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The Whacky Third of a Third Who Set the Tone

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Politics is a contrived game that delights those it favors, and infuriates those it disfavors. Consider the ultra-contrived rules of the presidential nomination primaries.

If you like awarding delegates according to the proportion of the vote a candidate gets, you’ll love the contests that work that way – unless you win, in which case you must share a state’s delegates with the losers you beat. If you like awarding delegates on a winner-takes-all basis, you’ll love that arrangement – unless you’re one of the losers who spent a wad of money, and invested countless hours organizing and door-knocking only to get zilch for your trouble.

If you long for consistency, look elsewhere. Ask Ted Cruz, who handily won his home state Texas’ Republican presidential primary, but was allotted only 104 of its 155 delegates. Had Texas been a winner-take-all state, Cruz’s victory would have raised him and lowered second place finisher Donald Trump to the degree that Cruz, rather than Trump, would have become the leader in the national race.

Instead, Cruz trails Trump in the overall delegate count, and must be gnashing his teeth knowing in several upcoming winner-takes-all primaries he’s likely to run second or third, which means he will get zero delegates, no matter how great a percentage of the vote he wins.

If it seems unfair, consider another campaign truism: small factions can wield disproportionately huge influence.

Political factions are basically political fractions. That is to say, the Republican Party consists of about one third of all registered voters. It’s small to begin with. About a third of that third supports Donald Trump. That’s about one ninth of all registered voters. Smaller yet.

Judging from online commentary of that one third of one third, it’s probably fair to say one third of them are normal Republicans who have finally had it with establishment politics. Another third are Republicans who even in best of times are at odds with anything conventional, which makes them rebels, regardless of who the candidate is.

The final third are Republicans who share the traits of the other two thirds of Trump supporters, but charitably can be described as frothing, angry, slow-thinkers who with only a little encouragement probably would march in a mob with pitchforks. They give the other two thirds a bad reputation by association.

This loudest, most stubborn, crudest and least thoughtful third of the Trump crowd might be described this way: They like Trump because they are like Trump.

It would be wrong to characterize all Trump supporters that way. But this sub-subset clearly fits the definition. They are the ones who say things like, “I don’t care what you say, I’m for Trump,” an indication that thoughtful weighing of facts and issues is beyond either their ability or their inclination.

Another tipoff is when presented with facts that reveal their idol’s long history of fraud, lying, flip-flopping and using government’s power to enrich himself at the expense of others, these Trumpeters respond by calling the bearers of this bad news a name, usually with a vulgarity attached. Just like Trump does when he’s confronted with such inconvenient truths. This is a failing common to personality cults: “The facts be damned, he’s my man, so (obscenity) you!”

Unfortunately, it is this whacky portion, the third of a third of a third of voters, who set the tone and create the public image for the rest of the Trumpeters. Among the larger Trump crowd, no doubt there are reasonable people, as well as some who always hang out at the political fringe, yet are willing to engage in reasoned debate over Trump’s merits and demerits.

But sadly for them, and tragically for the cause of reasoned debate, the whacky third of a third of a third won’t stand for it, probably because they can’t bring any good reasons to the table beyond the vagary that “Trump’s strong so he will get things done,” whatever that means.

Don’t waste time trying to explain to them that King Kong was strong too, but no one in his right mind would want to turn the big ape loose to “get things done.”

Then there’s the problem that what they may want to get done gets lost in all the screaming and cursing. Their hero, Donald, makes it additionally difficult to identify what they want him to do because he is constantly breaking, revising and otherwise changing what he promises to do.

How can a Trumpeter articulate details for X when the Donald is forever changing X to Z. Worse yet, change is Trump’s one constant.

More reasonable folk would recognize the wisdom of fleeing from such an ideological chameleon, who can go from campaign donor to Hillary Clinton to self-styled opponent of Hillary Clinton in the blink of an election cycle. Consistency may be a hobgoblin, but there’s something to be said for logical coherence. Even Mussolini, whom Trump admires enough to quote, made the trains run on time.

No wonder Trump’s most avid supporters, that whacky third of a third of a third, are reduced to shouting down opposing views and digging in their heels, just as he does. What other possible defense could they mount?

Consequently, what we have is a fraction of a faction setting the tone for crude thuggery posing as political debate. It rivals the rankest, low blows of 1800’s landmark of presidential campaign bile. All the more is the pity because it fosters peer pressure for the more open-minded of the Trump crowd not to consider challenges to their candidate, which are numerous.

So, the sad fact is we have a miniscule portion of a small group within a small political party that holds a disproportionately loud megaphone that drowns out more reasoned and plausible arguments to persuade voters, whose votes may or may not be reflected in the distribution of delegates. What could go wrong?

Here’s the safest political prediction of the season. Some Trump backers will attack yours truly with ad hominem slurs, likely laced with profanity. No surprise there.



 

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