March 29, 2016

AS THE DAVID BROOKS CROWD CLUCKS “HAVE YOU NO DECENCY?” HERE’S A USEFUL REMINDER: The Culture That Created Donald Trump Was Liberal, Not Conservative.

The man didn’t emerge, all at once and fully formed, from some hidden and benighted hollow in the American psyche. He’s been kicking around for 30 years or more, and he was promoted and schooled, made famous and made wealthy, by the same culture and economy that now reviles him, and finds his success so vexing.

After all, it wasn’t some Klan newsletter that first brought Trump to our attention: It was Time and Esquire and Spy. The Westboro Baptist Church didn’t give him his own TV show: NBC did. And his boasts and lies weren’t posted on Breitbart, they were published by Random House. He was created by people who learned from Andy Warhol, not Jerry Falwell, who knew him from galas at the Met, not fundraisers at Karl Rove’s house, and his original audience was presented to him by Condé Nast, not Guns & Ammo. He owes his celebrity, his money, his arrogance, and his skill at drawing attention to those coastal cultural gatekeepers — presumably mostly liberal — who first elevated him out of general obscurity, making him famous and rewarding him (and, not at all incidentally, themselves). . . .

If you think that sounds stupid and smug, imagine how it sounds to people out in the rest of the country. Liberals were sure the devil would come slouching out of Alabama or Texas, beating a bible and shouting about sodomy and sin. They didn’t expect him to be a businessman who lives on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Rick Santorum was a threat, but your run-of-the-mill New York tycoon just couldn’t be, not in the same way — because even if the latter was unlikable, he was known, he was covered, he fell within a spectrum that the morning shows and entertainment press are comfortable with, much more so, anyway, than they are with what the slow learners among liberals still blithely call “rednecks.”

Want political leaders with the decorum of yesteryear? You’ll need a society with the decorum of yesteryear.

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