From: Adam Mansbach
To: Kamau Bell
As we gear up for a GOP debate nobody is going to watch because it’s being shown on Fox Business – which narrowly beat out the Trout Fishing Chanel for broadcast rights, apparently – it’s time to do some more soul searching about Donald Trump.
No, not searching for his soul, though according to a letter his metaphysician recently provided the campaign, it’s “fantastic,” “In great shape,” and “the soul of a man half his age.” The question at hand is: Should we be organizing against Trump right now, or not? Do we want to knock him out of the race, or do we want him in it to the bitter end?
There are two ways of looking at this, it seems to me: morally and strategically. I’ll try to lay out the basic arguments and counterarguments on both counts before my kid comes home from school, and then during your kid’s 15-minute nap you can answer.
Strategic. The conventional progressive wisdom is that the longer Trump stays in, the more chaos he sows; the GOP field morphs into the Donner party, and they either stagger into the convention without a nominee, or the nominee they do wind up with is bloodied and weak and humiliated by the number of barbs Trump lobbed at him, and also the sheer embarrassment of belonging to a party that let Trump dominate it for so long.
All of that is predicated on the belief that Trump won’t actually be the nominee – that Cruz takes Iowa, that one of the “establishment” schmucks (Bush, Rubio, Kasich, Christie) wins New Hampshire and then a couple of others drop out, leaving the strongest remaining establishment schmuck to consolidate enough support to win.
In the dream version of this scenario, a fading Trump then reacts Trumpishly to mounting smoky-backroom pressure to get in his clown car and drive away, and says “fuck you, GOP, I’m running as a third party candidate”… in which case Hillary, Bernie or really any American who happens to be named Hillary or Bernie ought to be able to win in a landslide. That includes the Bernie from "Weekend at Bernie’s," who was, technically, a corpse.
All of which might make you say, “Shit, strategically speaking, we should be out campaigning for Trump right now, while trying not to vomit in our own mouths.”
The counterargument is: What if Trump wins the nomination? Especially since this year, a lot of anemic, low-polling candidates (Bush, Kasich, Christie) who’d drop out after New Hampshire in a normal year are likely to stay in and bide their time, hoping they can weather the storm and emerge as compromise candidates late in the process – or even as late as the convention.
In theory, Trump ought to lose in the general election, and lose badly. But do you have the stomach to risk it? Do you have enough faith in the electorate to find out – even with the added incentive of knowing that a Trump/Cruz ticket would decimate the GOP for years, and maybe even help the Democrats take back the Congress?
It’s a tough call, but I’m pretty sure I don’t.
Moral. The moral argument goes like this: Trump is a demagogue, spewing lies and hate speech. What do you do with a demagogue? You shut him down without regard to strategy, because it’s a moral imperative to do so. He’s emboldening racists, damaging America’s standing in the world, and making life harder for Muslims, immigrants and all the other groups he’s demonizing.
The counterargument is that to focus on Trump is to give the rest of the GOP candidates a pass – and while their rhetoric may be less inflammatory, their policies are just as bad. To direct all our ire at Trump is to suggest that Ted Cruz isn’t equally reckless and terrifying, Ben Carson equally unqualified, Carly Fiorina equally dishonest, etc.
A second counterargument might be that emboldening racists is the price we pay for exposing them, and that it’s better to know what the electorate looks like than not. I’d also listen to the counterargument that we can’t prove Trump’s rhetoric has had a demonstrable effect on the groups he’s demonizing, but I would arch my eyebrow in a dubious manner while doing so.
From: Kamau Bell
To: Adam Mansbach
I was at some sort of backyard Berkeley hootenanny recently. I honestly don’t remember why or what was going on. As you know in Berkeley it’s like the Bible says, “Wherever there are two or more people you have a hootenanny.” But I digress… Anyway, at this thing a Trump-versation broke out. And immediately the West Coast liberals all started a chorus of every Democrat's favorite song, “There’s no way Trump could ever be president! (And even if he came close I’d vote against him!”) And everybody really got into it when they got to the refrain, “Because my one single vote is strong enough to stop any Republican!”
And as the song wrapped up — to be honest I was just lip syncing it — everybody was high-fiving and jive dancing and feeling like everything would be all right. Everyone basked in the knowledge that this Trump thing would be solved as soon as either reason reigned supreme over the GOP and they confined Trump to house arrest in one of his hotels and casinos or these sainted liberals got to use their vote like Frodo used the ring. They would throw their vote into the dark tower thingy. (I only saw the first two movies.) And then peace would dawn under the era of President Bernie Sanders and his vice president, Martin “I can’t believe this shit happened to me! ME?!” O’Malley. And that was the point at which an old and old school Berkeley dude said to me the phrase that I can’t get out of my head, “We didn’t think Ronald Reagan could ever be president either.”
I immediately knew what he meant. Don’t get too excited about Trump self-immolating before the GOP convention. And also don’t get too excited about the Democrats being able to beat Trump just by running one of Barack Obama’s leftover suits against him. He was saying that his generation of liberals thought the idea of Reagan being president sounded like a joke too. What sounds crazier? A president who was a lightly regarded B actor who was also the governor of Hollywoodland or a billionaire businessman who actually had a hit TV show and, like it or not, is more charismatic than every one of the GOP candidates rolled up into one. Yes, I want you to picture a blob of humanity that comprises Kasich (Is that how you spell it?), Fiorina, Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Ryan, Huckabee… Wait is he still running?… Jindal is definitely out, right?… MY POINT EXACTLY!
I can’t even remember the rest of them. And neither can the American public. The only reason people talk about the other candidates in any kind of detail is when Trump brings them up. The only reason Ted Cruz is in the news right now is because Trump is birther-ing his birth certificate. Trump stopped talking about Ben Carson and nobody has seen him since. So I don’t buy into these future scenarios. I want Trump gone from running for president, from the national conversation, and from being a force in America’s political process. Just to be clear, he can get his reality show back if he wants it. I just want him off the parts of TV that I watch. And then once he’s gone we can put the next candidate up on the summer jam screen.
On a very basic level, who cares if Trump makes it to the election, he is ruining public discourse and therefore negatively affecting people’s lives every day. Trump is making it possible for Ann Coulter to return from the crypt. And we were supposed to be waaaaaay done with her. AND WHY AM I HAVING TO WORK SO HARD TO CONVINCE PEOPLE??? This should be a #WhitesAgainstTrump problem. How’s that movement coming along, Whitey?*
*I meant that in the most supportive and encouraging way possible.
From: Adam Mansbach
To: Kamau Bell
The words of that old hippie make my blood run cold, because he’s right. The legacy of left-wing underestimation is long and sad. His generation didn’t think Reagan could win; ours failed to understand just how hard white racists would take the election of a black president, and how hard their spasms of disgust would reverberate through the political landscape.
The dog whistling began right away. Remember the early years of Obama’s administration, when right-wing politicians fell all over themselves to just blatantly disrespect the office of the presidency like somebody had dared them to do it? Remember Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson? Gov. Jan Brewer sticking her finger in Obama’s face on the tarmac? Sarah Palin, just in general? That was how they fired up the base. But now, after sustaining themselves on dog whistles for seven years, the “base” is being treated to the sounds of a full blown dog-orchestra, and Trump is the conductor. Not only did the song bring Ann Coulter back from the dead, it’s keeping Ted Cruz – who looks exactly like The Count from Sesame Street, and thus may actually be a vampire – alive and viable.
One No. 1-trending Twitter hashtag can’t do everything, but #WhitesAgainstTrump can certainly hammer some nails into Trump’s coffin. The future of the GOP is demographically doomed – shit, even Dick Cheney said as much – because their stance on everything from immigration to gay marriage to gun control flies in the face of the prevailing winds of change, the attitudes of younger voters, and the values of every significant growing voter bloc. Hell, they’ve lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections.
And here’s the thing: Trump’s base isn’t some caricature of their base. It’s the base of their base. It’s worse educated and whiter and more rural –mirroring the GOP’s voting base in comparison to the Democrats’. And that makes Trump a perfect test case.. If #WhitesAgainstTrump can shut him down – if the only people he can even claim to speak for reject him out of hand– then the GOP’s irrelevance as a national party doesn’t have to wait for generational turnover or 2042 and a “majority minority” country or anything else. The future can be now.
From: Kamau Bell
To: Adam Mansbach
Yes. The future is always now. I’ve been hearing about this dying GOP demographic for yeeeeears. But remember, for every liberal couple on the coast who decide that they only want one child so they can truly focus on his artisanal, locally sourced needs, there’s a couple in the middle of the country voting Republican and having a Duggar’s dozen of children. The time is now, Adam, for you and your fellow whites. And the next moment is tonight. Get thee to the Fox Business Channel! (Well, first ask your local cable company where the hell it is.) Crank up the Twitter-mobile. And do what you did last time and use #WhitesAgainstTrump to kick Trump’s trump back to the country club… or at least back to prime-time NBC. Stop hoarding all that white privilege and white supremacy. They are renewable resources. Do something good with them!
YES! UP! UP! YOU MIGHTY WHITIES! YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH WHAT YOU WILL!*
*Seriously, white people, you can accomplish a lot. Look, what you did with that whole imperialism thing. Now just aim that energy in the right direction. Also, apologies to Marcus Garvey.