The present crisis in American government is rooted not in some structural defect the Founders never imagined, but rather, the Faustian bargain at the heart of the modern-day GOP: government by the stupidest thirty-five per cent of the electorate.
Time was when the Republican Party was the home of pinstriped Ivy League fiscal conservatives and Cold Warrior mandarins in the image of William F. Buckley and George H.W. Bush. Today it harbors gibbering flat-earthers like James “Jimmy the Chimp” Jordan and Trey “Goober” Gowdy. And of course its titular and actual leader, Donald “Shroomdick Donny” Trump—fat, lazy, bankrupt, and unschooled, a squirming sack of appetites and rage.
But wait, you say. If he’s stupid, how did he get to be president?
Easy. Because he says what stupid people think. That’s his base—stupid people.
Oh, I know. We’re not supposed to say that. See, the real beneficiaries of political correctness are not transgendered troops or kneeling athletes. No, it’s the knuckle-dragging cousin spawn who blow spittle all over the phone when they rave about Uranium One over their third PBR of the morning calling in to AM talkshows. Stung by the backlash to Hillary’s too-moderate description of the Trump base as “a basket of deplorables,” the media gently refers to it as “poorly educated older whites.”
Is “dumb fucking hillbillies” so hard to say?
Trump knew his base and knew he’d get their support by saying what they thought. Because he was what poor people think a rich guy looks like—fat, lamptanned, MetArt wife—they felt empowered when he repeated the uninformed nonsense they screamed at the TV. And when he actually got elected, they were not only empowered, but vindicated—we must be right, because the President says it!
If it were just a matter of Presidential electoral politics, that might not be so bad. He’d just ramp up the idiotic rhetoric and racist hatemongering six months before polling day and revert into something like pragmatism in the interval.
But sadly, that’s not enough. As the present crisis proves beyond rebuttal, he can’t just say what stupid people think—he has to do what stupid people think.
That’s how we got to the shutdown. As the President’s newly-minted and likely to be short-lived Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in a now-regretted soundbite, the idea of a border wall is “childish.” But Trump, knowing his supporters, pounded it through their heads that only a cardboard fort would protect them from the brown boogiemen storming across the Rio Grande to steal their jobs and rape their poodles. But when he acted as though he could ignore his own bullshit in the interest of normal governance, Base tribunes Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh grabbed him by his cheap Turkish-made overlong tie and told him nothing doing—you made this monster, now you’re feeding it.
So Trump is stuck. And so are we.