Abraham Lincoln said that you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.
Now we finally know how many people “some” is — 21 percent.
We know this because they told a recent Public Policy poll that they would support Donald Trump for president. And in case that were a fluke, one of those days when people tell pollsters what they aren’t thinking, like the afternoon I spent telling Nielsen that they should make more buddy comedies with Mel Gibson and Paula Patton, another poll came out with 17 percent in favor of Trump.
Perhaps I am being unduly harsh on Trump. After all, he’s always been a joke — just look at his Comedy Central roast a few weeks ago. But now we’re all the punch line.
Voting for the Donald says: “I am tired of thinking and weighing the pros and cons on the issues. I want to vote for the candidate who looks most like he was recently mounted and stuffed by someone with limited taxidermy skill.”
The Trumpmeister is an ideal candidate for people who do not care about what direction the country is going but still want to vote. Need a way to convey the thought: “I haven’t really followed news or pop culture since the mid-2000s, when someone gave me a talking pen that said ‘You’re fired!’ and I pretended to understand the reference”? Get on the Donald Trump 2012 mailing list!
But what worries me is what bit of nonsense those 21 percent are responding to in particular. Is it the surprise and delight at seeing a rogue billionaire in the race, the upside to whom is that, as he says, “I’m very rich”? After all, that hasn’t really happened since Ross Perot, and people were so pleased to see him that he very nearly took the carrot.
Or is it something more insidious?
I wouldn’t object to having a presidential candidate with all the facial expressiveness of a constipated cat, whose prior claim to fame was his ossified hair and ability to say, “You’re fired,” with minimal conviction to NBC viewers.
And it’s not even birther candidates who are the problem. After all, that’s a full 41% of the Republican-voting population that legitimately deserves representation — hold on, my face has started twitching, and I can’t get it to stop. It’s that Donald is a sudden, rabid, born-again birther who seems to be using our gullibility against us.
I would say that he believed that the president was born elsewhere, but this sort of sudden onset idiocy is very rare, except in situations when you are being given an oral exam or are required to say something on the radio. So I can’t help feeling that it’s merely cynical — like his hair, a preposterous attention-getter that, despite all rational impulses to the contrary so far, seems to be working. It’s Jersey Shore principles applied to presidential elections. And that worries me. It’s all very well to cater to the lowest common denominator to generate ratings for a show. But to marshal numbers at the polls by cynically giving the people what they have said that they want is a step farther. It’s the logical next phase of the very blend of cynicism about human nature and faith in the ability of people to fool themselves if you’re noisy enough that made him such a natural fit for reality TV.
Run to the right during the primary, sure! But Trump is running to the wrong. I hope we catch him.