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May 03, 2016

Trump: I'm Not Saying Ted Cruz's Dad Killed JFK, But I'm Not Saying He Didn't Kill JFK, Either

I suppose this latest lowbrow lunacy comes down something that is essentially an aesthetic/personal vanity/conception of what Good Society consists of question: Some will say that Trump is crafty and is showing his willing to "fight," fair or dirty (preferably dirty).

And some will take a cynical -- but very arguably realistic -- view of their fellow citizens and say: Look, no matter how much you might wish it to be otherwise, your average American is simply not that smart. Your average American is prone to believe in all sorts of foolish things -- UFOs, bigfoot, Democratic Socialism -- and likes things kept simple and low-brow for him.

And if the average American is willing to entertain the possibility that Ted Cruz's father was peripherally involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy -- even though this latest smear from the Trump-allied National Enquirer is in fact not a possibility -- then Trump is "smart" to play things so very, deeply dumb.

An aspirational candidate -- one that sums the virtues and gifts we (most of us) would like to have in ourselves -- shows voters what they'd like to be.

A candidate like Trump, on the other hand, shows them what they really are.

And if they're a seething confusion of folly and lowbrow antipathies for this group or that, then so be it: That is the way you win in America, post-Obama.

Obama, after all, offered America a series of scapegoats they were invited to hate and blame for all of America's ills. He didn't go quite this lowbrow -- he dressed it up a bit to seem acceptably middlebrow (middlebrow, with the slightest gestures and pretensions towards highbrow) -- but the principle is the same.

Isn't it?

I don't know. Because a realistic view of humanity -- even a cynically realistic view of humanity -- must take into account the they may be foolish but they are also vain creatures, and they do not like reducing themselves, in their own estimation or the estimation of their fellows.

Buying into a guy who sells one lowbrow, edge-of-psychiatrically-meaningful conspiracy theory after another offends the vanity of anyone who considers himself to not be lowbrow and gullible.

People are class conscious and do not much like associating with those they consider of a lower class. And Trump is playing, in the main, only to those of of only limited education.

Most candidates aim for somewhere in the fat middle lump of the great bell curve. Democrats have historically aimed to project an image of themselves on the "intellectual/elite" side of that middle lump (though they are of course no such thing; they just signal the signage of it); Republicans have historically tried to project a more "average folk/populist" image (to varying degrees of success).

But both of those plays consisted of positioning the candidate somewhere near to the social/intellectual middle.

This is the first candidate I remember to play to one of the thin trailing edges of that bell curve.

Will it work? I don't think so.

There may not be enough smart people in America to elect a real conservative, but there also might not be enough dumb people in America to elect Trump, either.

I guess we'll see. Trump's success or failure will turn on whether America's stupidity or vanity is the greater sin. Tough call.

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posted by Ace at 12:51 PM

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