A thought experiment. Put these two things in your mind together — Donald Trump & the word “stupid”. Aside from drawing the direct connection — “Donald Trump is stupid” (an inescapable fact) — let the two things sit for a moment. Yes, Donald Trump is stupid… but how is Donald Trump stupid? In what ways is Donald Trump Stupid? Specifically, what has Donald Trump done, said or tweeted that was stupid? See how we’re not talking about a line anymore, we’re talking about “an environment” — as in, a whole “environment” of stupid?
Patrician George HW Bush — a cynical politician’s cynical politician — chose Dan Quayle as his veep. An attractive young politician from Indiana, Quayle, on the surface, made sense. But Dan Quayle, the human, was a less than stellar example of the species. He was certifiably stupid. Said certifiably stupid things. Did certifiably stupid things, too…
Dan Quayle was not an outlier in Republican stupid — as it concerns vice presidential choices. John McCain outdid George HW Bush in cynicism when he chose Sarah Palin. He outdid Pappy Bush in stupid, too. If McCain had bothered to spend an hour in a room — alone — with Sarah Palin, I find it hard to believe he could have stomached all the stupid. But McCain famously didn’t vet Sarah Palin. That was stupid…
By the time Donald Trump rolled around, the Republicans had made stupid politically viable. You could get up at a meeting of Republicans and say flat out stupid things — and be seen as mainstream. The same wasn’t true for Democrats. Now — to be fair — Democrats are also guilty of stupid. But Democrats are stupid in a very different way. They’re not intellectually stupid, they’re “practical” stupid. That’s a subject for another rant.
Back to Trump. By 2016, Republican culture had become fertile soil for pretty much any kind of stupid.
Keep in mind — as they entered the 2016 race, Republicans were already deeply engaged in a cynical, greedy enterprise — seizing the reigns of power by hijacking the judiciary. As the 2016 race got serious, Mitch McConnell was already refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing because (McConnell’s explanation — the American People deserved to make that choice, NOT the president those same American People had overwhelmingly chosen). That was flat out stupid. It didn’t make sense. It was bullshit. It was stupid.
And yet — as stupid always does in America — stupid played. And won. McConnell got away with something shockingly stupid because we let him. No shit. We The People let stupid triumph.
Trump’s campaign announcement was stupid start to finish. In retrospect, it was a remarkable amount of stupid crammed into one place at one time. And yet, despite a few days of “outrage”, we allowed Donald Trump’s candidacy to continue.
How could WE shrug off something so stunningly offensive? In this instance, Trump was spouting stupid — and we were accepting stupid. Oh, sure — in the moment we were offended by it. But we stopped being offended by it. We must have — cos we let it slide. We accepted Trump’s stupidity (his racism and bigotry — both products of stupidity) as “just how he is”. Trump was a “different kind” of candidate.
He became a “different” kind of president. A stupid one — exactly as advertised.
For going on three years, we have experienced a presidency steeped in stupidity. Donald Trump says things that redefine the word “stupid” almost daily. He holds to stupid positions based on stupid assumptions and stupid, racist beliefs that result in consistently stupid pronouncements and policy positions. He lies blatantly — stupid, easily disproven lies — delivered gracelessly. Our news media points out the lie — and how stupid it is — yet Trump holds firm. That’s stupid.
We let him get away with it. That’s stupider.
Hmmmmm… maybe our problem isn’t Donald Trump. In Julius Caesar, Cassius says: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…”. Which brings to mind another quote, equally prescient: “Stupid is as stupid does”.
Forrest Gump could teach Donald Trump — and us — a ton about what stupid really is.