Thursday, April 28, 2011
Donald Trump and President Obama and defining gravitas down...
I have come down to this, in terms of some type of clarity: this is not a statement on the craziness of Donald Trump, or the shallow nature of (and influence of) the media and what they bring us every day in their service to the Gods of Attention and Ratings. Instead, I relate the temporary ascendancy of "The Donald" to the idea called "Defining Deviance Down"; except instead of "deviance", let's use the word "gravitas."
Defining Deviance Down is the idea, first coined years ago by Senator Patrick Moynihan, that we sometimes sink to a "new normal" in what is deviant - for example, many sexual leanings/activities deemed "deviant" in the past are now viewed as quite normal today. Following this theory, we have a new "gravitas" today, which is, in fact, not gravitas at all. We have lost our sense of seriousness about ourselves, and act desperate now, as a country, living day to day and even hour to hour, without any bedrock to support us. I have come to think that this is a very deep and probably sustained loss of both critical thinking and of collective values. And it began with the election of President Obama, not with anything that has happened since, and certainly not with Trump. (Some may arguably say that it started with President Bush 2, or even with Reagan, but I most heartily disagree. Governors are acceptable candidates, in my way of thinking. (A governorship is very good preparation for the Presidency, offering both executive and legislative experience.)
The problem with not "outing" Obama as a vastly unprepared and potentially dangerous candidate was that his candidacy carried something so wonderful that it possibly will still be worth it after all (provided we are talking a one-term Presidency!): we elected an African-American. This was just outstanding, and high time, too. But we still elected the wrong man.
We traded seriousness about our own state of affairs for soaring rhetoric, a TV-friendly visage, and our own insecurity that we wouldn't elect an African-American. And now we have the man we elected; someone low on experience and more worryingly an unknown quantity then, and now. How I miss the days of boring, average-looking, capable Presidents and Presidential candidates.
So why is it surprising that Trump is gaining traction? Obama is doing Oprah, and we sold our fate several years ago.