The Austin Chronicle

Page Two: Two Candidates in Search of a Presidency

And an electorate looking for comic book superheroes

By Louis Black, September 30, 2016, Columns

1) Trump's genius is his intuitive ability to read the public, resulting in his anti-candidacy, which in this Bizarro world results in everything thrown at him instead making him stronger. Much of his base loves him because he is unlike any other candidate they can remember. Even after tasting ballot box success, instead of moderating his message to reach the broadest audience, he upped the ante. Again and again.

When the anti-Trump crowd online posts a guarantee Trump will be indicted, usually citing one biased source or another, they could offer no greater endorsement. Almost everything that gets thrown at him expands his image and power. Rather than shrink the number of supporters, I suspect new ones are joining. Given that polls already probably underreport his numbers, this is scary.

If he is anything he is the people's candidate who voters believe won't allow business as usual and will clean up the country. Saying whatever he wants makes him sound like one of the most honest politicians of our time – even if he is among the most dishonest.

2) The Clinton campaign team is not at the top of its game. Watching Clinton's campaign, it's clear that they've chosen to ignore most American electoral history, with a special neglect of the American Revolution. This is not more overly reactive Clinton-bashing. It is sad watching her fall victim trying to fight a new kind of war using leftover weapons and irrelevant strategies.

She lines her troops up. She gets them uniforms and marches them across a field. Where the angry farmers basically take them out by running, hiding, and shooting. In the classic Western, she is the West Point graduate doing everything right by the book, while Trump is Swamp Fox and Col. John Mosby fighting a guerrilla war on his terms. When she successfully raises a lot of money – more ammunition for Trump. Prominent Republicans' endorsements of her – "See how he has rattled not just the Democrats but the Republican establishment." Devastating exposés on Trump – "What else would you expect from mainstream media; they are so afraid."

Clinton's team has yet to figure out what the story is, much less her role in it.

This is a Japanese horror film and we are well into the 12th reel. So far everything that has been thrown at the monster just energized and expanded him. What next?

3) If you believe that there is no difference between the two parties then it is hard to imagine a government with which you'd be happy. There is a lot of difference, though they both operate in the same middle ground. Those on the left, with the same enthusiasm with which Tea Party legislators have prevented Congress from doing anything, champion the same confrontational, nonproductive, no-compromise style, just a different ideology.

4) A (De-)Evolution in Communication Style: There was a long period when the writing style most commonly seen in submitted-for-publication letters, column proposals, and suggested political essays was in imitation of the gonzo style of Hunter S. Thompson. Self-mythologized rant poetics – long run-on sentences, fueled by drugs, or drugs and alcohol, littered with garish modern American symbology accented by revelations of massive drug consumption. Almost everyone missed Thompson's skills not just as a writer but a reporter taken seriously by his peers.

But at some point a new style emerged, rapidly becoming a dominant strain, with Rush Limbaugh its most influential and innovative master. Others shared in the style, but Limbaugh came to personify it – bombast and presentation, not positions and policy.

The basic narrative strategy is simple: Assert your superiority. Make a statement you can't be bothered to prove. Then point out how stupid those holding other opinions are. Then definitely state that this is the truth.

Ending with an accusation like "Libtard" or any made-up insulting word helps. The idea is to demonize or demean those of different beliefs, ideally both.

Even more suited to new media than print, folks of every political persuasion indulge. It proves the ideal form for internet communication. It is not about ideas and passions, not about what is good for the country, or even what is wrong with it. The focus is on the author, autobiography achieved not by family detail and personal history but by mapping their contempt for those who disagree. Many sit as in Scorsese's The King of Comedy – Rupert Pupkin in the downstairs of his family house in his homemade, let's-pretend Tonight Show studio set.

But now because of new media, the simplest reaching out brings some response. Without credential, criteria, or consequences, a new generation of communicators have assumed the voice of authority. Only their attitudes grow faster than their audiences.

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