BELL VIEW-Driving home listening to Trump’s State of the Union speech on the radio, I began to understand – for the first time, really – what his supporters see in him beyond the obvious affirmation and elevation of the filthiest parts of their bitter souls. He sounds like a truth-teller – a bull in a china shop gleefully smashing all the tropes of our moribund political system.
Over the radio – where a Trump-hater like me could be spared the ordeal of looking at his smirking face – Trump sounded confident, self-assured – riffing like a Russian mob boss at a rigged poker game – snickering into his sleeve over the inside joke he and his fellow grifters on Capitol Hill were playing on the true-believers in Kansas, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
All this bluster about finally getting the job done for the working stiffs at the VFW hall, the horror stories about the bad people on the other side of the border, the phony statistics, the empty promises, the false boasts, the celebration of torture, and the John Wayne fantasy of finally getting a chance to dust off some of our nuclear warheads rang in the ears of his die-hard fans like the voice of the Archangel himself.
And the fence-sitters out there in the great squishy middle thought he sounded like a real tough guy. And that never hurt a president’s chances of getting re-elected.
Did Trump actually say anything that anybody could disagree with? Bring down prescription drug prices! Bring jobs back to America! Increase wages! Stop criminal gangs from murdering our children! Fix Puerto Rico, Houston, California, Florida, and all the other places ravaged by the Chinese climate hoax. Sure, he touted the glorious future of coal, re-dedicated the United States of America to a regime of torture and war crimes, painted millions of hard-working immigrants as murderers and terrorists, and threatened nuclear war. But … well … Trump’s gonna be Trump.
The real danger – aside from all the horrific things Trump promised to do – could be seen in the ecstatic expressions of the rosy-cheeked lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle. Trump’s not going anywhere, and they know it. This speech proved once and for all time that Trump can stand and deliver with the best of them. I have a theory about presidents. In every election, the most charismatic candidate wins. Every time. Charisma can be positive or negative – it doesn’t matter. It just is. Kennedy had it. Johnson had it – but not enough to get him over the hump of Vietnam. Nixon had just enough creepy charisma to carry him across the finish line. Carter had anti-Nixonian charisma. Reagan had enough to buoy his non-charismatic VP to a single term. Clinton, Bush II, and Obama – love them or hate them – had gobs of it.
Last night, Trump laid his goods on the table like so many Trump steaks, and the Republicans liked what they saw. They can ride this horse into the new Gilded Age they’ve been pining for since the Reagan days. Into the smog-choked future they ride, and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?
(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.