As a Clash contributor and lifelong Christian conservative (and no, I don’t like labels), I am amused and surprised to find myself a fan of Salon.com’s Camille Paglia for over two decades. As an avowed Liberal, feminist and lesbian, Ms. Paglia embraces many social and moral positions contradictory to my own. Yet, with a candor and consistency devoid in most idealogues, Ms. Paglia is regularly willing to examine those whose agendas align with her own, and to hold them to the same accountability and scrutiny as those she would consider “the opposition”. This is the kind of honest examination of real issues so totally lacking in this age of mindlessly parroted talking points and overshouting by both sides, as if volume and bellicosity somehow trump honest debate. For the sake of her honest and open approach to commentary, I find her to be essential reading.
Here is a bit of her column from this week, in which a reader writes in to get her updated take on Trump’s candidacy. Her thoughtful response is anything but demagoguery. Enjoy:
I’m dying for an update from you on Donald Trump. Last summer you called him “not a president” and a “carnival barker.” Do you still feel the same? If you loved Trump, would Salon even let you proclaim it? I mean, they’re kind of as liberal as they come, no?
Why can’t there be a party that is basically Republican, but minus the religion, minus the legislating of morality, and that cares about climate change/overpopulation? Could Trump be that guy?
Christie Cooley Randolph
Santa Rosa, CA
Well, Trump may still be a carnival barker, but he’s looking more and more like a president! Along with most media pundits in the Northeast, I found it improbable if not impossible that Trump could survive his klutz-o-rama cascade of foot-in-mouth flubs, from carelessly categorizing Mexican immigrants as rapists to hallucinating about “thousands’ of Muslims cheering the fall of the twin towers from the mean streets of New Jersey. Surely he would soon implode and pouf into fairy dust!
But only a few weeks after that interview of mine in Salon, I suddenly realized that Trump’s candidacy had a broad support that few had expected or discerned. The agent of my revelation was a hilariously scathing, viral Web blog video posted by Diamond and Silk–Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, two African-American sisters and former Democrats in Fayetteville, North Carolina. They were reacting with indignant outrage to the first GOP debate, broadcast by Fox News from Cleveland on August 6 and hosted by Megyn Kelly, whose loaded questions had impugned Trump as a sexist.
If Trump wins the White House, that no-holds-barred video will go down in history as “the shot heard round the world,” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s phrase for the first salvo of the American Revolution by rural insurgents at Concord. The video signaled a popular uprising and furious pushback against the major media and political elites, who had controlled the national agenda and messaging for far too long. Diamond and Silk threw zinger after zinger in defending Trump: “Here’s the damn deal, Megyn Kelly—or Kelly Megyn, whatever your name is!…. Go back and report news on Sesame Street!…You hit below the belt, Kelly!…He was the only one up there on that stage with any common sense!… He’s going to be the next president, whether you like it or not. Get used to it, girl! Get used to it!”
This fiery endorsement blew me away because it demonstrated how Trump was directly engaging with a diverse coalition in ways that the mainstream media had completely missed. I felt, and still do, that Trump is far too impetuous and thin-skinned in his amusingly rambling, improvisational style. The American president, who can spook markets or spark a war with a rash phrase, must be more coolly circumspect. And aspirants to the presidency shouldn’t care what small fry like bobble-head TV hosts say or do. A leader must have the long view and show an instinctive capacity to focus and prioritize.
Nevertheless, Trump’s fearless candor and brash energy feel like a great gust of fresh air, sweeping the tedious clichés and constant guilt-tripping of political correctness out to sea. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose every word and policy statement on the campaign trail are spoon-fed to her by a giant paid staff and army of shadowy advisors, Trump is his own man, with a steely “damn the torpedoes” attitude. He has a swaggering retro machismo that will give hives to the Steinem cabal. He lives large, with the urban flash and bling of a Frank Sinatra. But Trump is a workaholic who doesn’t drink and who has an interesting penchant for sophisticated, strong-willed European women. As for a debasement of the presidency by Trump’s slanging matches about penis size, that sorry process was initiated by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who chatted about his underwear on TV, let Hollywood pals jump up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom, and played lewd cigar games with an intern in the White House offices.
Primary voters nationwide are clearly responding to Trump’s …
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