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Election 2016: Image World (6)

A. D. Coleman as Bernie Sanders, selfie, 3-3-16The Horror! The Horror!

Based on the reports — e.g., “Last night’s debate was a disaster for the Republican brand,” by James Hohmann for the March 4 Washington Post — I stand by my professional decision to avoid all contact with the live broadcasts of the Republic Party debates so far.

By settling for mere morning-after snippets, and exposing myself to few of those, I have avoided having indelibly imprinted on my memory the images and soundbites that even the party’s own hierarchy and rank and file unanimously declare deeply revolting. This, I believe, will enable me to come to the eventual debates between the nominees for both parties with less prejudice toward whoever gets the GOP nod.

No wingnuts logoHowever, as last men standing on the wingnut end of the spectrum, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich remain, out of the original 17. The last (and, arguably, least lunatic) of those three, having won only his home state, will likely pull out soon, bringing it down to Trump and Cruz — or, as I’ve decided to designate them in my own thoughts, Moneybags and Creeping Jesus — at least until the convention, which may, to the delight and entertainment of us all, become contested.

So, with the field finally narrowed, I decided to watch and comment on the Republic Party debate scheduled for March 21. Only to discover that Fox News cancelled it when first Trump and then Kasich declined to participate. Well, I’ll catch the next one — if there is one. If not, and I’m feeling masochistic, I can always go back and watch the blasts from the past.

Bye, Bye, “Big Boy” …

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, RNC Keynote, WHYY Screenshot, 2012-08-30.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, RNC Keynote, WHYY Screenshot, 2012-08-30.

It disappointed me deeply that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for awhile front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, dropped out of the running — nominally due to poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, but really due to the George Washington Bridge shutdown scandal that enveloped his administration and, ultimately, him.

I don’t regret what may prove his last hurrah because I considered this bloated blowhard suited for residency in the Oval Office. To the contrary; as events have shown, he’s unfit for even the governorship of the Garden State. Christie’s history of corruption doesn’t start with the GWB mess; it runs coterminous with his political career. Blood runs cold at the very thought of this porcine, obnoxious bully greeting other heads of state as our chief executive while building himself another goon squad in the White House.

But I thought that what the chattering classes now call “the optics” of the 2016 campaign for the presidency would get spiced up by the visual presence of a grotesquely obese, belligerent, vindictive mix of Tony Soprano, Rocky Balboa, and Richie Incognito ― the Joisey version of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, all bluster and avoirdupois and impulse-control deficiency, Jabba the Hutt’s Mini-Me. [Note, March 22: Ford died at the age of 46, two days after this post appeared.] I relished the image of “Big Boy” (Dubya’s nickname for Christie) waddling up to the podium to debate foreign policy with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Bye, Bye, Ben …

Ben Carson, ABC News, September 2011, screenshot

Ben Carson, ABC News, September 2011, screenshot

Gullible though I consider my fellow citizens to be, I still had confidence that some fundamental sense of pride and fittingness would prevent a majority of them from making Christie the leader of the free world. Oh, well. The Republic Party has a deep bench of clowns and second-raters; they can easily fill Christie’s slot (if not his shoes) with some other embarrassing doofus.

But at least they won’t get to call on Ben “Pyramid Theorist” Carson any more. The gifted pediatric neurosurgeon with the gift for spouting arrant nonsense about everything from homosexuality to grain storage in ancient Europe bowed out on March 4, as Ben Jacobs reports for The Guardian in a story that concludes, “With his candidacy ending, Carson will take a new role as chair of My Faith Votes, a nonpartisan group that will focus on turning out Christians in November.”

True to that cause, soon thereafter he endorsed … that great Christian, Donald Trump. (The Christian whom Trump most resembles, I think, is Terry Southern’s “Magic Christian,” “Grand” Guy Grand, a billionaire who enjoyed spending part of his fortune “making it hot for them.”)

Herman Cain ponders Libya, 11-14-11, screenshot

Herman Cain ponders Libya, 11-14-11, screenshot

With Herman Cain in the last election cycle and Carson in this one, the wingnut forces running the Republic Party have now given us two consecutive African American presidential candidates so clearly uninformed, misinformed, ignorant of history and current affairs, and temperamentally unqualified to occupy the Oval Office that they should embarrass everyone. Under the guise of opening their ranks to people of color, the arch-conservatives in the Tea Party have (even if inadvertently) held these individual but highly symbolic men up to scorn and derision, encouraging them to step onto the national stage when clearly unprepared to do so, and thus to make pathetic fools of themselves.

That’s the worst kind of racist tokenism, because it patronizes and demeans people whom that very system have doomed to failure for their patent ineptitude.

Bye, Bye, Jeb …

Burning Money, Courtesy Creative Commons

Courtesy Creative Commons

I would have considered a third Bush in the White House cruel and unusual punishment by any standard. I don’t think the image of that dynastic succession sat well with a lot of people; he seemed more in need of living down his family connections than able to ride their coattails.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been squandered on the campaigns so far of not just Christie and Carson and Bush but Fiorina, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul, Walker, Perry, Graham, Pataki, and Jindal. As of December 31, 2015, the Republic Party candidates had raised (and mostly spent) a staggering $596.3 million.

When I consider to what good uses that fortune could have been put — whether for “job creation” in the private sector or infrastructure repair in the public sector — the sheer fiscal wastefulness of the Republic Party’s try for the White House horrifies me. These people have money to burn, and burn it they do.

… and Bye, Bye, Marco.

Having previously won just one state, Minnesota, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, “Little Marco,” as Trump sneeringly dubbed him, packed it in when The Donald added injury to insult by sweeping Rubio’s home state of Florida in the March 15 primary. With any luck, this ignominious defeat spells the end of Rubio’s career, but America’s tolerance for likeable losers keeps open the possibility of a comeback.

The Donald by Any Other Name

Drumpfinator logoFor self-protection during the coming months I have downloaded and installed in Firefox, my browser of choice, the Drumpfinator 0.9.3 add-on, created by Jorge Villalobos. Based on the Chrome version created by John Oliver and his accomplices, available at, this extension replaces all instances of “Trump” with “Drumpf,” the original name of the Drumpf family, thus fulfilling Oliver’s February 28 Last Week Tonight call to “Make Donald Drumpf Again!”

It’s sheer genius. It works like a charm. It’s free. You can enable or disable it with a mouse click. Need I say more?

The website Fake Trump Tweet enables you to generate images of tweets that look like The Donald’s, such as this one:

Fake Trump tweet by A. D. Coleman, 3-6-16

Fake Trump tweet by A. D. Coleman, 3-6-16

Devised by Bradley Hayes, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT’s CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab), a Twitter bot — “a Recurrent Neural Network trained on Donald Trump’s speech and debate transcripts” — at @DeepDrumpf generates tweets based on Drumpf’s own oratorical style. According to the Boston Globe, analysis of Trump’s rhetoric using “an algorithm … known as the Flesch-Kincaid readability test” reveals that he speaks at a fourth-grade level. (By way of comparison, Bernie Sanders speaks at a 10th-grade level.)

A. D. Coleman as Donald Trump, selfie, 3-16-16

A. D. Coleman as Donald Trump, selfie, 3-16-16

You can also now make selfies using the free Trump Yourself app, which allows you to place variants of Drumpf’s scalp accessory atop your own cranium. (Se my own effort, left.) Or, if you feel more in DIY mode, you can simply improvise some version of whatever the hell that is on top of The Donald’s head, as exemplified here: “Brits Are Taking The Piss Out Of The Donald With ‘Trump Selfies.'”

While you’re at it, try out the free Bernie Selfie app, which I used to make the selfie accompanying this post’s lead paragraphs. And I predict the imminent arrival of a comparable Hillary app. So, even before the conventions and nominations, this election cycle has stimulated the inventiontion of digital technologies through which — affectionately or sarcastically — anyone with a cellphone can generate images that parody the candidates.

Revenge of the Quail

"Montezuma quail," drawing by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, 1903

“Montezuma quail,” drawing by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, 1903

Good riddance to … the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away unexpectedly during the early hours of February 13 after gunning down some quail and attending a private party for 40 people at a luxury resort in West Texas. (Quail payback’s a bitch.)

Presidio County’s presiding judge pronounced him dead over the phone, without viewing the body or ordering an autopsy (which Scalia’s family declined, according to the director of the funeral home to which his corpse was delivered). This led, inevitably, to the flowering of a wonderful variety of conspiracy theories, surely poetic justice. The fact that said justice of the peace bears the unlikely but resonant name of Cinderella Guevara definitely ices the cake.

Please note that I find reprehensible Steven Petrow’s etiquette reminder, “Now is not the time to publicly flog Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” in the February 15 Washington Post. To the contrary, it’s exactly the time, when even “LGBT leaders such as Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court marriage-equality case Obergefell v. Hodges,” feel obligated to pay their respects to this unregenerate homophobe and enemy of civil liberties. “This is not the time for critics to tar and feather the justice. That day will come soon enough — after his burial and an official period of mourning,” Petrow writes. I choose to get an early start.

One of the most rabid right-wing ideologues to occupy a seat on the nation’s highest court since the early decades of the 20th century, Scalia in his 30 years in that office furthered the agenda of the religious right in any number of opinions. He once opined thus:

“The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible. We have done that in this country (and continental Europe has not) by preserving in our public life many visible reminders that — in the words of a Supreme Court opinion from the 1940s — ‘we are a religious people, whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.'” (Emphasis mine.) — From a speech at the Univ. of Chicago Divinity School, January 2002

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, official portrait

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, official portrait

Scalia’s medieval belief system, in short, posited democracy as little more than a thin veil over the face of true government: theocracy. The opinion he cited in support of this dangerous nonsense, from Justice William O. Douglas in the 1952 case of Zorach v. Clauson, surely qualifies as one of the most poorly reasoned arguments the usually liberal Douglas ever made, unquestionably a sop thrown to the right wing at the height of the McCarthy Era, when Douglas himself was viewed by many as a fellow traveler.

Scalia’s vote helped give the 2000 election to George W. Bush, thus unleashing not only the war in Iraq but eight calendar years of “faith-based” social regression that it will take decades to undo.

Scalia’s staunch opposition to stem-cell research did not rest on science or medicine (“I’m no scientist,” he proclaimed proudly) but on strictly religious premises — the “sanctity” of the life of individual cells. Along with his colleagues on the bench who have blocked such research, aiding and abetting the anti-abortion, “pro-life” forces in the Senate, Congress, and White House, this judge thus condemned millions of people to untold  suffering that such research — one of the most promising lines of inquiry in medicine for decades — might well alleviate.

If there is an afterlife, a heaven and hell, as Scalia believed, and true justice reigns there, then they’re stoking the coals beneath his seat as I write this.

The passing of Scalia has already become a major factor in the presidential campaign, with the Republic Party claiming (falsely) that as outgoing president Obama has no right to nominate Scalia’s successor. They fear, of course, that anyone he appoints will change the balance at SCOTUS from 5-4 in favor of the conservatives to 5-4 in favor of the liberals, and, given Scalia’s extremist tendencies, they’re almost certainly correct. Which explains their pledge to “delay, delay, delay” on anyone Obama chooses for that position.

The problem with this brashly obstructionist strategy rests in the crisis of perception management that it has already begun to create, and the visual imagery that will generate. Because Obama, savvily, has named a highly respected moderate, Merrick B. Garland, to fill Scalia’s seat. Which puts the Republican-controlled Senate, and the Republic Party’s presidential candidate(s), in the position of blocking the appointment of a middle-of-the-road jurist with impeccable credentials whom they have previously vetted and approved — and doing so for clearly partisan purposes, in clear violation of their sworn duty and constitutional obligations, in an election year.

That’s bad for the “optics” — or as we say around these parts, it will generate visual imagery that the radical right will find costly at the polls. The resulting visual images of mostly white men preventing a legitimately elected black president from appointing a highly qualified candidate to the Supreme Court may suit the “base” just fine, but with these and the Flint images all over the media in the final months of the campaign they can pretty much kiss the “minority” vote goodbye. And with the “minority” becoming the majority, they’re kick-starting their exile to the wilderness.

Bathtub with contaminated water, Flint, MI, 2016. Source unknown.

Bathtub with contaminated water, Flint, MI, 2016. Source unknown.

This post supported by a donation from photographer Ken Collins.

A. D. Coleman, Critical Focus, 1995Special offer: If you want me to either continue pursuing a particular subject or give you a break and (for one post) write on a topic — my choice — other than the current main story, make a donation of $50 via the PayPal widget below, indicating your preference in a note accompanying your donation. I’ll credit you as that new post’s sponsor, and link to a website of your choosing. Include  a note with your snail-mail address (or email it to me separately) for a free signed copy of my 1995 book Critical Focus!

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2 comments to Election 2016: Image World (6)

  • Excellent article A.D.! It is scary that so many Americans fall for the rhetoric of Donald Frump.

    Len Rachlin

    • A. D. Coleman

      I like the “Frump.” Works as well as “Drumpf.”

      Yes, the fact that so many of our fellow citizens find him anything but repellent serves as cause for alarm. If he gets the nod, we’ll find out in November just how many of them we need to fear.

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