Archive for August 10, 2015

Every day seems to bring a new installment of the carnival show-cum-television event know as the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary.

Today Rand Paul wrote an op-ed entitled, “Don’t Fall For a Fake Conservative.” In it he declares, among other things, that “Donald Trump is showing he isn’t suited to lead the country, and I think we all need to discuss why.” And, “We don’t need a bully, and we don’t need another President who thinks he is King. We certainly don’t need someone who has driven his companies into bankruptcy four times yet smugly tells us he uses our nation’s Chapter 11 laws to his own personal advantage. All well and good for him – but what of the creditors and vendors he defaulted on?”

It didn’t take long for Trump to respond:

And after having disavowed Fox News for a few days, Roger Ailes has come groveling at Trump’s feet, so Trump will be back on Fox this week. You see, Roger Ailes knows good TV when he sees it, and right now, Donald Trump is good TV. Isn’t that all that matters? Apparently it is to conservatives.

In one way, it is just delightful to watch the Republican presidential candidates take turns inventing new ways to call each other losers. (Of course, Trump’s favorite approach is the most straightforward one, which is to just say they are losers.)

But in another way, it reminds me of the victimhood mentality that infects conservatives these days. That point was made quite effectively by Erica Grieder, who has written a truly excellent piece on the conservative rhetoric of victimhood. A short excerpt:

I’m sympathetic to Republicans who are understandably bewildered by Trump’s seemingly intractable support. At the same time I had a cynical reaction to Erickson’s epiphany [that Trump’s RedState invitation should be rescinded]. His timing put the RedState Gathering, and his virtuous disinvitation, in the media spotlight. And Erickson’s own history of aggression and incivility are well-known. He only came to my attention in the first place because he is among a number of right-wing media figures who have used their platforms to launch non sequitur personal attacks on me over the years, in public and private forums. These incidents have shown me that there is clearly some kind of appetite, on the right, for righteous aggrievement, even where no plausible grievance can be discerned.

And they’ve given me a sense of the playbook. It’s no coincidence that he keeps casting himself as the victim. His supporters have already succumbed to the premise that Trump is a conservative outsider—a noble underdog, determined to fight the establishment and to speak truth to power. Having accepted that premise, they are predisposed to take any criticism or disagreement as further evidence for Trump’s claim that he is surrounded by powerful enemies who are determined to thwart him for their own selfish or corrupt or ideological reasons. His ultimate failure will be taken as proof that the game is rigged–against the candidate, but also against people like themselves, his supporters.

It’s a really good article and worth reading the entire thing.

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