Trump is Not the Carnival — The Whole Election Is

Photo credit: adapted from a photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr
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The system loves to laugh at Donald Trump’s buffoonish ways, but what about the system itself? If you look closely, the entire way we elect presidents is pretty ridiculous.

The following WhoWhatWhy Classic first appeared in 2011, after Trump abandoned a previous bid for the presidency, but has never been more apt.

There’s a reason that many of the people who spend a lot of their time thinking and talking about celebrities’ private lives, and/or memorizing the statistics of scores of sports stars, also derive deep satisfaction from the seasonal political game. It…is…an…amusement.

With Donald Trump now out of the presidential race, can we take a moment to consider the context in which he existed?

First, here’s Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank with the conventional bit:

Having Donald Trump in the presidential race gave it the feel of a carnival.

ABC News described his “roller-coaster flirtation” with a run for the White House.  The Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote of the “circus-like speculation” about his presidential aspirations. The New York Daily News put Trump in clown makeup and called him “Sideshow Don,” while the Post’s Jennifer Rubin dubbed him “Trump the Clown.”  President Obama himself used the term “carnival barker” in an apparent reference to Trump.

But I think a different theme-park metaphor might be more relevant to the last 90 days of the Trump pseudo campaign: the House of Horrors.  He showed us how truly scary our political system has become….

Here’s where I beg to differ. Donald Trump is only one of many reminders of what is a bigger problem. It is not that nutsos and self-promoting empty shells running for president are signs of “how truly scary our political system has become.”

What is scary is how elections themselves have very little to do with anything—yet they suck up a tremendous amount of energy from the media and the public, leaving little left for the hard work of actually figuring out how to make a go of this country and this world.

They principally provide material for distraction. There’s a reason that many of the people who spend a lot of their time thinking and talking about celebrities’ private lives, and/or memorizing the statistics of scores of sports stars, also derive deep satisfaction from the seasonal political game. It…is….an….amusement.

For even Dana Milbank gets an entire column out of how much he finds Trump emblematic of “our political system, which rewards hucksters.” That’s the kind of theme that makes columns go round.

No, the bigger problem is that we fail to properly study the system itself in terms of the “non-hucksters” who get to the top.

How is it, do you suppose, that an exciting reformer like Obama would turn out in so many ways to be rather like the other men who came before him?

How do you suppose it is that the ones who really seemed even a tad fiery, who talk a lot about big money, about accountability for the Pentagon and the CIA, who talk openly about ordinary people getting screwed, that sort of thing—the Howard Deans, the Gary Harts, the John Edwards’, the John Andersons—for one reason or another never manage to get in? Usually, they don’t make it through the primaries. And it’s not just because some of them have an eye for the ladies, or whatever their personal defect supposedly is.

The truth is there’s something wrong with our shining democracy itself.

The range of permissible options seems permanently constricted.

Do you want some war overseas, or a lot? Do you prefer that workers give away all of the gains they’ve made in the past century, or just many of those gains? Do you want to do nothing about climate change or make some noise but still do very little? Do you favor one group of investment bankers determining economic policy—or another? Which Ivy League crew is your favorite?  What’s your flavor—Dick Cheney or Rahm Emanuel?

The Donald Trumps, the Sarah Palins, and their ilk are not a sideshow to the real, substantive campaign. They are a distraction so that, by comparison, the rest can seem to offer us something.

When in fact, they do not.

(More to come on this subject)

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17 responses to “Trump is Not the Carnival — The Whole Election Is”

  1. william beeby says:

    He has said that he is in it to the end and will not pull out even if not adopted by the Republican Party. He is not as scary as some of the other Rep. candidates from this side of the pond, but in American politics, who knows ?

  2. (Comment from reader ‏@Wise_Owl24) super pacs are unconstitutional.

  3. Larry Fleisher says:

    trump is emblematic of what is wrong with the system. he tells the people what they want to hear. ”i can create jobs and keep you safe from the sinister forces overseas and blah blah.” the people would vote for ron popeil if he promised them what they want to hear..trumps problem would be if he were to be elected he would have less chance than obama of getting anything through the congress. we the people forget that there are the three branches of gov’t and neither can do anything without the other.. he also promises JOBS. JOBS and JOBS. bringing back manufacturing etc.
    the jobs we can do.. the manufacturing will not comeback because we allowed our manufacturers to go to asia.. entire industries have moved off shore. the quality is fair but the price is good. we cannot compete, without a tariff, with countries that pay a dollar a day and a bowl of rice

  4. edwardrynearson says:

    In 2008 Hillary and Obama were called to the Bilderberg meeting in Chantilly VA. Some people have speculated that this meeting determined who would become president. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took Obama’s press corp back to Chicago without him and this exchange was captured on video @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIPik872K64

  5. edwardrynearson says:

    Mark Twain for president

  6. (Comment by reader @robertjrgraham) Mark Twain said “if voting had any real power, they wouldn’t let us do it.” Think about that deeply…

    • lessismore says:

      He also said,“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”A wise man who knew he couldn’t change things.Thought when the internet came along thought it might wake up enough people,but think the rulers will stay the same.Someone said,change globalisation to Empire building,think the later is more correct and soon TTIP which all the media in UK and EU seem to know nothing about.

  7. VoxFox says:

    Trump is there to “clear the field” before he is cast aside by the puppet-masters & our next pharaoh is elected to maintain the Bush dynasty.

  8. Elderly R. Staff says:

    I am offended at the term ‘buffoonish’. Do American people really use such terms of their political heroes? Surely not. I think WhoWhatWhy is out of line with American people’s thinking. You need to review how you portray decent people to worldwide audiences of internet readers. We are NOT all American people.

    • johndissed says:

      That offends you? Really?
      Elect your own clown, if you even have that opportunity where you live (as you clearly don’t seem familiar with the concept of freedom of speech/the press).
      What, do you believe journalists should poll prospective readers before reporting on elections like Hollywood does its films so as not to offend… foreigners?

    • Elderly R. Staff says:

      As a foreigner I am not totally familiar with freedom of the Press as you express it. Our elections are very dangerous – my own grandfather was, I believe, on reliable evidence killed for his political beliefs. Had people been restrained from – in his case- defaming him he may yet be with us. I like Donald Trump – I read Sorcha Faal’s latest report – and so on that basis I expect him to be an assassination target as was my grandfather. Surely in his potentially few remaining months, if that be the case, he should be afforded some dignity. If the U. S. of A. wants total hegemony worldwide your argument about offending foreigners is meaningless.

    • johndissed says:

      He gets a hell of a lot more dignity than he deserves. Judging from his cowardly manner of insulting women and minorities, he doesn’t likely have the cojones to go up against the kinds of forces that would have him assassinated.

    • Elderly R. Staff says:

      OK. You are entitled to your opinion. No problems.

  9. Randy says:

    Oh, so finally someone ELSE besides me is now realizing that politics is just a big waste of time, effort and energy as some without worth sports team or silver screen star’s private life made public?! Why has it taken so long? I’ve been saying this same thing ever since I read the book Votescam back in the 1990s!
    The fools and nincompoops who just salivate over the most trivial details coming out about this politician or that movie star as they wring their hands in total glee almost make me want to retch most of the time! EWWW, YUCCCKK! Here’s my paper The Scam of Politics.

    Randy

    The
    Scam of Politics

    Probably
    the oldest running scam on Earth is the one of politics and political
    systems/ideologies. No matter where you may care to look, you will
    find politicians in a society going together like dogs and fleas or
    maybe even ticks. It doesn’t matter how poor the people may be, you
    will always find someone who is trying to find some way to get others
    to pay their bills for them by promising a political solution to a
    problem in the community. If politics ever solved any kind of a
    problem, you can rest assured that it was completely by accident.
    Politics and political ideologies are NOT about solving problems for
    the rest of humanity, not in the least. That’s just the cover story
    that is given out to try to give these leeches some kind of
    legitimacy or respectability while they work behind the scenes to
    make things even WORSE than they were before they got there. The
    facts speak for themselves; just look at how society has now become
    more degraded than ever, and yet the politicians still bleat out
    their mantra of how they are there to help us all. And that they
    will help us all, if we will only just give them even more power and
    ability to ruin what little life we have left before us! Well with
    that kind of help, who needs enemies? No my friend, politics is all
    about power, how to get it and how to keep it. And if any political
    system was really about helping us to live a better life, then that’s
    what we would be seeing, better living conditions for all, not just a
    select few.

    There is
    no science at all in political science, save how to get elected, and
    then stay in office once the sheeple have been duped once again into
    believing that they can hire someone via an election to solve their
    problems for them. That is the common refrain of these vampires,
    “Elect me to office and all will be well again!”, but
    things only get worse when we let politicians get their power and
    money grabbing hands into something. There are no political systems
    that ever have more than one party to them, that’s just another
    aspect of the same illusion. The proof of this is the fact that when
    there is a change from one group of brigands to another, things do
    not miraculously transform from bad to good, they only go from bad to
    even worse!! More loss of liberty, more taxes, more regulations,
    less businesses, less prosperity, less happiness. Those are the
    products of politicians the world over! But yet they always manage
    somehow to keep their evil deeds covered up for the most part. Oh, a
    few scandals here and there are allowed to pop up, if they’re not
    brought into the limelight on purpose to serve a larger political
    agenda of course.

    The
    Founding Fathers of this nation, this divine experiment in self
    governance and freedom, they made one of the absolute worst blunders
    in the entire history of Mankind. In fact, it’s so egregious, so
    dastardly a deed, it’s not difficult at all for one to think that it
    was done 100% on purpose to completely sabotage the test of the
    ability of people to live free from authoritarian rule! We were supposed to throw off the yoke of tyranny,
    we were supposed to live by the dictates of logic and reason and
    laws, NOT the petty whims of politicians and bureaucrats whose main
    goal in life was to see how well they can live off the honest labors
    of others. And that is the big lie, the big scam behind politics and
    ANY political system or ideology you may care to name. Communism,
    fascism, socialism, Republicanism, Democracy, ALL of them seek to
    suppress the people at large so that the select few at the top can
    live a life of luxury for as long as they can. So what exactly was
    it that the Founding Fathers did that was so nefarious? They gave us
    a political system to staff the government with instead of a merit
    based system with STRICT limits on terms of office! But we have
    votes for corrupted men (and later on women too) to make our laws and
    rule over us instead of going by who is best suited to do a certain
    job and for a very limited amount of time. Thomas Jefferson said
    that a new revolution was needed every 20 years or so just to keep
    the government (politicians and bureaucrats) straight and honest!
    But if you have a merit based system, with a random drawing for the
    tested and qualified applicants for a government position to be
    selected from, and they are limited to only 5 years for that job,
    then you don’t have to worry about political dynasties forming or any
    of the problems that are attached to them. No more cronyism, no more
    political bribes or favoritism, no more exemptions from any laws that
    are enacted, those are the things that seem to draw criminals to
    politics like bears are drawn to honey, and if we get rid of
    politics, we will not have any of those enemies of freedom. We would
    not need a new revolution every twenty years because we would always
    have fresh new faces coming in to keep our sacred founding documents
    true to form. A government of the people, by the people and FOR the
    people!

    What are
    the first words out of the mouth of a politician when there is any
    kind of situation that needs to be resolved? It’s either a new tax,
    an increase in a tax or a new law. That’s all they know, so that’s
    all that they can come up with! These cretins never think for even
    one second that maybe what we really need is LESS intrusion into our
    life, that we need to communicate with others more and in better ways
    than slinging arrows or bullets at each other. But it’s always just
    more of the same; put more and more restrictions on the people to
    keep them under tighter control. Men WANT to live in peace and
    harmony with each other so that they may trade with each other and
    build businesses up and live better lives as a result of all that,
    but the ones who are insane with their endless lust for power and
    insatiable greed for other people’s money do not want that peace and
    harmony in the society. People want real justice and compensation
    for their losses or injuries when someone commits a crime, but what
    we get instead are travesties that are birthed in the mouth of a
    politician instead. Our legal system is a huge scam that only
    reinforces the political system scam. The more peaceful a society
    is, the more people get along with each other, then the less need
    there is for politicians and their insane acts against their fellow
    men and women. Think about it for a minute or two; when is there
    greater peace in a society, before or after politicians start messing
    with things? If that question didn’t startle you, then probably the
    answer won’t either. It’s time to just roll over and go back to
    sleep again.

    • Randy::// I left my friends and family in 1971 because I had enough of seeing ‘politicians’ acting the exact same way as the ‘Mafia’ or ‘organized crime bosses’. I sailed to the South Pacific and I’m here to stay, but I still care about America. You can’t believe the difference in the news when you’re not in the states watching it. I talk to tourists and can’t believe what they feel is happening in America. It’s like their blinded and deaf, which makes them ‘dumb’, for lack of a better word. Most people from around the world, (that aren’t from the USA), look at America like the #1 terrorist country in the world. America actually scares the hell out of people ’cause you never know what’s coming next. And the government has caused some pretty horrible things to happen ‘in country and out’. Plus they get away with it. Your comment is so right on, I can’t believe you live in America, but if you do, better that you keep cool and watch out for strange happenings. Hate to see you go thru a ‘Hastings’. You’re one of the most intelligent minded persons I’ve seen in a long time. I just hope the ‘sheep’ of America vote for the least evil this time around. And for me that’s Bernie Sanders, if he makes it that far without an ‘accident’. I’m 67 years old and never thought I’d be writing sentences like this about America. It’s so sad!! Wake up America!! 2016 may be your last chance to make a drastic change. ‘They’ve almost taken over 100%, you have to stop them NOW!!

    • Randy says:

      That’s great that you were able to move to another place where you can live a happy life, William! My congratulations to you, Sir!
      I’ve made a very long and arduous study of the problems of the world, who creates them and why, and that is why I am able to write articles that reach people at a deep level. People seem to either love my work, or they hate it. The ones who love it see the truth in it and a solution that can benefit them, the ones who hate it see the truth also, but they see that it will end their corrupt way of life if it gets out!
      It’s 100% true! The District of Criminals IS the biggest terrorist group on the planet today, and that’s putting it mildly! But it will all come to an end shortly now, for when the hyperinflation hits the USD later this year, the power grids will have to go down and that will put an end to the surveillance state. Without people being able to pay their electric bills, how will the utilities be able to pay their fuel bills and workers to do those very dangerous jobs? Tell Aetna or Blue Shield that you work for a power company and want some health insurance or life insurance. They will laugh until their sides split open. It’s as dangerous a job as being an astronaut or race car driver. If you even could get them to write you some paper, the premiums would be so high your paycheck wouldn’t cover it! I worked in the electrical industry for 15 years at SoCalEdison, so I know whereof I speak.
      If voting actually worked, they’d out law it! Corrupted politicians lying through their teeth is how OhBummer got vetted for the job of POTUS and not just once, but TWICE!! The lunatics are running the insane asylum now and there’s no way to stop it. So the 2016 election cycle won’t even get here with no power to run the rigged up voting machines.
      I have many articles on various subjects that you may enjoy reading, let me know if you want to see any of them.

      Randy

    • For sure there’s things I’d really like too discuss. Pardon my ignorance but what is the easiest way. Do I put my e-mail address out here for all to see?

  10. Tucker says:

    OK Russ. Let’s talk about the disconnect here. If you believe in “deep politics,” and what happens in the campaign and the election does not matter at all, why cover it? Also, if it could matter, if people were engaged, which is what you imply, than who is your candidate. If you are going to cover the campaign and engage in advocacy journalism, than who do you believe can make a difference.

    If the answer is no one than it seems to me there is simply no need to write stories about the campaign.

    • russbaker says:

      I do not believe I ever said that elections don’t matter. I was speaking of the overall poor quality of most of the candidates, their rhetoric, and the media’s handling. Like most thoughtful people, I evaluate my options, and I vote. There are real differences between candidates and between parties, just not as big or as meaningful as I would like. All you have to do is consider, for example, Supreme Court choices, or attitudes toward consumer protections. The “Deep Politics” analysis relates to the systemic limitations imposed on the political system, particularly as relates to foreign and military policy, and to treatment of big money interests. It does not say, “don’t vote.” As to which candidate I will vote for–I do not know yet. But I don’t see convincing readers to follow my lead on that to be a priority.