Yesterday I came across an article from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo saying Trump’s takeover of the GOP is complete – that the Republican party had become an arm of conservative media, and Trump’s emergence signified that transformation. And I think that’s basically right. It seems to me that, for most conservatives, the problem with the government isn’t what it does, but that it does anything at all. And I found that story in an episode of Radiolab that I heard while I was making dinner last night.
The story was about a young woman in Texas who didn’t exist on paper. She grew up in a super conservative family, on a little farm in the countryside of Texas, had no birth certificate, was home schooled, and lived with her family until she was 18. Seeing her parents refuse to relinquish control of her older siblings, she asked her grandparents to take her away, and after a bit of struggle, they did. When she arrived in outside world, she discovered that she had no formal paperwork that would prove that she was who she said she was. So she made a YouTube video about that, and millions of people saw it, including the swell folks over at Radiolab. And she eventually got it worked out, and now she has green hair and a nose ring and is living happily.
It’s an extreme case of a pervasive sentiment in the US: that society is bad, and that formal ties to society are effectively enslavement to it. Paradoxical that Americans would swoon over the Amish stedfastly refusing to participate in the modern world, and then cry over the plight of Cubans, unable to name their own prices. But there it is: a lot of folks in the US don’t trust the government, and base their lives upon that. They have an idea of how the world ought to function, and the government is always and everywhere a betrayal of that idea.
And Trump is the personification of that fear and anger. I saw a political cartoon the other day, picturing a field of sheep with a billboard showing a fox (in a suit), who is quoted as saying he will eat them – and one sheep says to the other “At least I know he’s being honest.” This is, again, not just how Trump’s supporters think, but how the broader conservative media has operated for twenty years already. What is important is not what is to be done, or how society might deal with its challenges or whatever, what is important is that nothing be done. Advocates of the so called free market ideology are calling for the same thing – let decisions be made privately, so that those who make them may hide their shameful machinations, and so that we all might cry “corruption!” before slinking off into poverty.