On election night in 1984, when Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale for a second term, I had a party to watch the returns on TV. We were mostly expat Americans living in Canada and solidly for Walter Mondale. There was a somber mood as Reagan’s landslide victory became increasingly evident. At one point, one of the guests leapt to his feet and shouted “Hooray for Tweedledum!”
He was an orthodox Marxist in a room full of leftish liberals. The idea that there is no real difference between Democrats and Republicans and that both represent the interests of corporate America is common on the left. Premier American leftist Noam Chomsky summed it up best:
“In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies. By and large, I am opposed to those policies. As is most of the population.”
Many on the left have maintained this position even as the Republican Party has moved further and further to the right, especially on social issues. But Chomsky hasn’t. Recently he argued that the Republican Party has ceased to be a normal political party and has become a radical right-wing insurgency. Although Chomsky claims that Donald Trump isn’t really any crazier than the other Republican candidates, he has said that if he lived in a swing state, he would vote for Hillary Clinton
Trump’s obvious insanity may be part of his appeal. Michael Moore has suggested that Trump is a human Molotov cocktail his enthusiastically loyal supporters want to hurl at the establishment, including the Republican establishment.
There has been speculation that Trump’s insanity is an act. One conspiracy theory has it that Donald Trump is actually working for the Democrats to ensure that Hillary Clinton gets elected. If that’s the case, the Democrats who hatched the plot must be astonished at how well Trump has done.
Another is that Trump is really working for the Republican establishment: his mission is to act like a completely unhinged lunatic and make establishment Republicans look good by comparison.
If that’s the case, it seems to be working. The Republican base may be showing more enthusiasm for the unhinged lunatic than the establishment anticipated, but some establishment Republicans like Trump’s running mate Mike Pence are staring to seem normal and even moderate. In reality, Pence is a right-wing zealot who believes that HIC/Aids is a punishment visited on gays by God. Pence pushed legislation that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays, has endorsed so-called conversion therapy that purports to make gays straight.
So according to this theory, Trump is the stake that the Republican establishment hopes to drive through the heart of the outraged populism the Tea Party gave rise to. Once the populism is dead, Republicans can continue to pursue their agenda with the proper decorum.
It’s not hard to understand why conspiracy theories about Trump arise; his rhetoric and behavior are so beyond what is considered normal that normal people can’t believe he’s for real.
Trump is definitely not a garden-variety right-wing Republican. He is crazy in a very specific and much more literal sense than the others. I believe there is a growing realization that Trump is profoundly mentally ill. A large number of Republicans oppose him, not a single major newspaper has endorsed him, and some traditionally conservative newspapers have endorsed Hillary Clinton.
Trump almost surely won’t win, but that he even came close is chilling.