February 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Is Trump a serious candidate?
Throughout the summer and fall of last year, as the presidential campaign got underway, I made it a point to comment as little as possible on the rise of Donald Trump. I based that largely on the idea that attention-craving prima donnas are best ignored, lest they take advantage of the notoriety toward which the unruly mobs seem to gravitate. But now, on the eve of Super Tuesday, it appears that Trump is on the verge of building an insurmountable lead in the delegate race, and it may be too late for the party insiders to stop him. Personally, I am torn between deep dismay and a smug glee that the idiots who have been leading the Republican Party down the wrong path (stoking the fires of emotion-laden populism) for the past sixteen years are finally getting what's coming to them. Can you hear me, Karl Rove and Hugh Hewitt? I may be a moderate in some respects, but I have absolutely no sympathy for the "Republican Establishment" -- if that phrase still has any meaning. My prediction on that eve of the 2012 election that if Romney lost it would mean the effective end of the Republican Party as we know it is coming true.
I'm as keenly aware as anyone of the malignant social attitudes that underlie at least part of the rage that fuels the Trump candidacy. That is not to say that I understand or can relate to such attitudes, however. In many ways, I am deeply alienated from the mainstream of American society, which is in part a reflection of my occupation in academia. I occasional flip channels on TV and come across one of these "reality TV" shows, which is of course a ridiculous misnomer. Anyone who thinks that artificial role playing in contrived romances, physical contests, or business dealings has anything to do with "reality" is a fool. So it may be that supporters of Donald Trump are the same people who used to watch his TV show "The Apprentice," in slack-jawed awe at this powerful man in a suit issuing the condemnatory phrase, "You're fired!" It utterly escapes me how anyone could sit through those fake encounters and derive any sort of entertainment value. Apparently, submissive, authoritarian hero-worshipping attitudes are becoming more widespread in American society, which seems to be crumbling before our eyes.
In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza explains just how dangerous Trump is to the Republican Party. The candidate routinely makes outrageous statements and claims, without ever feeling an obligation to take responsibility for either the truthfulness or the consequences of those words. To say that he's a demagogue would a gross understatement. If he were elected president, which now has to be considered a real possibility, he could get us into a large-scale war.
Among the rival candidates, Ted Cruz has lost traction and is fighting just to win his home state of Texas, while Marco Rubio is lowering himself to Trump's level, using nasty words in a desperate bid to stay in the race. John Kasich? Well, he's still campaigning, making serious speeches, but just isn't getting much attention from our sound-bite-obsessed media. (They are a big part of the problem, but not primarily for the liberal-bias reasons that conservatives routinely bemoan.) To make matters worse, meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama have both endorsed Trump, and after the elections tomorrow there may be a bandwagon. God help us...
Politics information page updates
I was busy this evening updating the information on my various politics-related Web pages, some of which [were] over a year behind the times:
On the Executive branch leaders page (and in the U.S. Cabinet box, which appears on the Politics blog page), Bob MacDonald replaced Eric Shinseki as secretary of veterans affairs in July 2014, Julian Castro replaced Shaun Donovan as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in July 2014, Ashton Carter replaced Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense in February 2015, Loretta Lynch replaced Eric Holder as attorney general in April 2015, and John King began serving as acting secretary of education in January 2016, following the resignation of Arne Duncan.
On the Congress page, I noted that Paul Ryan replaced John Boehner as speaker of the house in October 2015. I also updated the number of House of Representative seats won by the two parties in the 2014 election: 247 for the Republicans, and 188 for the Democrats.
On the Politics in Virginia page, I included the results of the 2015 statewide elections, in which the Republicans held on to a 21-19 advantage in the state Senate, and lost two seats to the Democrats [in the House of Delegates]. It's now a 66-34 GOP advantage, rather than 68-32, as before. I also noted that Steve Newman has replaced Walter Stosch [who retired] as President Pro Tem of the state Senate, based on his seniority. He and Emmett Hanger began serving as state senators in 1996, so either one of them could have been chosen by their Republican colleagues.
On the U.N. Security Council page, I included the five new rotating members that will serve for this year and next year: Uruguay, Senegal, Egypt, Japan, and Ukraine replaced Chile, Chad, Nigeria, Jordan, and Lithuania. Next December, the U.N. General Assembly will choose five new rotating members to serve for the 2017-2018 term, replacing Venezuela, New Zealand, Angola, Malaysia, and Spain.
And finally, on the Supreme Court page, I noted that Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has died, and that a successor may be chosen later this year. I will comment on Scalia's life and death, and the controversies surrounding who shall replace him, soon.