|The movie poster from Pulp Fiction, Wikipedia, fair use claimed, full cite below in the credits.|
It is the end of February. Four weeks ago, my family and I gathered for our precinct caucus. On that day, there were a bunch of folks running for president. Now, the field has winnowed to two on the Democratic side and five on the Republican. Yet one name has dominated the political landscape: Donald J. Trump.
I will endeavor to never mention his name again in this blog. (I'll salute him in uniform, should he win, but that's a tale for another time.) Yet I must give credit where credit is due, he's winning.
There are many theories as to why he has stormed the cockpit of the Republican's party Airbus. Some believe he's going to crash it into the ground. Others are convinced he's going to pull off a flawless landing onto the tarmac that is the "Morning in America" Ronald Reagan promised us. Either way, we're in for one hell of an election year.
I'll just call it now to say that absent Rubio winning Florida two weeks from tomorrow, it's over. In Cleveland, Trump gets the endorsement. I understand the presumptive nominee does not drink. That's OK, most of the establishment will be.
So how did this happen? There are many schools of thought. One being that the public was so outraged by conventional politics that the rise of any outsider was a foregone conclusion. Another, as The Washington Post comments on below, is that supporters of this candidate embrace "authoritarianism." Then there is the nicely written yet devoid of real facts article of Ross Douthat (a weekly columnist of The New York Times whom I truly enjoy reading) that the Republican front-runner (see, not mentioning his name) is due is some twisted part to President Obama being such a liberal rock star. Nope, not seeing that one.
What I do see and acknowledge is that this man has tapped into something. For all his outrageous and disrespectful comments, for his previous unabashed support for liberal causes and candidates, for his temerity (if you're an establishment Republican) for attacking George W. Bush over 9/11, he is stoking a certain fire. A fire that continues to burn hot and bright.
So what might that fire be? Let's talk about it. One answer could be economics. I have a link to a Fortune article from a few days ago that sums up the issue with this opening line: "Mississippi’s vast flatlands, laced with the remains of a fading industrial base, are fertile ground for the incendiary populism of Donald Trump." The entire article is linked below, as are Mr. Douthat's and The Washington Post one I cited above earlier in this blog. I encourage you to read all of them. They all help educate the rise that is you-know-who.
So here's my explanation for why this guy is doing so well. Please allow me to set the stage.
It's 1994 and it's the Twin Cities. I was in my third year of law school and my friends had been telling me, "You gotta go see Pulp Fiction!" This movie is about a gangster, a couple of hit men, an almost washed-up boxer, the gangster's wife, drug dealers and other assorted characters. Think of it as Seinfield with heroin and multiple gun shots.
When I saw the movie, the theater was full. There is a scene where the washed up boxer and the gangster comes to blows. The boxer was supposed to throw a fight and in counseling the boxer to do so, the gangster says, "F... pride." Later, as the boxer is beating the gangster, he mocks him by saying, "Feel, that? That's pride f___in' with you." I have a movie link to that scene, via YouTube, below in the credits.
Fast forward a few minutes into the film. The gangster and boxer find themselves in a truly bad spot. It is so bad that the gangster is being subjected to a most brutal, violent and humiliating crime. The boxer is able to escape and as he is about to flee the scene, he hears the...crime still unfolding downstairs in the basement. In a moment of truth, he realizes he cannot let this stand. He chooses to fight back.
He's able to find a weapon and saves the gangster from a truly horrific set of circumstances. As this is unfolding, my fellow movie attendees and I were expressing our profound approval of how the scene ended. It was as if justice was served.
I think the rise of this certain candidate is both a combination of people's need to have their pride restored (however they define it) and their desire to have someone do it for them. They see this guy as their hero.
As for me, I see the irony in this candidate's rise is that you cannot have both. You cannot have the desire/need for national pride while at the same time dividing the very people whose collective strength and energies and resources you need do the things to achieve the accomplishments that make national pride a reality.
The guy at the top of certain polls is a master of dividing people. Either you are with him or you're a loser. Either you're with making America great again or you're part of the problem. Us-v-them, sadly, we've seen this before.
And back in that movie theater in Minnesota, a diverse audience came together (robustly, I might add) in our approval of not the victory of pride, but justice over a certain set of circumstances. Justice in two enemies joined together in a common cause of a heinous scene that had to be stopped. And it was,...compliments of a Samurai sword.
So I say to the voters still eligible to cast a primary vote, ask yourself this question: Are you more concerns with pride or justice? If it's pride, then you've got your candidate. If it is the other choice, I have far from certain you'll be pleased with the outcome.
After all, this is about an election, not a reality TV show or a movie.
Be well my friends,
Opening blog photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pulp_Fiction_cover.jpg