Ted Cruz, evil gatekeeper of the goblin underworld, recently floated the idea of turning one of the stars of Duck Dynasty into a U.N. ambassador. U.N. ambassador, as you may know, is a real thing. It could even be considered dignified. Have some gravitas to it. Respectable. None of these words apply to Duck Dynasty -- a TV show centered around swampland jackaninnies who fell ass-backward into money by inventing a duck call. A fucking duck call! That's their claim to fame. You don't ask the inventor of the Pet Rock to do geological surveys; you don't need Duck Dynasty to actually speak on behalf of the people who bathe regularly. What Ted Cruz did was pull a Trump.
One of the central selling points for Donald Trump is that he "tells it like it is." He doesn't bow to political correctness! He says what we all wish we could say! But does he? I will make this argument here and now: Donald Trump does not tell it like it is and does not say what people wish they could say. He says what people are entertained to hear. And there's a huge difference.
A Brief History Of Wit
Ever Google a list of the wittiest characters in television history? My apologies if you have. It's a depressing pool to wade into. Not because there's anything wrong with TV, but there is something wrong with what the majority of blog and magazine writers consider wit.
On one list I found Fred Sanford, George Jefferson, Archie Bunker, Chandler Bing, and Dr. House, of all people. And I won't deny that any of those characters were given funny lines over the years, but what the hell do we mean by "witty"? I was always under the impression a witty comment differed from a generic funny comment in that it had a mark of intelligence with it. It was clever. A smart joke. These characters rarely engage in smart jokes. They mostly trade in insults.
It's become standard on TV in a sitcom with a group of characters to have various types. One type is the dummy. Nearly every sitcom has the dumb character. And in contrast to the dummy is the snidely superior character who is the foil for the dummy on a regular basis. Chandler insults Joey. House insults everyone. Fred Sanford insults his son. George Jefferson insults his neighbor. Insults are not necessarily witty. They can be, but Fred Sanford's catchphrase was literally "Ya big dummy!" That ain't exactly Chaucer.
Sony Pictures Television
"My dearest Elizabeth, I truly believe this to be of such enormity that I shall
be joining your embrace shortly."
The snarky characters are often some of the favorites on TV. But why? They play directly to us. David Wong wrote not so long ago about how media makes you a worse person, and specifically cited the way Chandler and Joey interact. Chandler says things that never would make sense in normal discourse. He doles out wicked burns, but for the sake of whom? Us, as an audience. So we laugh and go, "Ooh, zinger!" because he just treated his best friend like a piece of shit.
In real life, you wouldn't be friends with Archie Bunker, yet he's one of the most beloved characters in TV history. The guy was a piece of shit. You'd tell Chandler to fuck his mom if he talked to you the way he talks to Joey, who's supposedly his best friend in the world. But on TV we laugh, because man, wouldn't it be great just to lay into someone like that? Wouldn't it be great to tell all the idiots they really are idiots, right to their idiot faces? That's Trump appeal.
This Trump appeal is doubly enticing to racists. Trump isn't afraid to say all Mexicans are criminals and that he wants to kick every Muslim out of America. He's a few minorities short of promising a lily white America, and man does that seem to appeal to racists. There's a reason he's been publicly backed by more than one white supremacy group. According to one site, 58 percent of the top 50 white nationalist accounts follow Trump on Twitter, and a substantial number of people who use the hashtag #whitegenocide have "Trump" in their bios. He's the voice they've always wanted.
Racists are bold in small groups in small places. Get a bar full of Klan members in Backwater, Kentucky, and they'll all proudly call Obama "Hussein" and talk about American values, no doubt. But they're not going to stand on a street corner in L.A. and do it. They can't make a public scene of themselves. And the closet racists of the world, the people who "aren't racist but" definitely love a guy like Trump who expresses the things they're scared to say.
The thing about even the racist Trump is he's still not telling it like it is. And he's not saying what everyone wishes they could say. The closet racist is a closet racist for a reason. They know what they believe is ignorant bullshit and they don't want to risk becoming a pariah for exposing their bullshit. But if there's someone out there who has millions of dollars and gets on TV all the time and could be president, and he hates the same people they hate, well isn't that swell? It is for them.
Donald Trump is the WWE of political candidates. He satiates a bloodlust through structured insanity. But it's all smoke and mirrors. There's no substance behind it -- what the hell is Trump's platform, anyway? He's going to make Mexico pay for its own wall? He's so far produced no honest answer for how that will work. He may as well tell you he's going to make all Muslims punch themselves in the face.
Unfortunately for the few of us who actually take politics seriously sometimes and worry about who runs the country, there is nothing behind Trump's facade. When you pull back the curtain, all you're going to find is the same toupee; there is no wizard, just a dullard. But it will never matter. It will never matter, because, for as much as I can call Trump an idiot, he's not. Not that kind of idiot. In the right context, a context best described as diabolical, the man's a certified genius. He's the P.T. Barnum of American politics, and he's bringing the suckers born every minute for the last 75 years under his big top to see the show.
"At least I had the decency to bald gracefully."
From the outside, from the point of view of a non-Trump supporter, this is all obvious and stuff to make us mutter "Hear, hear" while we frown into our mugs of chai tea and wonder why Trump has such a high approval rating. But, on the inside, for the people who are afraid of Mexicans raping their purses and stealing their jobs, and who think maybe all the Muslims are plotting to blow us up one day, and who want to do something about ISIS but have no idea how or when or even where ISIS actually is, these people see an answer in Trump. The things he says are simple. And politics isn't simple, and that confuses a lot of people. I don't mean that to sound insulting -- it's just an observation, but I think it's an honest one.
The political process can be a very confusing one. How many times have you heard of someone proposing some law and then there's some kind of addendum and it has to pass through the Senate or some shit, and someone tosses out the word "filibuster," and you have no idea what the hell anyone is talking about anymore.
Trump says he will make the Middle East give us oil. We like oil. He'll make the Mexicans go away. We don't like illegals. He'll stop the terrorists. We hate terrorists!
Real politicians say we need to enact a plan to better protect our borders while making sure people who we want in America are allowed in and those we plan to toss out are the right people, and maybe there can be amnesty for people who have been in America for years and have been actively contributing to the workforce and right here, right at this point in the sentence, Donald Trump has already rolled his eyes four times, made the jerk-off motion, and maybe even made a fart noise. Because that all sounds like political double-talk.
The reason Ted Cruz is willing to float the idea of a Duck Dynasshole as a U.N. ambassador is because he has weakly given up on his own value and approach to becoming president and is trying to emulate Trump. It's the same reason Jeb Bush showed everyone his gun. What the fuck was the point of that? It's like tweeting a photo of yourself doing a kegstand with no commentary above a pit of crocodiles. It's just to be awesome, bro! To make the masses go, "Woooo!" just like Ric Flair.