Understanding The Trump Phenomenon.

The success of Trump the candidate seems to have confused liberals and conservatives alike. But it’s really not that difficult to understand if you look at the underlying causes.

First, there is great dissatisfaction among many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. Both sides see growing poverty and a struggling middle class while, at the same time, a privileged few are thriving. Both see a dysfunctional Congress that now represents only a fraction of its constituents – those with the money and power to call in political favors.

As a highly accomplished con man, Trump has tapped into the voters’ smoldering anger toward government, fueled by Fox News Channel and virtually the entire radio spectrum of rightwing, hate radio. Using a tactic perfected by unsavory dictators, he has successfully focused the blame for our problems on outsiders and those on the fringes of our society. He has convinced a substantial portion of our population that the nation is struggling as the result of Mexican immigrants, Muslims, China and “political correctness” – an oversensitivity for minorities, Muslims, immigrants, women and the disabled. That has invited angry white men to dig out their Klan sheets and to say whatever racist, sexist things that cross their degenerate minds.

Far from being the successful business leader his supporters believe him to be (he is one of the few to ever lose money as the owner of a casino), Trump is really only accomplished at the arts of persuasion and branding. He refuses to deal in specifics, understanding that emotions matter more than facts or even truth.

Capitalizing on what I would call the Kardashian effect, Trump understood that his celebrity and outrageous statements are good for media. As a result, he has been able to manipulate the media’s greed to the point that CNN and even the so-called liberal cable network, MSNBC, were willing to spend airtime focused on an empty Trump podium waiting for Trump’s latest rant than to cover a policy speech by Hillary or a large rally for Bernie.

Trump has benefited from the chronically short attention spans of the public – a public unwilling, or unable, to research or to comprehend the issues. A public that disdains nuance and complicated answers for complex subject matter. An impatient public that views the world as black or white; good or bad; right or wrong. He has also benefited from a political environment based on tribalism – knowing that even those members of his party who despise him and everything he stands for will eventually fall in line to support him. And he has seemingly embraced the strategy of former GOP strategist, Paul Weyrich, who correctly posited that suppressing the vote – even if it means alienating a majority of potential voters – benefits Republicans.

Finally, he has benefited from a chronically disorganized and divided Democratic Party – a Party that lacks clear, decisive leadership; a Party that, without control of the media, has struggled to articulate its accomplishments and its message; a Party that has made it easy for people like Trump, Cruz, Ryan, McConnell, et al to promise everything, but deliver nothing.

Trump Is Only A Symptom Of A More Serious Condition.

The success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign should come as no surprise to anyone. It has been in the making since the Fairness Doctrine was repealed during the George H.W. Bush administration. That seemingly innocuous decision meant that US broadcast media no longer had to operate in the public interest. No longer held accountable to broadcast the truth, the radio airwaves were quickly dominated by rightwing conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Within a few years, more than 90 percent of talk radio was devoted to angry, hateful radio hosts telling the public that the government was too big, taxes were too high and liberals were wasting your money. These people treated politics as entertainment – the more hateful and bombastic they became, the higher their ratings.

Seizing on the opportunity that hate radio created, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes created a cable TV version called Fox News Channel. Scarcely trying to disguise its partisanship, Fox became a vocal and very angry arm of the Republican National Committee. Ailes handed out Republican talking points at the beginning of each day, and the on-air hosts repeated them verbatim. Most of the network guests were Republicans, and if Democrats dared to appear on the network in order to correct the record, they were angrily shouted down…a tactic epitomized by a program host who lost custody of his children after grabbing his wife by the throat and dragging her down the stairs.

Fox News helped to create and promote the Tea Party, inflating the numbers of demonstrators while, at the same time, dismissing the racist rhetoric. The network took the side of those who brought guns to the demonstrations and threatened to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.” The network ramped up racist remarks surrounding the police killings of unarmed blacks – even that of a 12-year-old boy whose “crime” was playing with a toy gun. It supported virulent anti-government groups, such as those surrounding Cliven Bundy. And for more than 7 years, its program hosts have verbally attacked our president and celebrated the obstruction of his policies and court nominees.

Is it any wonder, then, that the same sort of hateful discourse has now permeated the Republican debates?

Donald Trump and his supporters have simply repeated what the rightwing media have been saying all along. They are immune to facts and the truth. They don’t care about policy discussions. Trump’s political movement is all about emotion – the emotions of anger and hate.

For its part, the Republican Party has reveled in the obstruction and destruction aimed at Democrats. Only now that it has become a very real possibility that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination and potentially destroy the “Grand Old Party;” only now that the polls have shown that either Democratic candidate could defeat Trump, has the Party establishment become concerned.

But Trump is not the only potential problem. The rhetoric and actions of the other Republican candidates are just as ugly and just as hateful. They all portray an America few people recognize. They all feed off of the anger created and promoted by the media. They all act as if the political campaign is little more than a made-for-TV reality show with all of the substance and thoughtfulness of Honey Boo-Boo. And though such candidates are good for network ratings, any of them would be disastrous for the future of our nation and the world, if for no other reason than the fact that none of them recognize the impending disaster otherwise known as climate change.

We can only hope that voters repudiate the hate. We should hope that the Republican nominee is defeated in a landslide. Elections should be about policies and leadership. Not about ratings.