Bombast in an age of resentment.

The word bombast — now used for inflated rhetoric — once defined cotton padding sewn or inserted into clothing to make the wearer’s size look more impressive. King Henry VIII of England was a fan, and so were those who wanted to boost their image and could afford to. To my mind, Trump is the poster boy for bombast. Everything about him invites caricature, be it his orange tan, his girth, his improbable combover. He struts onto the stage with exaggerated confidence, he talks about policy proposals that make absolutely no sense with the certitude of God’s anointed.

Ridiculous, right?

And yet, to millions of followers, Trump is the road out of the purgatory the Obama presidency has led us into. Never mind that Obama rescued us from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, passed the ACA (Obamacare) in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the US automobile industry, lightened student loan debts, and improved our image with our European allies, among other achievements. He could not fulfill all the promises of his campaign, but his presidency has been a net positive and is seen as such by most rational Americans. And yet, it is perceived as an unmitigated disaster by the Republican rank-and-file.

It would be easy to blame it all on the racist impulse to reject our first biracial president. It is certainly part of the equation, but it goes deeper. Most Republicans, like Democrats in general and maybe Bernie supporters in particular, have seen newly created wealth float effortlessly to the top income brackets. The decline in the standard of living for the majority of the population is made all the more galling by the endless parade of reality stars, sports stars and the like on display on TV and in supermarket magazines.

The resentment created by the income gap and “inherited poverty”, both rural and in the inner cities, did not go unnoticed by the political parties. It gave birth to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy — in my view a positive campaign meant to address real problems and create real solutions. Unfortunately, it was also exploited by the Republican party in wholly negative ways. To most Republicans, government is still the beast to be starved — and they have been pretty successful in blocking appointments and restricting budgets, except of course for the military…. Yet, the government they see as impotent and feckless can, on a dime, turn into the tyrant preventing them from realizing the American dream. It is an amazing feat of political legerdemain. Instead of having your average Republican Joe look at mechanization, globalization, trade agreements, the cost of our endless war in the Middle East, Wall Street malfeasance and other complicated concepts, the Republican policy crafters have dumbed down the discourse and offered “not quite like us” Obama as the sacrificial lamb. Hillary Clinton, having served under Obama, is automatically stained as well.

Enter Trump. He offers simplification and invites both identification and adulation. His vocabulary, which does not seem to have evolved since his kindergarten years, matches the behavior of a middle  school bully. His opponents on both sides of the aisle are “weak”, they are “losers”. He himself, by contrast, is the King of the Deal, he promises we will all be “winners”, we will get tired of winning so much and so often. He offers no details, his rallies consist mostly of denigrating his opponents and spewing self-aggrandizing rhetoric.

The Republican party establishment is now aghast and trying to block the Donald’s nomination. It may be too late. They have only themselves to blame. From the beginning of Obama’s presidency they have practiced obstructionism and fueled popular resentment. They have created the Trump candidacy. He is Henry VIII, bombast and all. Henry was fairly successful and popular at the beginning of his reign. At the end of it, though, the prince who jousted, wrote music and poetry, had turned into a bloated monster who executed his opponents, feuded with European countries and left the State coffers empty. We are not, however, 16th century England. We can, and must, fight back. We cannot afford to stay at home if our party nominates our second choice. I prefer Bernie, but I will vote for Hillary if she is the nominee. In November, we must show up.

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