smells like trump spirit

It is said that the success of Smells Like Team Spirit stole Kurt Cobain’s soul. Nirvana’s platinum-plated, angst saturated teen anthem is an eerie allegory for the Trumpian appeal to the testosterone fueled rage of the disenfranchised. My own fear is that Trump Spirit, even if less successful, will consume America’s soul in the decades that follow November 2016.

The hyperbolic headlines denouncing Trump for his role in the thus far muted violence surrounding his campaign rallies continue to miss the real story. Trump, apparently, is a Hitler or perhaps a Mussolini. Honestly all you hyperventilating media wags, he lacks the intelligence to aspire to such infamy. Heck, he isn’t even a David Duke, much less a an heir to 20th century fascism.

Trump is merely a symptom of a larger problem.

Honestly, I’m getting a bit tired of hearing, thinking and writing about Trump. Yet, like you, I am transfixed by the spectacle as I endeavor to explain this putative apocalypse to myself. It is especially hard wrapping one’s mind around a misogynistic, bigoted megalomaniac having an excellent chance of being the next POTUS.

But a good look at Bernie Sanders helps.

I’m far from alone when I suggest that Making America Great Again and Feeling The Bern are tapping the same well of pent up anger. Decades of low voter turn-out have mostly incorrectly imputed apathy to the disenfranchised. The “politically savvy” crowd, those reliable Red and Blue jersey voters, are perplexed by those who are undecided between Sanders and Trump. But it isn’t complicated: they are sick of the partisan machinery.

There are more of us disenfranchised than you think.

It has been over two years since Nick Hanauer issued his famous pitchfork warning on the TED stage. While he was certainly not the first to call attention to the growing unrest engendered by the profound income inequality growth of recent decades, he was one of the most engaging. His talk is worth your time if you have not seen it. Sanders too speaks about this passionately, but in his inimitable way, so does Trump. Sanders harangues us in direct terms, but even when he regales us on social justice, it is still all about the wealth gap: in 21st Century America, money is a proxy for pretty much everything.

The Trumpian appeal is usually much less overt. His campaign slogan implicitly asks the question: America isn’t very great for you, is it? We’ll build a big beautiful wall. Like Sanders, Trump too is in the political blame game stoking resentment against outsiders rather than billionaires. And of course everyone hates politicians.

Am I the only one who hears Cobain’s angry voice echoing in the background here?

I feel stupid and contagious,
Here we are now; entertain us…

The trend of substituting form for substance is a powerful one. Eleven years ago, I wrote about the post-modern trend in Presidential politics:

As reprehensible as all of this hypocrisy may be, the greater concern must still be the trend. The stage has been set where propaganda will likely get the seal of approval by the American people. If this administration and the one before it has taught us nothing else, we know that Presidents learn from the political successes of their predecessors. And if, as is likely, the propaganda thing gets added to the essential toolkit of the executive branch, the next administration will be unconstrained in ways we have scarcely imagined as possible in America.

While I share the fear of what the next four years will bring, that which truly terrifies is that which comes next.

Here we are at next.

Yesterday, Charles Krauthammer echoed my own fears that perhaps the pitchforks are coming, pointing out that the history of political thuggery is owned as much by the extreme left as it is the right. And when you plug in the Sander’s talk of revolution, this is getting downright creepy.

I myself am getting bit angry too. The anger is because I have so often had ugly names cast my way for pointing these things out. Calling into question the artificial two party political axis our politicians and media thrive upon is considered an apostasy of the highest order apparently, while calling for revolution or riot under the auspices of being a major party candidate—that’s OK with many partisans as long as it is their team. While I do not view widespread political violence as likely, as long as politicians like Trump throw around intemperate words skirting the edges of inciting violence, I can no longer rule it out. Cleveland 2016 may be more like 1968 Chicago than we care to imagine.

America’s angst is real. Partisan politics and the devolution in media from real content to plastic forms conspire against us. Our challenge is to collect our wits and rediscover who we are in America’s third century. The question is whether we will answer that calling or allow the political class to carry us into the abyss.

Much as Teen Spirit spoke to angst of that generation, this new spirit speaks to the angst of the disenfranchised. Three years after Nirvana’s anthem was a runaway success, Cobain, tormented by the challenges of success and heroine committed suicide. It is my hope and prayer that America’s addiction to sound bites does not lead it to a similar self-inflicted end.

After all, stupid IS contagious.


26 thoughts on “smells like trump spirit”

  1. The most surprising thing of this particular post is that I have received ZERO comments on the picture. I really thougt that would get some comment. Perhaps the ghost of Cobain scared every one away from the topic. 😀


  2. Question: Isn’t Trump an argument in favor of the “Elite Establishment”. I really can’t imagine a worse year to be making the case you need to get rid of whatever the “establishment” is.


    1. Well, the word “establishment” is tricky, isn’t it?

      Historically, there are many elites that have led the charge into social progress. It takes a certain amount of financial security to enable the risk taking, right? Think JFK, LBJ and the civil rights campaign of the 60’s. TR and FDR in an earlier age…


      1. The 1% get everything else… might as well believe accumulation of $ is the prerequisite to being president. After all… government is the same as running a business.

        [Real Deal… that was sarcasism]

        fyi… I just thought you were a perv with the naked baby pic

        [Real Deal … last stmt not sarcastic]


  3. I don’t like always being the fuddy-duddy complainer, but if this is an example of WordPress finest, I would rather have the ugly of blogspot than the pretty of extremely limited coherent flow of dialog. We could all go over to my blog – Guns & Bacon – and have a great ole time. 😉


    1. “extremely limited coherent flow of dialog”

      We are going to have that problem regardless. 🙂

      btw Prof… at a later date I might give you a chance to add “coherence” to my latest tax scheme idea. It will be a surprising tax plan for a liberal. I call it “Watering the Saplings”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My, I hate the WordPress comment facility. I gotta investigate that.

    Well OF, I haven’t ventured as far down the Liberal path as you might suggest. My problem with your laundry list is that it that you are mixing sound-bites with substantive things. A rising tide does, in fact, lift all boats and it has made our poor some of the richest poor in the world.

    This is the problem when we cast everything as Democrat or Republican: we only talk about the extreme positions. Honestly, I do think most Democrats never met a government program they didn’t like. Democrats don’t like to talk about the fact that government does screw things up more often than it gets it right. You can dismiss that, as I’m sure you will, but it is a valid point and it is why in spite of all the populist spirit that has been in play over the last century or so, the conservative message still gets so much traction.

    Most people get that government isn’t the first choice in solving every problem-Democrats don’t.

    And apparently one Democrat, at least, has a blind spot when it comes to the role their party has played in the devolution of the American political game.


    1. March Madness – Good ….. Curmudgeon False Equivalency Madness – BAD

      “Most people get that government isn’t the first choice in solving every problem-Democrats don’t.”

      No, this is just something the “government is evil” crowd says. Unlike the conservatives, we view the size of government as a result, not a parameter. The Dems just try and make rational choices about what should be in government, and then that determines the size of government (as Obama has said responding to the BIG vs Small government… The Right Size Government). You don’t have the Dems, even Bernie, saying we want a GIANT government… just doesn’t happen. With the GOP, the size of government is the endpoint, the parameter. It’s a religious conviction that government is evil, taking away their rights, get rid of the evil IRS,… I mean seriously, you really want to play the “false equivalency” game. You have one party, which could very well lean towards too much government, competing with a “NO GOVERNMENT” party. I wish it was a “some government” party, then at least you could have a rational debate.

      I read the following quote from Mario Cuomo’s book “Why Lincoln Matters” years ago. It still is the best way to frame the way I look at government:

      “We should have only the government we need, but we should also have all the government we need if the market won’t provide it.”

      Here is a newsflash… if the Paul Ryan Ayn Rand stuff worked… there would not be anyone other than conservatives. The free market HAS ALWAYS had first crack at providing needs of our citizens. Always. We got Social Security, Medicare, Affordable Care Act… because the ‘for profit free market” wasn’t covering it (not good enough, and not for everyone).

      So your other point of “government doesn’t do stuff very good” is one of those… SO WHAT. If it’s your only choice because the free market is never going to cover it, then government it is. Seems like one would spend their blog 🙂 energy on making the government better for those required services, than lumping it into the “government is evil” bucket. Here is another thing that would help… quit sending Republicans to DC to run government that hate government. Really unlikely to be good at anything you hate. I promise I could put Curm and his software team in a government office, and they would develop the same quality software. It’s a myth that government can’t be good at doing things. (I have been at plenty of private business that were not very good… just sayin).

      I think my laundry list spoke for itself. Really… you really want to go to “our poor are better off”. That is the kind of endpoint that is good enough for conservatives… some of us will demand more. If we are a rich country, then those “better off poor” really should not be going to the ER for healthcare.

      Maybe I’m the only one, but I see a troubled US in 2016… which has nothing to do with TOO BIG a government, and very likely everything to do with TOO LITTLE a government. I’m not saying we will be smart enough with “Robust” government at this stage, might be way too late. I am saying Paul Ryan Ayn Rand solutions will end in a really bad place. That’s why I found it so sad how many in our nation are still against something as obvious and universal healthcare. It will take a very long time (generations maybe) to deal with wealth distribution issues… the least we could is shelter the lower end with basic common good… health care, etc.

      But hey… government is bad… I will be watching for those for profit private sector “non-government” solutions.


    2. “This is the problem when we cast everything as Democrat or Republican: we only talk about the extreme positions.”

      Nonsense. Other than the last 4 items starting with “property tax funded schools” , that is core GOP talking points. I know because I listed those in 2 minutes from memory, did not have to look up any of them. Speaks for itself. You heard the 17 GOP candidates regugitate most of them during this election. Yes, they are extreme positions, but not an Extreme GOP position… core mainstream GOP belief.

      One Party Problem!!! It would be hard enough for the one party with ideas (Dems) to produce quality government if the Reps just went over and stood in the corner. But no… just not helping isn’t enough… they block and interfere.

      Here is when you know the one party problem ( specifically conservatism as it is today ) has been retired. Government will look like “the 4 of us in the past” developing software. No place for thin skin, challenging each other’s ideas (yeah, trashing) , and then begrudginly saying “ok, you nailed it”. Then we would all move to the best idea and all iteratively improve it. Get that in our government, and we have a chance to address the rapid change that is coming.

      If one of those 4 only idea was we “shouldn’t develop and improve the system”, that person would be a hindrance … right up until they were fired.


    3. Borrowing from the great Bill Maher:

      OF New Rules:

      – anyone for limited government can not complain about their government

      – anyone against the EPA and for government being run like a business can not complain when their govenor poisons their tap water

      – anyone who is for the $million dollar high school football stadium can not complain about their little Johny’s education

      – anyone against a minimum wage can not complain when the McDonalds worker spits their own special sauce in your Big Mac

      – If your political party has prevented adequate tax revenue collection since Reagan, you can not complain about the national debt

      – if your only answer to Obama for 7 years was “No”, you can not complain about Trump

      – if you have ignored the Baltimore’s you can not complain when someone desperate visits you in the middle of the night

      – if you have been against volunteer wealth distribution you can not complain when we reach violent wealth distribution

      – if you are a climate change denier you can not complain when your country makes your new address Miami-Dade county.

      – if you are a Trump supporter you can not complain when his wall is used to keep Americans from leaving the country


    1. Love Monty Python.

      I think Hartmancpa has a point though… old friend, you throw out a lot of general stuff. How do you measure whether you have been successful or not? Seems like a weakness of social programs in general. For example, it is fine to say that minimum wage isn’t a problem, but how do you know what the right level is? Seems impossible to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ” For example, it is fine to say that minimum wage isn’t a problem, but how do you know what the right level is?”

        Short version: None of us know a damn thing here… we are bloggers. 🙂

        But I will answer anyway. 🙂

        If you are going to hold a liberal responsible for knowing if $15 an hour minimum wage is the “right” level, then you need to hold a Republican responsible for always saying we need to lower the tax rate… regardless of what the current rate is.

        Here is a thought experiment you can use on a Republican… and using the word “thought” with a Republican is generous. (I kid)

        Q: So you think we should lower the tax rates from where they are now?
        R: Yes, of course, it will generate growth, and with dynamic scoring, will make up for any loss revenue

        Q: If lower tax rates are good, is a tax rate of ZERO the best?
        R: Of course not, that is silly

        Q: So you know these two things:
        1) a tax lower than what we currently have is a good thing
        2) need to tax more than $ZERO

        Q: So, what is the “right, perfect, sweet spot” tax? You must know, because you know the tax should be lower than it currently is, and you know 0 taxes is too little, so you must know where the exact “right” tax is?


  5. Prof,

    “Give me a word and/or numeric definition of what you desire to be good equality”

    No way… not going into gorge


      1. Old Friend is not on trial, conservatism is? The verdict is in:



        Equality -> Fair -> Robust expanded equal common good 🙂


      2. Old Friend: “Equality -> Fair -> Robust expanded equal common good ”

        And yet, still undefined. You could have added ‘good’, ‘preferred’, or ‘just’ as well, All of those are opinions of approval, not quantitative measurable attributes.

        I bet, were you to define it, that I would not agree with your definition as equality, fair, etc. You are wise to stay away from the gorge that will expose error.

        “What is your quest? What is you favorite color?”


  6. Well, you finally got the “inequality is the problem” part right. It only took 20-30 years. I guess in another 20, you will get that the Dems come to work every single frickin day to talk about “inequality”. From the conservatives, since Reagan, including Curm at one time, you get:

    1) our poor are richer than other nation’s poor
    2) rising tide lifts all boats
    3) can’t make the smaller trees in the forest taller by chopping off the tall trees
    4) lower taxes on the rich pay for themselves
    5) you will just make everyone equally poor
    6) everyone deserves on equal chance, not equal outcomes
    7) minimum wage will kill jobs
    8) health insurance isn’t a right…. work 3 jobs if you have to.
    9) Nanny state is for pussies… neighbors should help each other (still want to see that one flushed out)
    10) privatize social security
    11) get rid of the EPA …. see Flint Michigan for some TRUE INEQUALITY
    12) government should be run like a business… again, see Flint Michigan.

    Both parties are at fault is the same as saying the wife was just as guilty in her beating from her husband.

    Your brain is like genius grey matter with pockets of disease. 🙂


    1. Conservative playlist Continued:

      – personal responsibility ( really mean self-reliant )
      – wealth distribution is spending others $
      – no free lunch
      – flat tax
      – abolish IRS
      – poor people go to ER for healthcare
      – can fix health costs by shopping across state lines
      – volunteer charity only … from Churches (Prof)
      – property tax funded schools… nice neighborhood = good school
      – say education critical but pay teachers little and build $million football stadiums
      – college coaches paid $millions… college profs… not

      Inequality is part of conservatism design and expectations, not a problem. It is a rare moment if you hear a GOP presidential candidate say “inequality”. They say they will solve the problems of the poor by creating better jobs… in the meantime just suck it up and go to the ER.

      I understand the guilt of previous support for conservatism. It took the Bush administration lowering taxes of the wealthy while 1% of our population was dying in Iraq for the rest of us before it hit me… I don’t believe in much the conservatives are selling.

      Conservatism as we have known it has to die. Rubio says this means “we won’t be the country we have been”. Exactly… we will become more fair.

      The ONLY thing Trump and Bernie have in common is the disminishment of conservatism. Bernie is a wonderful human… Trump is not.


      1. So Common, when you seek equality since inequality is apparently the devil, define equality. Give me a word and/or numeric definition of what you desire to be good equality, so that I can view a situation and know if it is violation of Common’s view of equality.


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