I offer the following in trying to analyze or explain how our politics have come to what they have:
In 2003 I was at a truck stop in El Centro, California, I being a truck driver. In the TV lounge two things were playing, well not at the same time. On the one hand there was the Jerry Springer Show. To up is ratings Springer had revamped his former more conventional talk show to a spectacle where poor white trash would air their tales and family grievances over adultery or incest or what have you and commonly get into fisticuffs on air with one another or throw chairs at each other. The way it works is the producers put out requests for wild stories and offer money for these yahoos to come on into the studio and act out on stage.
This brought Mr. Springer, a former politician, high ratings. I noticed a lot of the drivers were enthralled or at least entertained by the thing (I was not).
It was low class on national display. Now, stay with me please, countering that we had another program. A CNN news report with Gen. Colin Powell, our secretary of state at the time, presenting “evidence” to the world that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction”, which I think meant nuclear weapons (but they wanted a catchall name, something vague. The George W. Bush administration was itching to go to war in Iraq, even though our main enemy at the time had been operating out of Afghanistan). He showed what purported to be satellite photos of trucks with metal tubes which he claimed to be associated with the WMDs.
It was reminiscent of U.S. United Nations Ambassador Alai Stevenson presenting satellite photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1960. The main difference was that in Stevenson’s case it was true — they were indeed missile sites. In Powell’s case, the tubes were never proven to have anything to do with the so-called WMDs. Despite an invasion and occupation of Iraq by the U.S., no WMDs were ever found. Powel would later claim that he was misled by others in the Bush administration.
But two things come immediately to my mind: one, that Gen. Powell, a career soldier, knew nothing more about weapons identification than I (a three-year veteran low-ranking soldier). And two, that he would just say whatever someone told him to say.
There is evidence that Powell indeed knew that the intelligence on the subject was exaggerated at best, or questionable, but he just towed the administration line.
I have almost lost track of my original point, but what I am trying to say is that on the one hand you have Jerry Springer low-life stuff on national TV, passing as some kind of legitimate report on American life, even if it was basically a form of the unreal nonsense of pro-wrestling, and on the other hand you have the official version by a prominent (if somewhat inept) leader, which is nothing more than a lie.
Many no longer put any more stock into what political leaders tell them than what goes on at a Jerry Springer show, or sadly, maybe less (or worse yet, they see the Springer stuff as some form of reality).
And with this cynicism or with this drift from reality, we get Donald Trump.
But Trump and Trumpism is real and is a real danger to our democracy.