Why Personality Trumps Policy in American Politics

The Donald emerges from his Trump Copter to mingle with Iowa Real Muricans.'

The Donald emerges from his Trump Copter to mingle with Iowa Real Muricans.’

If you haven’t yet gotten your ticket to board the 2016 Trump Train, you’d better move quickly, because tickets are going fast and The Donald is racing down the GOP primary tracks with a head full of more steam than a four-star Turkish Hammam.

Donald Trump recently graced Iowa (which, along with New Hampshire, is America’s key primary-season schtupping ground) with his presence by barnstorming the barn-dotted Iowa State Fair in true Trump style. The Donald landed his helicopter amidst the cavalcade of Americana that is double-bacon-wrapped corn dogs and life-size butter cow sculptures. He also gave helicopter rides to an excited gaggle of fresh-faced Murican’ moppets.

And potential GOP voters can’t get enough of it. As one young mother explained, “I’d take him over the president we have now, I think there are better options — but he’s entertaining.”

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Vaccine Truthers, Conspiracy Theories, and American Democracy Unhinged

Demonstraters in New Jeresy protest a law requiring mandatory flu vaccinations. Because why not.

Demonstrators in New Jersey protest a law requiring mandatory flu vaccinations. Because why not.

Paranoia is everywhere in modern America. Granted, it’s always been that way, but in a society bathed in 24-7 mass media, you simply can’t avoid the endless rush of stupid that comes with the mainstreaming of bizarre conspiracy theories. Consider a recent example of this nonsense: In February the Washington Times reported that 38 percent of Americans still think President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. Yes, the so-called “Birthers” are still among us six years and one publically produced birth certificate into Obama’s presidency.

Then there are the old standards. Back in 2012, a National Geographic survey found that nearly 36 percent of Americans (about 80 million people) believe the government is covering up knowledge of UFOs, and last fall Gallop reported that 61 percent of Americans believe the JFK assassination was a conspiracy. Personally, I think that extraterrestrial Cuban mobsters killed Kennedy with the aid of Elvis and Sasquatch, but I digress.

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Darrell Issa and the Historical Shadow of the Gag Rule

Darrell Issa (R-CA) does NOT approve of you speaking like that!

You’re talking, my friend, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is soooo not cool with that!

Poor Darrell Issa. For years, the hard-charging GOP Congress-critter has been on a Quixotic quest to destroy what he believes to be the multi-tentacled scandal beast at the heart of the Obama administration. Since his party of curmudgeonly gremlins took control of Congress back in 2010, the California representative has planted himself as the lead inquisitor-chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and over the last three years or so, he’s investigated everything from the alleged liberal causes of the 2008 financial crisis, to the supposed job-killing effects of government regulation, to the existence of Bigfoot.

Okay, I made that last one up, but suffice to say that Issa has made it his goal to find everything rotten in government and place the blame for that rot squarely on the shoulders of the Obama Administration. Indeed, the guy is so delusional that it’d be none-too-surprising if he concluded that Bigfoot was working as a secret environmental agent for liberal activist groups.

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The Radicalism of Suffrage: Why Voting Matters in America

From Harper's Weekly: An example of racially-based intimidation of voters during the Reconstruction period. The caption reads, "Of Course he Wants to Vote the Democratic Ticket." As the party of southern white supremacy following the Civil War, Democrats feared the power of enfranchised, Republican-voting African-Americans. This is because voting symbolizes power and agency.

From Harper’s Weekly: An example of racially based intimidation of voters during the Reconstruction period. The caption reads, “Of Course he Wants to Vote the Democratic Ticket.” As the party of southern white supremacy following the Civil War, Democrats feared the power of enfranchised, Republican-voting African-Americans. This is because voting symbolizes power and agency.

Voting is a radical act. That’s right, you heard me. If you’re one of the roughly fifty, to sixty percent of Americans who actually vote in presidential elections, then you’re a committed radical. If you’re one of the even fewer who vote in off-year midterm elections that decide boring stuff like congressional representation (you know, the stuff that actually matters), then you’re downright revolutionary.

Of course, the idea that voting is radical might seem ridiculous. After all, a good many Americans have, for a long time now, been convinced that their vote simply doesn’t count. They look at a political system that is infested with the wriggling worms of corporate lobbyists and “dark money” special interest peddling, and, understandably conclude that the vote of any individual Joe or Jane Six-Pack won’t make a dent in the system’s corruption-infused force-field.

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The GOP, the Debt Ceiling, and the History of Killing Political Legitimacy

Poster advertising a "Save the Union" meeting, Frederick, Maryland, September, 1860.

Poster advertising a “Save the Union” meeting, Frederick, Maryland, September, 1860.

The situation was unprecedented in scope. The conservative party in America, its hardcore base mostly relegated to the South, had just suffered a devastating electoral defeat in which a lawyer and political progressive from Illinois won the U.S. presidency along mostly sectional lines, carrying primarily northern and west coast states. In response to the stinging rebuke of their policies by the majority of the American people, the conservative party decided that rather than accept the outcome of the presidential election, they would instead try to prevent the victorious party from governing by denying their very political legitimacy. In so doing, the conservative party in America waged war against democracy itself.

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The Age of Violence Continues?

Dead soldiers litter the killing fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863.

Dead soldiers litter the killing fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863.

Is the human race predestined to off itself in a vicious orgy of mass violence? Lawrence Wittner, professor of History at SUNY/Albany, thinks so. In a post for the History News Network’s blog, Wittner ruminates on the continued popularity of mass violence in the form of warfare throughout the modern world. Citing the over a hundred million deaths resulting from the two World Wars of the 20th century, the continued persistence of 21st century warfare in the Developing World, and the trillions spent on military buildup in the so-called First World, Wittner sees a dreary pattern of death and destruction that may spell the end of humankind in the near future. He’s particularly worried about the human propensity towards mass violence in a world where many nations continue to proliferate their nuclear arsenals.

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