Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The  Idiosyncratist does not participate in political discussions as a rule, but I want to break with my general habit to share four observations about one candidate and our electoral process.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is not a politician.  He is not a Republican or a Democrat;  he is a Trumpian, a  one-off who enjoys running his mouth and is very comfortable conducting a campaign with a reality-show vibe.

His worst excesses are appeals to people's fears (thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating after 9/11, for example).  Fear is a strong emotion.  Many people, perhaps most, are driven more by emotion than reason.  This is why Trump's messages resonate even when they conflict with facts.

Trump’s Enablers

The Trump candidacy, if you can call it that, has been enabled and pumped up by the excessive attention of news organizations.

Think of CNN, which is all over big stories and not much else.  Plan A for CNN seems to be to broadcast 24/7 updates and analyses of mass shootings, disasters involving commercial airliners and terrorist attacks that kill many people.  News people used to say, “If it bleeds, it leads;” CNN relishes stories with lots and lots of blood.

 If there is no disaster involving multiple deaths, CNN’s current Plan B is this:   Deplore Donald Trump.   (Other news organizations follow this A-B formula to a slightly lesser degree.)

 This works well for CNN because it delivers many viewers, and many viewers  means healthy advertising revenue for the network.

It also works well for Trump, who likes attention and doesn’t care what people think of him.  It allows him to conduct his campaign without the burden of paying for advertising or formulating careful policies to explain what he plans to do if elected.  (Nobody, least of all Mr. Trump, knows what he would do if he were elected.)

And let's remember there are a number of other candidates, of both parties.  They may not scream for attention the way Trump does, but they have things to say and there's a very good chance that one of them will be the next president.

The Trump-CNN symbiosis may be good for the two of them.  For our democracy, not so much.

The Permanent Campaign

Our country has spent most of a year jawing about an election that will not be held until near the end of 2016.  I’m already sick of it, and there are 11 months to go.

The prolongation of political campaigns does nobody any good.  It means that candidates must raise absurd sums from interested parties to hire advisers, media strategists, promoters and sundry other hangers-on.  It means that voters are besieged in person, by telephone and through the news media for the better part of two years, sometimes longer.

The British Alternative

Every five years  (or sometimes in between), the U.K. has a general election.  Four weeks before the election date, Parliament closes up shop, reopening only after the election.

On April 6,  2010, for example, the British prime minister announced that the next election would be on May 6, 2010.  After a scant monthlong campaign period, the election was held.  The parties sized up the results, and a new government was installed shortly afterward.

This year, the Parliament was dissolved on March 30, and the general election was held on May 7.  This meant the campaign was about a week longer than in 2010 case, but it was almost two years shorter than the American process.

Maybe we could take a lesson from our British friends.

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