Boyfriend bought me a book for Christmas, Insane Clown President by American journalist Matt Taibbi. Hmmm…wonder who that could be about??? Taibbi followed Trump on the campaign trail, and this is a collection of articles, ‘battery of dispatches’ says the blurb, he wrote along the way. I don’t think it’s super clear from just glancing at the cover of the book that this isn’t actually a book he’s written on Trump but pre-written articles.
It does have the advantage that we can relive the election campaign joy. And Taibbi does have an intro clearly written after the rest of the book and election so he’s had some time to digest what’s happened. But the book doesn’t flow as well as it might. And some of the chapters/articles are sort of stand alone, one where he ‘casts’ the movie of the election. He asks who would play Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush in a movie, and I’m asking ‘which one was Marco Rubio again?’. If you weren’t paying attention during the election then some of the references will be lost on you. Taibbi makes some really interesting points about why Trump eventually won. He writes of Trump’s appeal by being outlandish and saying things that politicians didn’t say. He also makes the point that, while most of the media focused on the offensive comments about Mexicans being rapists, and the such like. Trump did also talk about things that working class white voters were affected by; promising to keep jobs in America, that all the other candidates were in the pockets of big business.
But he also thinks he gone so wildly off the rails at certain points that he can not believe it when he wins. Actually, ironically, it’s mainly towards the end of the campaign when Steve Bannon has taken over the campaign and Trump tones it down, going down a weird path of appealing to African American voters that Taibbi is most convinced that Trump has blown up. Although, his popularity with black voters remained super low, he may have appealed to more moderate Republicans who didn’t like the stigma of being racist if they supported Trump.
The most obvious problem was the total alienation of candidates and their attendant media from the population.
Taibbi argues that problems that have existed for a long time were a major factor in the election and result. The Republican party had been manipulating voters into accepting their policies of, for example, tax breaks for the rich, would help them, while actually only benefiting an elite minority. And people were getting tired of that.
Thirteen million and three hundred thousand Republican voters had defied the will of their party and soundly rejected hundred-million-dollar insider favorites like Jeb Bush to re-seize control of their own political destiny. That they made perhaps the most ridiculous choice in the history of democracy was really a secondary issue.
Taibbi also holds the media in some way responsible for Trump’s success. Traditionally, journalists and the media would keep politicians in line. Anytime they tried to step outside it there would be an immediate response to shame them. But Trump was immune to this.
Facts, they protested, are facts! But Trump voters did not agree. They believed facts were a choice…No amount of ‘calling Trump out’ would change that.
He offended everyone, but if the media tried to shame him he would actually deny saying it despite evidence to the contrary. He could then turn the whole thing around, the liberal media was out to get him with their fake news. It all worked in his favour. Trump was also big business for TV stations and, Taibbi argues, American TV news had long been indistinguishable from entertainment.
Essentially, the TV producers are wondering: ‘How do we keep getting the great ratings without helping elect the Fourth Reich?’
It’s quite interesting to read this now, around the first anniversary of the Trump Presidency. His first year has been denounced universally as a flop, he hasn’t got anything done and even the people that voted for him don’t really like him anymore. Also Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, has just been published to much hoo-ha as it makes some dramatic claims about things people in the Trump administration have done or said. Including, not that surprisingly, that the first lady cried when he won the election. Who didn’t, love?