Donald Trump is hosting a debate, and fear is in the air.
Worried that the old “stupid party” slur will send voters back into the arms of the most overhyped egghead since Adlai Stevenson, Republicans slur the Donald in an anxiously self-conscious performance of Great Seriousness.
Now as ever in America, big dumb politics should be embraced.
Republicans must mercilessly crush the first-rising vibes of panic emanating from their guilty sense that they really are house slaves in a right-wing idiocracy.
Anyone afraid of seeming stupid has no place in American politics. In fact, what Republicans really fear is not seeming stupid but being wrong. And what bothers conservative critics so much about today’s GOP are its stances on the issues, not the size of its IQ.
Trump is a red herring, and dumb is a false issue.
Buck up, Republicans. If Mormonism is not a mortal threat to your electoral fortunes, neither is moronism.
Democrats learned long ago that they are under zero obligation to apologize for the words that come out of Matt Damon’s or Michael Moore’s mouth. (Where liberals go wrong is their ethical code, which demands that they not only embrace the goofballs but piously celebrate their emotional profundity and moral grandeur.)
Yet our liberals are given a mighty pass by the purveyors of Responsible Public Discourse, whether they’re elevating Al Franken to the Senate or making a Jack-and-Marilyn minstrel show out of everyone’s favorite philandering philanthropist (Bill Clinton) and America’s worst-dressed arbiter of public values (Lady Gaga).
So, sure: I’d bet real money that any presidential debate moderated by Donald Trump — a one-man pop-up ad for gross immoderation — will generate more than enough moments of laugh-out-loud stupidity to supply cable news with the two or three clips they need to fill their many consecutive hours of “election year commentary,” redundant to the point of meaninglessness.
But will Trump-o-vision tap a vein of vapidity any deeper than what the media’s paragons of professionalism have so gamely plumbed already? Does anyone really believe that somewhere tucked up in that Hair is a hidden query that can beat “Thin crust or deep dish?”
Our blue-ribbon news organizations have proudly subjected the American people to a poocano of “debates” that will go down in history, if at all, for their unforgivable disparity between quantity and quality. Depending on the week, viewers have been treated to a non-conversation about energy policy, an apparent vow of silence concerning the existence of Europe and — without a shred of contrition — a stage design aesthetic that makes “The Voice” look like a G-20 press conference.
When the TV journalists bravely decided to work in a substantive question, candidates were buzzed, time-limited and grunted into silence before any sense could be made of their position or, heaven forbid, the principles behind them.
No wonder Newt Gingrich got so much traction squandering his precious “time” debasing and mocking the press. No wonder Newt supposes Trump to be a better showman than John King and a better moderator than Karen Tumulty. The rot starts at the top, always, and it is the officially smartest set that has slipped farthest and fastest into anti-intellectual superficiality.
That’s no excuse for a race to the bottom. But it is an occasion to quit the propped-up pretense that politics isn’t already showbiz, and failed showbiz at that. Is it too much for the beleaguered American citizen to ask that he be entertained on the death march to 2012?
Not if this is still the United States of America.
Let us remind the People that “You’re Fired” makes a better bumper sticker than “A Chicken in Every Pot.”
Let us observe that Mitt Romney, a man with mental abilities in excess even of John Kerry, has just as great a longing for a trade war with China as does the Donald himself.
Let it be affirmed that even a woman brainy enough to serve our great nation as a federal tax litigation attorney can believe she is on a mission from God, and that cranky old Texans and easygoing New Mexicans can charm the greatest of intellectual snobs through the sheer power of sharing their policy preferences.
Half the fun of conservatism is getting along with people you don’t deeply respect — and don’t have to. Republicans should enjoy the experience, and even seek it out. They’ll need to master it if they want to take power again. Trump’s debate is as good an opportunity as any to keep hashing out the real disagreements roiling the right these days.
As any Obama Zombie-turned-Occupier will testify under oath, it doesn’t matter which party you’re leading if you want to win an election on a tidal wave of unthinking enthusiasm. But once you do win, the real work begins. Brilliant or banal, you’d better be right about how to govern.
Because if you’re not … you’re fired.
James Poulos is a columnist at The Daily Caller, a contributor at Ricochet, and a commentator in print, online, and on television and radio. Recently he has been the host of The Bottom Line and Reform School on PJTV and a fellow of the Claremont Institute. His website is jamespoulos.com and his Twitter handle is @jamespoulos.