“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” Arthur Conan Doyle
Recently David Brooks, PBS commentator and New York Times columnist, recently pontificated from his perch high atop Manhattan’s littératie ladder to posit whether “the norms that used to govern politics [would] reestablish themselves” after Trump.
This he intoned, with unmistakeable piety and pious sincerity (you could tell from his knitted brow and pleading voice) accompanied by an astonishing inability to see what was all around him every day.
Throughout the presidential election year of 2016 Mr. Brooks and his elite cohort of Manhattanite prognosticators failed miserably at their prognosticating gigs. They said Trump couldn’t win … he did. They mocked him … to no effect. They called his disciples deplorable … while at the same time deploring digs by The Donald on Hillary as homophobia, racism, chauvinism, or an encyclopedic collection of other miscreant -phobes or -isms to fill a catalogue of evil.
And while they did so they were wrong, spectacularly wrong every step of the way. Mendacious media operations were wrong, hollow-headed Hollywood stars were wrong, arrogant academicians were wrong, scowling socialists were wrong, roiled rock stars were wrong, fulminating feminists were wrong, confounded consultants were wrong, contemptuous conservatives were wrong, dismayed Democrats were wrong, irascible Republicans were wrong … and blind-as-a-bat David Brooks was wrong.
Why? Because he and all of his high-powered navel-gazing intellectuals didn’t see what their eyes bombarded their cerebrums with day in and day out … everyone who was walking, riding or driving had their necks bent over tiny computer screens like so many fortune tellers spying into crystal balls.
They failed to see how quickly and completely the world had changed. If they’d taken just a short break from all their deep discussions, speculations and theorizing, perhaps they would have seen this simple fact … the way we talk to each other over distance has radically changed. It’s jumped from analogue to digital overnight.
Welcome to cyber-world. It’s the game-changer of our time. It’s already changed music, news, photos, videos, shopping, research, gossip, finance, gambling and, with the success of Trump’s campaign, politics.
Of course Trump’s ascendency was aided and abetted by a seriously flawed opponent, however his series of victories over a dozen able Republican opponents serves as proof of the pudding. Politikin’ will never be the same … nor will what passed as normal return.
This is obvious to most people, excepting the astute Mr. Brooks and his fellow Manhattan Einsteins who apparently self-censor what they see. They believed that TV ads, direct mail, newspaper endorsements, focus groups, scripted campaign rallies, negative attacks and scores of over-paid pollsters and consultants win come election day … and failed to see how cyber-world had obsolesced all those old tried-and-true methods of political campaigning.
But Donald Trump saw it … and saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. Not one to let an opportunity pass him by unmolested, Mr. Trump stepped into the fray and stepped into the White House.
Not that he was the first to take advantage of a new technology to do so. FDR did it with radio, playing the airwaves like Paganini on a violin … and politics was never the same.
Ronald Reagan did it with TV and talked over the heads of mass media gate and directly to the American people … and politics was never the same.
Newt Gingrich used cable TV to talk late at night from the well an empty House of Representatives to overcome what the Democrats had claimed as their own for over a half-century … and politics was never the same.
So no, Mr. Brooks, “the norms that used to govern politics” won’t be back, regardless of how nostalgic the media elites of Manhattan long for them … and this is only the beginning!
No one knows where it’ll lead. One thing’s for sure, it’ll be boisterous, rude and decidedly different. Hopefully it’ll work out well, and as it has with many previous elections, turn out better than what the chattering classes predict.
On the other hand, it could turn out to be a disaster in the near-term, especially considering Trump’s inexperience, confrontational rudeness, impulsiveness, megalomania and inevitable tangle with hubris. But however it works out you can be certain of this … we’re in for a hell of a ride.
Hang on to your hat!
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