When facing the growling, violent bedlam that is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, I am given to contemplate the concept of the Perpetual Motion Machine. According to Wikipedia, “A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, as it would violate the first or second law of thermodynamics.”
“Thus,” the explanation continues, “machines which extract energy from finite sources will not operate indefinitely, because they are driven by the energy stored in the source, which will eventually be exhausted. A common example is devices powered by ocean currents, whose energy is ultimately derived from the Sun, which itself will eventually burn out. Machines powered by more obscure sources have been proposed, but are subject to the same inescapable laws, and will eventually wind down.”
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I’m not so sure about that.
Physics and engineering have been around since long before the Egyptians built the pyramids, but all the rules and logic and constants of those crafts never had to account for a dangerous authoritarian entertainer who tells his supporters to beat people up while on national television and still gets a bump in the polls. Donald Trump is Benito Mussolini with a bad combover. He is the frictionless machine. He may wind up on a gibbet someday, but if he carries the contests on Tuesday, he’s going to be the Republican nominee for president.
Why? Because he’s a Master Troll — an internet term of art to describe someone who has Yoda-like powers to fluster and discombobulate others. His bombastic bullshit has reduced the campaign slogans of his opponents to “But … how … you …why … no … can’t … this … pzzzzz.” Furthermore, the media is lapping it up like wolves feasting on a pool of blood. Trump hasn’t spent two thin dimes on advertising so far. He doesn’t have to.
All he has to do is call together a confab of cameras and say, “This is so great everything is so great and it’s gonna be great when we launch the Muslims over the wall into Mexico because Hillary and everything’s so great I’m great let’s make America great again arrest that guy punch that guy because great.” It is word salad of the purest ray serene, carefully tailored to mesmerize the masses. In short, Donald Trump is a Batman villain; he knows exactly what he’s doing … and that’s what is frightening.
And as for his assumed opponent, Secretary Clinton? She spent the weekend dealing with the fact that she described Nancy Reagan as an AIDS activist. “It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s,” she said to Andrea Mitchell. “And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular, Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it.”
Ah, hrm … what? We? Bodies were dropping all around the Reagan administration for seven years, tens of thousands lost. Ronald and Nancy Reagan ignored them. Reagan’s press secretary himself ridiculed the crisis on television. AIDS was a punch line to them. This is black-letter history. Clinton vomited up that hairball on the national carpet because she was talking to Reagan fans, because she is the world heavyweight champion of torquing her comments to please whoever she’s talking to.
After I heard about what she said, I pulled my battered hardcover copy of And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts off the shelf and just held it in my lap. Just held it, because I’ve already read it to tatters. The truth is out there, Secretary. You were part of an administration that saw more strides forward for LGBTQ rights than at any time in history, and you go and run this number? Can you possibly comprehend how many people you wounded deeply when you said that? Do you give one iota of a damn?
Likely not. Integrity apparently doesn’t garner votes these days. Noise does. Nevertheless Secretary Clinton did “apologize,” insofar as that word actually has any meaning in US politics any more. She sent out a tweet – a damn tweet! – saying she misspoke, and then released a longer statement saying LGBTQ people are wonderful, so forget what I said when I “misspoke” to that Reaganite crowd. Once again, tailoring the message to the target audience. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This is the most dangerous election in living memory. Shouters, liars and revisers of flat-footed history are storming toward a confrontation that will be a calamity no matter who prevails, and the media are reveling in it. At stake is the threat of fascism in the 21st century. It will not end well.