When I began teaching, my principal was a respected near-legend in town, Ivan Wood. “Woody” was not a micromanager in any way, but asked that we teachers honor two very simple requests: never call a student stupid, and ever tell a student to shut up. Woody has passed on, but if he were still with us he might rethink those two requirements in the age of Donald Trump who is, at bottom, a stupid, stupid man who would do all of us, himself included, a favor if he would just shut up.
Last night’s debacle in Arizona offered further proof. Remember, in the summer of 2015 Donald Trump was polling seventh in the wide-open field of Republican presidential candidates. Then he held a rally in Phoenix, where apparently the wealthy and retired have moved and learned to feed on the bigotry and fear-mongering of leaders like Sheriff Joe Arpaio. A day after that rally in 2015, Trump was in the lead.
Last night Mr. Trump returned triumphant, having spent the previous day playing president and making believe he cared about servicemen and the United States of America. But released from the bounds of the teleprompter and the Constitution, he was ready to re-engage his increasingly brain-dead followers in his his well worn attacks on the media, immigrants, and Hillary Clinton. His crowd, unaware of the fact that they have become their own caricatures, hooted their approval as their dear leader touted the need for the wall, yelled his approval of their jailed sheriff, and reiterated his promise to clean coal. (I didn’t misstate that: Trump said “They are taking out coal; they are going to clean it,” as if a band of big burly coal miners will be sitting beside a conveyor belt with sponges and a bottle of Formula 409, getting all that nasty coal-dirt out of each lump.)
Donald Trump is, at bottom, a stupid, stupid man, and part of me says let him babble until he proves it to everyone. but then I see the assembled crowds at his rallies and I know that they are well past convincing. Why on earth do they still berate Hillary Clinton? She lost! I suppose if their beloved Cardinals ever win the Super Bowl, all the Phoenicians and Glendalians and Scottsdalians will pile into their SUVs and drive around the city whose team loses the game, honking their horns and yelling epithets. That’s the way people like Trump celebrate a victory. (And don’t hold your breath waiting for that Cardinal victory either.)
Donald Trump is, at bottom, a stupid, stupid man. In Phoenix he took out a piece of paper and checked all the evil groups he had disavowed in much the same manner as a third-grader, guilty of some infraction, would mouth an apology because he was forced to, all the time having no awareness of what he did wrong. Trump whipped the crowd into rabid chants of “CNN Sucks” though it appeared that most of those who had come to hear him would have great difficulty even spelling CNN.
Donald Trump is, at bottom, a stupid, stupid man. He pilloried Arizona’s own Jeff Flake and John McCain because neither had sworn blind fealty to him, then praised Joseph Arpaio, the recently-convicted criminal, whose nativism is indicative of the kind of attitude that has sprung up among the “privileged whites” of the Southwest. The president hinted at releasing Mr. Arpaio from prison and the crowd went wild. And what did Mr. Trump have to say about the accident at sea which has left several American sailors presumed dead? Nothing. Why could he not remember that, a scant 24 hours earlier, he had addressed a group of SERVICEMEN!
Because…no, don’t wait for it…Donald Trump is, at bottom, a stupid, stupid man. And it has become impossible to defend his defenders, whose ingrained bigotry and baffling ignorance represent the worst elements of America. After Charlottesville we know who they really are. We have seen them in their anti-Semitic and white-supremacist splendor, with their hoods and their masks and their sticks and their flags and their weapons; and we know that, like the president, they are past reclamation.
They are out there: I get that. But with apologies to my former principal, could they just shut up about it? And could the president do the same?