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Editor’s Letter: Turn Off Trump TV

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It makes sense that former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (ousted over sexual-harassment allegations) and Breitbart’s executive chairman Stephen Bannon are now adviser and chief executive, respectively, for the Donald Trump campaign. Ailes, who the campaign insists has no formal or informal role, turned Fox News into the de facto mouthpiece for the GOP; Breitbart, the site for those who think Fox News is too namby-pamby, was instrumental in the proliferation of birtherism, the rise of Tea Party darling Sarah Palin, and the propagation of the idea that the American straight white Christian man is losing ground to people of color, women, queers, and infidels; and both outlets constantly echo the strains of American nationalism. Ailes and Bannon have been placing political paving stones on the path to the current Trump candidacy for years. Add to that the GOP’s utter failure to embrace Latinos and drop the anti-LGBT rhetoric (despite the post-Romney postmortem), and it’s not hard to see how Trump landed on our national doorstep.

In countless examples, Trump’s absurd laundry list of lies, misfires, and “jokes” are of the same ilk of idiocy that we mock in our ongoing “Blame It on the Queers” section, like the conspiracy peddlers who say that Nazism was a gay creation, or the low-IQ preachers who blame floods and tornadoes on marriage equality and Caitlyn Jenner. Apart from being dead wrong, his statements in well-attended rallies (attendance at which he confuses with broad popular support) are meant to incite. His Second Amendment “solution” for Hillary Clinton, his attacks on Khizr Khan, and his violent reaction to protesters — none of these is meant to inspire anything except rabid, frothing devotion. 

But inspiration and truth were never his purpose. Trump has widened the space in the public sphere for reckless and untrue (though utterly checkable) ideas, and it doesn’t matter how patently fraudulent he is — because his biggest boosters aren’t turned off by a lack of integrity.

The Republican Party has built Trump the world’s largest stage; it knows animus sells (see: Scalia, George W. Bush’s Federal Marriage Amendment, the 2016 GOP platform). And Fox News and Breitbart are genius at offering it up on a platter, all the while repeating Trump’s “we never win anymore” drumbeat, so resonant with his core fan club.

As of press time, the election is 80 days away, and I will be glad to see it in the rearview mirror. The problem is, once the voting and the anointing are behind us, we’ll still have Trump and a defective GOP, and we’ll still have to figure out how to handle the divisiveness, the racism, the sexism, the homophobia, the transphobia, the xenophobia, and the Islamophobia that will remain. Electing Clinton won’t make the lowest-common-denominator outrage machine disappear. In fact, when Trump loses, he’ll be perfectly positioned to launch his own conservative news source: a TrumpPost.com, or a TrumpTV. He’s got the reality-TV chops, the right-wing media talent on his team, and the most odious and successful elements of Breitbart and Fox News as themes in his campaign. (Clearly, building Trump’s audience is the primary purpose of his campaign, far more important to him than winning.) 

I’m preparing for a big presidential win in November, but I understand how it’s easy to get disillusioned by the circus. We must remember that much of the work of mending and improving the nation happens at the congressional, state, and local levels. So I’m urging you to vote, even if you’re turned off by the presidential race. There are senators and representatives and governors and mayors and judges and sheriffs and city councillors and school boards to elect. And our rights and access to them depend on good government at every level. 

We can just turn off TrumpTV. 

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