Strategy and Delusion

This political season just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

As Indiana voters prepare to cast ballots in tomorrow’s primary, we are coming to grips with the fact that there is an unreal reality-TV personality leading the GOP field–a lead largely attributable to the repulsiveness of his nearest competitor. (I mean, when have we ever heard a Presidential candidate described by members of his own party as “Lucifer” and ” a miserable son-of-a-bitch”? When have we ever heard a U.S. Senator explain his ¬†endorsement of that candidate as a choice between a gunshot to the head or poison? Because there might be an antidote to poison…)

Every day brings a new “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment. Last week, it was a story from Talking Points Memo, outlining the Trump campaign’s strategy for going after Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

Are you done laughing hysterically?

There are two ways to analyze the Trump plan. The approach most favorable to the Trump campaign begins with the thesis that Americans are irremediably ignorant. (It isn’t that farfetched; after all, the fact that Trump is winning the GOP nomination is pretty compelling evidence that a significant percentage of the population is missing a few synapses.) Sanders is attracting angry voters, Trump is attracting angry voters, ergo, Sanders’ voters will move to Trump.

If, however, as I believe (and devoutly hope!), Americans really aren’t that far gone, the notion that Bernie’s supporters would even consider Trump is ludicrous.

The rap on Bernie is that he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his campaign’s goals: greater social equity, more government transparency, fairer treatment for marginalized constituencies, a higher minimum wage, free university, more equality….in short, despite the decibels at which he delivers his message, the message itself is a kinder, fairer, gentler world–an aspirational social justice writ large.

The rap on Trump is that he doesn’t have positions on most of these issues (or, apparently, even know some of them exist), but to the extent he does, his goals are exclusionary and bigoted: deport immigrants, reject Muslims, put women back in the kitchen (unless they’re good-looking, in which case they can work–albeit for less pay than men), piss on America’s allies and assume the role of world bully. Trump’s goals–to the extent he can articulate any– are dangerous, mean-spirited, uninformed and frequently unconstitutional, and his rhetoric consists of playground-level insults.

Some of the people supporting Bernie may not like Hillary Clinton. Some of the more rabid among them may even stay home in November–unthinkable as I find that. (I also doubt that Bernie has Ralph Nader’s monumental ego and willingness to screw the country to service it.) But a strategy based on the notion that people rallying for economic justice and fundamental fairness can be convinced to go to the polls and vote for Donald Trump is just further evidence that Trump’s narcissism has overpowered his already tenuous connection to reality.

If there ever was such a connection.