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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Duck ... it's The Donald!

The notion that Donald Trump might run for the presidency should be laughable. But in the present political / pop culture climate in the USA the "ha-ha" would be quickly followed by "uh-oh".

David Brooks, the intelligent conservative NY Times columnist classifies The Donald as one of the "obnoxious blowhards" that the American public become enamored of on occasion. He likens Trump to George Steinbrenner, Ross Perot, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Knight, Howard Stern, and for balance, includes George Soros, the liberal outspoken billionaire. He might have included others from "the left" such as civil rights shouters Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Keith Olbermann. Mohammed Ali was probably the first such icon in my memory, a "blowhard" who soared above the pop culture / political fence. Ali was abetted by another blowhard master who saw in him as a kindred ego spirit, Howard Cosell.

Brooks observes that, like others of his sort, Donald’s attraction is his flamboyant aura of success and wealth, traits which many segments of American culture find fatally attractive. The allure is so strong that negatives of character and major flaws in taste, manners, correctness, reason, are overlooked or even seen as signs of iconoclastic courage. Trump, like the other blowhards, says things that his followers wish they had the courage to say, outrageously extreme, but emperor’s new clothes "truths" only people of independent wealth and soaring egos dare to speak.

Brooks’ bottom line is to discount the likelihood of Trump’s presidential ambition, his presence is an amusing and valuable addition to the boring world of cautious politics as usual.

There is a problem with this analysis. History is full of other blowhards who were laughed at by the intellectual rationalists. Even in democracies, populists can become demagogues and if the conditions merit, may metamorphose to tyrants. Fear, caused by economic or political troubles, are such conditions. In our own country, the Depression of the 1930's produced Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and other extreme haters on the left and right. In Europe, Mussolini and Hitler were long viewed as funny blowhards, not worthy of concern.

In the late 1940's and early 1950's, Joseph McCarthy was the loudest blowhard in this country. Long after his demise, his followers continue the conspiratorial paranoid flame burning, giving his name the honor of an "ism". Will we someday be remembering "Donaldism"?

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