Finger on the Impulse

Even before Donald Trump’s epic twitter meltdown in the early morning hours today—where he tripled-down on his misogynistic comments about former beauty queen Alicia Machado, and in doing so created the first-ever news reports with the words “presidential nominee” and “sex tape” in the same sentence—it was very clear that the GOP standard-bearer had absolutely no impulse control. Whether it was leaning into fights with a federal judge over his Mexican heritage or a Gold Star family over their religion, or repeatedly defending his retweeting of an anti-Semitic meme, Trump has shown that he cannot resist regaining the perceived upper hand, no matter how great the political damage or how shameful the behavior necessary to do so. This pattern is what Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall called “the fever inside,” explaining: “Trump lives in a psychic economy of aggression and domination. There are dominators and the dominated. No in between. Every attack he receives, every ego injury must be answered, rebalanced with some new aggression to reassert dominance. These efforts are often wildly self-destructive. We’ve seen the pattern again and again.” It’s the character defect Hillary Clinton highlighted in her convention speech when she proclaimed: “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

But as damaging as each of Trump’s self-inflicted controversies have been, nothing has been as harmful to his presidential campaign than the first presidential debate. More than 80 million people tuned in on Monday—many of whom were focusing on the candidates in a meaningful way for the first time—and what they saw was one candidate of presidential mettle and another ill-suited to managing even his own twitter account. As we approach the final month of the presidential campaign, it’s worth examining Trump’s inability to resist taking the bait during the first debate. And it’s also worth considering how when faced with similar temptations, Clinton chose to absorb the smaller attacks rather than lash back and risk greater injury. The transcript is telling. Continue reading

Donald Versus Sarah

This country may finally be about to have a long-needed conversation about how gender bias is affecting the 2016 presidential campaign. Not only is one nominee running to be the first woman president in our nation’s history, but perhaps the central feature of the other’s identity is misogyny. The electorate is producing an unprecedented gender gap. And the grossly unequal coverage between a serious candidate carrying the burden of proof and a halfwit speaking at a fourth-grade reading level while shielded by wealth and masculinity raises troubling questions of implicit sexism that should cause self-reflection for every media personality. Gender is arguably the defining aspect of the entire 2016 race.

But before we delve too deeply into the treatment of Donald versus Hillary, let’s consider a different political contrast that proves the same point: Donald versus Sarah. Because Donald Trump’s closest comparison for any major party candidate seeking national office is Sarah Palin. That would be the Palin who was torn apart in 2008 for her ignorance and stupidity, for her lack of experience, for her petty retributions, for her suspect spending habits, and for her lack of transparency. And this would be the Trump who is similarly (if not more so) shady, senseless, inexperienced, thin-skinned, and opaque. Trump’s raison d’etre in this campaign is cultural resentment against coastal elites, thinly masking an ugly streak of white grievance. That was Palin’s calling card, too. Yet, while Palin was widely considered a dangerous laughingstock by the national press, Trump gains legitimacy by the day. This despite Palin’s second billing compared to Trump’s pursuit of the oval office. Continue reading

Winning Everything Isn’t Everything

The mantra, “winning isn’t everything,” has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Maybe it was always an ethos made for movies and disingenuous Little League coaches. After all, there were Al Davis’s “Just win, baby” Raiders of the 1970s and 80s. There was the Bronx belief, during the New York Yankees dominant run between 1996 and 2003, that any year that did not end in a World Series was a failure. And there has been unceasing debate over the last twenty years about the relative worth of NBA superstars and NFL quarterbacks based on their relative ability to win, and the frequency with which they have won, team championships. America has always been a nation that admires winners.

Recently, however, it seems that the belief that winning everything is everything in sports has strangely risen from conventional wisdom to incontrovertible fact. Continue reading

Political Correctness of a Different Color

This was supposed to be a year of revolt against political correctness. A major party nominee’s presidential campaign was based largely (we were told) on the bubbling resentment against restrictions on speech and thought. Millions of Americans supposedly were rejecting the thoughtless demand that they adhere to an elite-approved vernacular. Common sense would not bow to the illiberalism of liberals, who were too busy constructing safe spaces and new pronouns for an ever-expanding alphabet soup of sexuality. This was not about race or gender, they said. Political correctness was the real culprit; it was an ideology of condescension that prevented minorities from dealing with their own social deficiencies, from illegal immigration to Chicago gang culture. A silent majority would no longer be cowed into censoring their thoughts on controversial issues.

At least that was the story until Colin Kaepernick showed up. Continue reading