Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why the Salacious Parts Matter

So, clearly the Steele memos contain a a lot more than just the salacious parts.  In fact, it is almost enough to cry out for an arson, murder and jaywalking joke.  As in, the Steele Dossier accuses Trump of being a Russian intelligence asset since 2008, receiving regular information on his opponents from Russian hacks, coordinating political strategy of the leaks with the Russians, paying their hackers, accepting a massive bribe (19% interest in their largest oil company) to lift sanctions, condoning Russian aggression and calling into question our commitment to allies in exchange for illegally hacked information on opponents, and peeing on the bed.

I'm pretty sure that last is the only one that does not count as a high crime or misdemeanor, yet it is the one he is purportedly being blackmailed for.  Aren't the others more than ample grounds for blackmail?

At the same time the salacious parts of the file, although among the least serious of the allegations, have a real impact in a different sort of way.  They expose Trump to mockery and ridicule.  Trump famously joked/bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose support, and there may be something to it.  He would blithely deny having done so in the face of all evidence to the contrary.  Some of his hardcore supporters would believe him.  Some would applaud him for really showing those Manhattan elitists what we think of them in the Real America.  And some would have misgivings, but when the liberals responded with outrage, they would conclude that anything that pissed off liberals so much must be good.  And that has ultimately been the source of Trump's appeal to his hardcore supporters. He is mad at all the same people they are.  He has all the right enemies.  He isn't politically correct.  He relishes giving offense to all the right people.  And  he drives liberals to all those expressions of righteous indignation that Trump supporters find so offensive.

Thus anything that provokes righteous indignation on the part of liberals is seen as good, even if Trump supporters wouldn't normally approve of it.  Egregious corruption, stirring up racism, stiffing contractors, ripping off investors, tax evasion, routine sexual assault, bragging that he could literally get away with murder, being a Russian spy -- all those things provoke righteous indignation in liberals because liberals see them as evil.  Of course, Trump supporters saw those things as evil too, at least until Trump did them.  Then, seeing how offended liberals got about them, Trump supporters decided that any evil in these things was outweighed by the offense they gave to liberals.

But hiring Russian prostitutes to whizz on Obama's bed is something that strikes liberals as not so much evil as merely gross.  And, as Jonathan Haidt et al have commented, liberals are less likely than conservatives to equate disgusting with immoral.   Instead of righteous indignation, liberals have responded with a veritable storm of pee jokes.  Like, "Donald Trump, the peeple's President." Or "He must be pissed!" and "I can't wait to see what he tweets in the wee hours."  Or my own favorite, "It's all a big mistake.  What he asked for a golden shower, he thought he was talking to his plumbing contractor."  And it turns out that the number of double entendres you can get out of this is extraordinary, much better than the small hands jokes.  Nor is this like the snobbish sort of ridicule over Trump's ignorance or bad taste that so outraged his supporters because they suspected (with some justification) that it was aimed at them.  Trump's supporters may not know any more about public policy than he does, and they may admire his vulgar display and wish they could afford it, but I am guessing that most Trump supporters don't fantasize about hiring Russian prostitutes to whizz on Obama's bed -- or if they do they certainly wouldn't admit it in public.

So, could anything hurt Trump's standing in the eyes of his supporters?  I have said, only half-jokingly, that the only thing I could think of that would hurt him would be to be caught strangling kittens.  But doing something that makes him look ridiculous, or weak, or disgusting, just might do the trick.

Now all we need are more fear of stairs jokes.

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