “take no prisoners” style of politics. Based more and more upon the fictional Narrative, ultimately a revision of reality, he began the fortification and coordination of the Republican Party, allowing them to dominate the airwaves with a coordinated message. Remember all those montages Jon Stewart made for us on The Daily Show where dozens of conservatives would use the exact same phrasing? Gingrich pioneered that. The Narrative fed by The Message. While he was often outmaneuvered by Clinton, he did set the stage, and was the author of a pivotal document: “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” in which he codified the completely fact-free use of language begun with Reaganspeak.
Rupert Murdoch, meanwhile, arrived from Australia via Britain, buying up 20th Century Fox and using the profits from the Entertainment division to build Fox News, which quickly dominated the ratings, based upon a rock-riffed, outraged version of reality, and the beginning of the death of modern journalism. While partisan journalism existed before then in small pockets, Murdoch exploded it, using the already burgeoning myth built by Limbaugh, Gingrich and others about a fictional “Liberal Media.” This development ripped from our culture any hope of maintaining its most vital resource: a trusted source of objective information for an informed electorate. Walter Cronkite left the building, Edward R. Murrow was surely and truly dead.
George W. Bush took the mantle of Ronald Reagan one step further. Where Reagan was more than anything else a figurehead behind which a team of neoconservatives rewrote our nation’s character, George W. Bush was a hand puppet, and the puppeteer—Dick Cheney, one of the same behind-the-scenes neocons from the Reagan administration—was virtually acting in plain sight. Bush was a prop for others to control, he was a lightweight—and he established the dangerous precedent of electing a complete idiot to power.
The Koch Brothers were not the first billionaires to support politics, but they were pioneers in shamelessly building a political machine. Their greatest creation: the Tea Party. By this time, Reagan, Limbaugh, Gingrich, and others had built The Narrative to the point where it was not just believed by tens of millions, but had generated a culture of outrage based upon a groundless but raging set of fears which prompted millions to froth and act wherever the trusted source of “fair and balanced” non-“liberal media” told them to rage. Thus was born the Tea Party, but the most important element was that free-floating fear and anger by which they were manipulated. The Koch brothers also began the accepted practice of billionaires openly directing politics, along with others like Sheldon Adelson.
Sarah Palin was the last straw that began with Ronald Reagan and was refined with George W. Bush. She was the idiot’s idiot, who repeatedly insisted that Death Panels were real and that she was qualified in foreign policy because Alaska was close to Russia. Completely devoid of any substance, she was endorsed and backed by the conservative establishment, praised endlessly by the right-wing media, and loved by millions. She lowered the bar for political acceptance to the all-time low of being snarky and borderline coherent. She drew the connection between so many of the elements of the foundation already made: the idiot figurehead spouting the fantastical fictional Narrative, using the power of the conservative media to rally the enraged shock troops of the Tea Party mindset.
That was how the groundwork was laid for Donald Trump. That was how he was possible. Because actors behind the scene made the American public accept the specter of the bizarrely fatuous figurehead becoming president; because they created millions of fervently dedicated followers who could be led by whomever was most entertaining and whomever could best manipulate the fear and anger generated by The Narrative so carefully cultivated. He was even a billionaire, but even better, a billionaire who could claim he was not beholden to any special interests. Even better still, he was earnest, “authentic” being the word used, in that he was able to display a natural sincerity which, via Reagan and Limbaugh and Palin, was valued and prized far more than any kind of factual accuracy or attention to truth or detail.
Conservatives created a huge base of voters and supporters who lacked a key element: an anchor. When people are anchored on principles, they tend to follow those who represent those principles. This new base the conservatives built had no anchor; they were instead founded on fear and anger. These are free-floating, meaning that they can be hijacked by anyone who knows which buttons to push.
And who knows which buttons to push better than a professional entertainer and media clown like Donald Trump? He’d been pushing the buttons in the background for years, getting lots of play on Fox News by being the Birther-in-Chief.
THAT’s how we came to the point of Donald Trump being where he is.