The Defeat of The Donald

Certainly I'm not the most qualified or the best-positioned person to argue against Donald Trump. The Internet is awash (aflame?) with loud, fervent, deep commentary on this issue, from the niche to the nuanced to the banging of pots and pans. And I've had a lot of trouble articulating my thoughts on this issue, largely because until recently it didn't seem necessary. I've long been of the camp that Trump was a joke, a gimmick, a blowhard that would blow over. It never occurred to me to take him seriously, so it never occurred to me that anyone else would. Clearly, I was — we were wrong.

In the bitterly-ironic, self-prophesying way of so many tyrants and authoritarians, Trump seemed harmless enough in the beginning. His colorful, rambling rants were easy to ignore the crazy homeless lady hollering obscenities on the corner, an unpleasant noise that only makes it into your periphery. His message, what there was of it, seemed too shallow and incoherent to really matter. A year ago, his incendiary sound bites served as late-night show fodder and, and at best and rarest, a catalyst for the "real" candidates to have to answer about uncomfortable issues.

But that's all changed. It's hard not to feel a little like Chicken Little running around after Super Tuesday, begging someone to care that the sky is falling down.

The thing is, even now, even post-Super Tuesday, even during a scary near-total primary sweep, the dominant sentiment that I keep encountering seems to be my own: that Trump is a terrible, dangerous joke. That's the subject of thought-pieces and satire segments and even, if you'll believe it, the GOP official party line, articulated beautifully by a surprising Mitt Romney (which we'll get to later). On Super Tuesday, several of my (Southern, Republican) friends posted variations on a "Where was the 'Anyone but Trump' button at the polls?"

On Super Tuesday-eve, my brother-in-law (who lives in the Northeast) posted a sincere query on his Facebook: who are all these secret Trump supporters and where are they hiding? He was baffled because, despite Trump's overwhelming wins, he'd never seen a single friend or friend of friend or an acquaintance or a co-worker advocate for Trump online; he'd never seen a single Trump yard sign. (I've now seen exactly one, but it was alone, marooned on a long street, and I had to go Nashville, Tennessee to find it.)

Twenty-five people commented on my brother-in-law's post, nary a Trump supporter among them.  Several provided data on their own social circles one person had two "out" Trump supporters amongst Facebook friends. One had 12 friends who had "liked" Trump's Facebook page. One friend calculated his Trump-supporter friend-ratio at 0.6%. 

This is all anecdotal, of course, but I bet it's representative of your experience, too. And so it's flabbergasting when despite constant bashing and seemingly-nonexistent outward support that this character is robbing our delegates blind.

Certainly, some of the explanation for the phenomenon of not knowing any Trump supporters can be explained by our own self-selection. We self-segregate in our neighborhoods, our schools, and employment. Without necessarily meaning to, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people. Even my friends who have opposing political party affiliations share similar backgrounds, educations, pop-culture immersions, and news sources. Party labels aside, we're all standing on common ground. (This Economist article tackles this issue in depth. Despite it's newly-relevant title, "The Big Sort," it was actually written pre-Trump.)

So: if you don't support Trump, you may be more likely to live in a place where the people around you don't support Trump. And your extended circle, and their extended circle, are probably comprised of similarly-educated, like-minded people who likewise don't support Trump. So we're all living in our Trump-free bubble, only to be startled and bewildered when it's popped by Trump's weird, massive wins because, like, who actually voted for that guy?!?

For instance: check out this map of my home state's GOP primary. You'll notice that where I live the city of Atlanta and its surrounding counties, Trump was neatly defeated. But the rest of the state, people who largely don't make up my circle of friends, or my circle's circle of friends, resoundingly made our state a Trump stump. (There's also the issue of Trump voter shame, where closet Trump voters don't publicly reveal themselves, which may say more about Trump than anything.)

These phenomena may explain the disconnect between my perception (and, if you're reading this, friend, likely yours) of Trump's support and his actual backers, but it doesn't explain what the Trump voters actually see in him. And that one's harder to flesh out. I think part the problem is how difficult it is make a meaningful argument against something that seems so obvious that it shouldn't require explanation. If someone asks you, "But, wait, why shouldn't I murder adorable puppies?", we'd all be stranded with our arms out, palms up, making short, almost-word throat-noises like "uck" and "ehdg" and "buft..." because what the hell do you say to that?

Luckily, while I'm just perpetually huffing and snarling about Trump without ever seeming to be able to push real words and statistics and examples out of my mouth, others have handled the specifics. So, here is my "Take Trump Down" toolkit for my similarly-ineloquent readers, a guide to the internet's most persuasive counter-trumporrism™.


1.) First, of course, is the inimitable John Oliver's thorough (and I mean thorough, 21 minutes of his show was spent on this piece) assault of Trump, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. This is an absolute must-watch for entertainment value and genuine terror:

2.) Next, there's Mitt Romney's incredibly articulate, compassionate speech distancing the Republican party from Trump. In it, Romney outline's Trump's unworkable tax, domestic, and foreign policies, calls out his alienating, jingoistic opinions, and begs literally begs — GOP voters to vote for whatever candidate in their state has the best chance of beating Trump. If you can't watch, read a transcript here.


3.) Don't believe me (or John, or Mitt)? Think this is some spin? Dig into the truth (or lack thereof) behind Trump's statements. In December, website PolitiFact called Trump's "collective misstatements" their "Lie of the Year." On their Trump page, only 1% of Trump's statements rank as totally "true," and only 7% rank as "mostly true." Clicking on "false" or "pants on fire," you can see Trump's most egregious deceptions and most pathetic distortions.

4.) If you thought Trump was scary, some of his supporters are even scarier. The mayhem of Trump is tapping into an undercurrent of anarchists and haterz, trolls and vampires, who “like the joker from The Dark Knight, just want to see the world burn.” Read some terrifying responses from Trump supporters compiled by The Atlantic here.

5.) Now you believe me, but what do we do? Since Trump is handily leading in delegates, it seems like only a miracle can save us. Luckily, our crafty delegate system offers up just such a rarely-used opportunity, the Brokered Convention. Read up on the Brokered Convention here. It may be unlikely, but is it our only hope?

6.) Speaking of Brokered Conventions, this actually happened on The West Wing*. Season 6 saw three Democratic candidates going into the Democratic convention without a clear nominee. The last episode of the season shows the chaotic convention and the elaborate balloting process that takes place when there's no consensus on a candidate. It's a nail-biting crash course in the delicacies of delegate math, and the chance that none of it even matters.

Stick around for Season 7, where the winning nominee takes on the Republican candidate in fruitful, well-argued, articulate, reasonable, rational debates about big, important issues. A nice Hollywood contrast to the shitstorm cluster-tornado poop-tempest happening in real life! (All seasons of The West Wing** are available for instant streaming on Netflix.) And why not turn off the news, pour a glass of wine, and unwind with some West Wing? At the end of the day, maybe all we can do is sit back, relax, and wish Aaron Sorkin were pulling the strings.

*This blog has a West Wing drinking game. Every time I mention The West Wing, you get to drink. Which is all the time. So hooray!

**Have another one, on me. You deserve it, and the news isn't getting any better!
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