Every saturnalia needs entertainment — loud music, wild dancers, and bawdy humor. For the bacchanal that is the Republican presidential primary the humor comes courtesy of Donald Trump, a developer and reality-television character nicknamed the "short-fingered vulgarian" by the late (great) Spy magazine.
The moniker has never been more appropriate. In his run for the nation's highest office, Trump has shown a breathtaking ability to be vulgar.
Those who oppose him are "losers" and "idiots." Other people are "stupid," while he has "the world's best memory." He sees rapists among immigrants from Mexico; terrorists in the crowd of refugees fleeing Syria; suspicious people in mosques.
He is open to a suggestion that the government put Muslims on a special watchlist.
He says if he would have been at the rock concert in Paris, he wouldn't have been killed.
He thinks it's acceptable behavior to mock a man for a physical disability, and then lie and say he wasn't mocking anyone.
He often muses about his daughter's physical beauty and says that if she wasn't his daughter, he might date her.
He questioned the heroism of a prisoner of war.
He grimaced at an image of Carly Fiorina and sneered: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"
He told a reporter who asked him pointed questions: "I've been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me."
A protester at one of his rallies dared to heckle Trump and was pushed, hit and kicked by some of the candidate's devotees. Trump said the man was so loud that "maybe he should have been roughed up."
As performance art it is provocative. As politics it is nasty and corrosive and ugly. Not just for the odious things Trump says but because his words are junk food for the masses who are Pissed Off and Fed Up and looking to Kick Some Ass. They're gobbling the trash Trump is feeding them. It's making them sick — jacked-up heart rates and sky-high blood pressure from the fresh infusion of rage — but it's also making them stronger, bolder.
They think the man with the bluster is "telling it like it is." They don't care that his policy prescriptions are impossible (round up millions of people for deportation, build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, bomb enemies into extinction). They just like it when he stands up and calls people names. He is saying what they are thinking and feeling.
He plays up their fears and brushes off any suggestion that he is wrong — he is never wrong because he has the best memory, he is the best businessman, he is the only one who can bring the rest of the world to its knees and make America great (again). Anyone who suggests he is wrong is, in the stirring words of the candidate, "so dumb."
People think it's funny. They want more insults, more demagoguery, more enemies to hate. They are sick of politicians and tired of this complicated world. They are in Trump's cult of personality, all too happy to be just like their leader: loud and angry. Maybe they're still scared and maybe they will tire of Trump's bombast but for right now he's their superhero and they need more more more. How do you like it?
Trump is the perfect candidate for these twisted times. He is a former pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-tax businessman who is now pro-life, pro-Bible (his favorite book, he claims), pro-evangelical. He is the angry comments troll come to life. You're stupid. You're an idiot. No one should listen to you, you're a joke. You're ugly, too. I know what I'm talking about 'cause I'm the smartest man that ever lived. EVER.
I used to wonder what it would take to knock Trump from the race. That was around the time he demeaned John McCain's captivity in a prisoner of war camp. (Ah, innocence, to believe something like that could disqualify someone from the Oval Office.) Now I worry the unbelievable could happen and Trump could become the Republican Party's chosen candidate. Unlikely, sure, but still possible ... and this is the kind of thought that can set up a dangerous ricochet in the brain — if it happens the blood roar of anger could swamp the country and the Democrats would find a way to screw it up and We The People might just say "fuck it" and elect a megalomaniac to the White House, and from there ...
Trump is scheduled to meet Monday with 100 black religious leaders "who will endorse" the candidate. That's according to a Trump news release. Many of the pastors say they don't know what Trump is talking about; they're going to the meeting but they have no intention of supporting his candidacy.
A lie like that would capsize any other candidate's campaign. With Trump it's really a minor transgression, given his history of insults and mendacities. He could probably strangle a kitten onstage and his followers would scratch their heads and murmur, "Well, people in Egypt worshipped cats and Egypt is full of Muslims, so."
It is that simple in Trumpland. Never underestimate the power of rage, especially on people who don't have the time, energy or effort to keep up with the news. They just know that Something is Wrong and no one has fixed it and by God, maybe that bigmouth can do it. He says he can and I've seen him on TV and he's rich. Good enough for me.