How Donald Trump’s Political Farce Uncovered Political Farce
It is extremely rare that we are treated to true political theater. So much of it is fabricated, which is the entire point of political theater, really. However, every once in a while comes an unexpected series of events that transpires, as they did over the past 72 hours, which defies the gravity of our system. And if you are lucky, these series of events reveal much about what is phony and pathetic. Such a thing has occurred and it forced me to trash what I was writing and write something else. Not quite stop-the-presses, but annoying just the same.
Citizen Donald J. Trump, the presidential nominee front-runner of the over 150-year-old Republican Party saw fit to boycott his party’s final “debate” in a state holding the first voting for the 2016 campaign five days hence. He did so in protest over who would be moderating said “debate” and embroiled himself in combat with easily the most important media outlet in the Republican field. In protest, Trump held a competing event merely five miles away, covered by any and all remaining networks, which he thrashed together in a day. The “debate”, more a showcase (as noted in this column previously several times) in it does not allow for true point-counter-point argument of ideas to be presented as alternatives to each other, was hosted by the most powerful media voice of the right wing, FOX NEWS, a conglomerate so effective at propaganda it has shifted the very concept of television news irreparably for the rest of existence.
It is important to understand the gravity of this battle. Both FOX NEWS and Donald Trump live in the same fantasy stratosphere. In fact, they thrive in it. And when annoying things like factoids become an inconvenience to your mission statement, then it is nearly catastrophic when a similar, completely delusional force pushes back.
Trump, a man who lives by his own moral structure that is first and foremost arbitrated by him, accused a network whose promotional tagline is “Fair & Balanced” of unfairness. This shook its very foundation. Just think of every Twilight Zone you’ve ever seen. For 28 of the 30 minutes you think, along with the character, that you are somewhere or having an entirely different experience than the one that is actually transpiring, which sends shockwaves through both and then cut to the credits. This was FOX NEWS last week. “What? Agenda? Fixed? Conflating news with ham-fisted talking points? Using actual events to generate an already decided-upon, self-serving narrative?”
Please try and grasp the horrifying beauty of this: the Republican front-runner, who leads in every poll imaginable over at least a dozen states, has made FOX NEWS stand trial for the very thing it was created to achieve.
For its part, FOX NEWS rightly defended its “journalist”, Megyn Kelly, against Trump’s insistence that she was unfair to him in a previous showcase and could not be one of the moderators. However, Kelly is no longer a journalist. She gave up that title when she became a talk-show host. In a way, Trump uncovered one of my pet-peeves, which is why are talk show hosts dolled up and put in front of presidential candidates as if this were American Idol (three of them sitting at a table before the stage, get it?), when there are capable campaign trail reporters that know the candidates and the issues being pushed on the stump? Because it is a show, that’s why. Big name talk-show hosts of every cable network get their time in the spotlight to promote the network while the network pushes the personalities that drive said network. After the first debate, FOX NEWS crowed about record ratings like something straight out of Paddy Chayefsky’s Network. The reason for the big ratings—as if this is some kind of reality show and not a chance for voters to choose a presidential candidate—was Donald Trump. Trump knew this and took his basketball home. The first thing out of the candidate’s mouth was, “Watch their commercial ad rates drop now!”
And one very important abomination was unwittingly uncovered during this whole wonderful fiasco. Trump ostensibly held his event as a fundraiser for veterans. Interestingly, many veterans’ charity groups boycotted Trump by stating he was grandstanding by using veterans as a political tool. This argument, while it is most likely true, makes no sense on the face of it. Why would an organization created to get contributions ignore someone holding an event to do just that unless you were against them ideologically and/or politically and therefore you are in reverse also using veterans as tools?
But that is not the kicker; where our little stripping bare of the disgusting nature of our collective fantasyland gets real is the mere fact that we, a nation obsessed with war, leave our veterans to need charity groups to care for them. We always seem to find the tax money to “bomb them back to the stones age” or “make the sand glow” or “shock and awe” and “boots on the ground” all over the place, but we have nothing in the budget to deal with the fallout?
This is the ugly truth of this country, which is always quick to go into war and yell about war and defense and supporting our troops, but the veterans of these national sins are left to beg for supper? How do we call this the greatest country on earth in the face of it? How do we brag on our exceptional nature and wave our flags with so much gusto while this goes on? All that money spent on making war and apparently none of it left to face its gory results?
In the rarest of times political theater provides us much needed clarity.
This one sure as hell did.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud—The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.