Let’s also consider the current president’s decidedly un-presidential behavior that his Ivy League patina can’t hide. His rhetoric has not been as coarse as Trump’s, but it and his rabidly partisan actions have been as ruthless and nasty, from siccing his partisans on their “enemies” and advising them to “bring a gun to a knife-fight,” to unleashing the IRS on political opponents and publicly disrespecting the Republican Congressional leadership with a school-yard taunt like “I won.”
As for the dignity of the presidency, how is that honored by giving the Queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches, being interviewed by a YouTube carnival attraction like GloZell, exchanging banter on late-night talk shows, hanging out in the Oval Office with a rapper who sings lyrics like “Snatch your little secretary bitch for the homies/Blue-eyed devil with a fat ass monkey,” and taking a selfie with Denmark’s prime minister at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, followed up by Michelle making him switch seats like a peccant schoolboy? And let’s not forget his blowing off the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, one of the last century’s foremost statesmen and stalwart allies of the U.S.; skipping the funeral of Antonin Scalia, historically one of the Supreme Court’s most influential and consequential jurists; and passing on the memorial march for the victims of the Paris massacre last year, an event attended by 43 other heads of state.
Donald Trump is just the next step in this culture-wide process. Like sex and violence in the movies, public vulgarity has nowhere to head but to the lowest common denominator. Considering the sordid images, coarse language, and obscene public behaviors saturating our culture, why are we surprised at someone like Trump, who comes from the glitzy world of casinos and reality television, where he has mastered the techniques for leveraging celebrity into social and now political capital? Once we twice elected a blank-slate, smooth-talking huckster like Obama based not on demonstrable achievement and abilities, but on wish-fulfilling fantasies and duplicitous rhetoric, why wouldn’t someone like Trump arise in his wake? If, as some critics are saying, Trump is the Republicans’ “Frankenstein’s monster,” isn’t Obama just as much the Democrats’ creature?