By Bob Gaydos
“Was the clown armed?
The simple question, which raised a host of other questions, rang as pure and clear as a bell in the otherwise silent newsroom.
It may be the most work-stopping question I’ve ever heard in a half-century of over-hearing reporters’ telephone interviews in newsrooms. And it was asked as matter-of-factly as if the reporter had said, “How do you spell that?”
Did she just say what I thought she said?
Indeed she did.
Clowns, reports of clowns, real clowns, imaginary clowns, old clowns, young clowns, scary clowns, armed clowns had been terrorizing upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and who-knows-where-else for days, the outbreak being spread via social media, which at once made it seem larger and scarier than it actually was. Not that it was a laughing matter.
That’s why the reporter was asking the police whether a clown reportedly seen in a local school was armed. It wasn’t. No one’s even sure there was a clown. Which is good. But some people are frightened of clowns and some clown is likely to dress up as a clown and carry a fake gun and wind up being shot buy a real cop with a real gun. That’s scary.
So what does this have to do with politics?
Everything. In my opinion, the eruption of scary clowns across America this fall is the inevitable culmination of a horrifying presidential campaign that began with the Republican Party’s infamous clown car of candidates and has devolved into a daily episode of a self-aggrandizing TV showman with bright, orange hair saying scary stuff about what he will do if he is elected president of the United States.
This is not the silent Clarabell on Howdy Doody. This is Donald Trump, in person and on tape everywhere he goes, telling us just how frighteningly ill-suited and unprepared he is for the presidency and, more importantly, how hypocritical, cowardly, and self-serving are the people largely responsible for him being the Republican Party’s candidate for president. That would be all — and I mean all — the elected Republican officials in America who, over the past several decades, have courted, coddled, tolerated, and ultimately ignored a constituency consisting of mostly white persons, angry at what they perceive as being shoved aside and forgotten while persons of other colors, creeds, religions, nationalities, sexual preferences, politics — you name it — got ahead of them in line.
Their fears were realized when the nation elected its first black president. Apparently, the only way Republicans in Congress could think of to serve their constituency was to reject every proposal Barack Obama put forth. For eight years. Yet he is a man of such intelligence and grace that he managed to improve the lot of virtually every American in some way in his two terms in office, notably rescuing the nation from the economic morass in which his predecessor left it.
The response of elected Republican officials — from Congress to state houses to local city halls — to Obama’s success was to deny it. To lie about it. To shut down the government. To say global warming is a myth. To deny and to lie, but never to once offer any proposal to better the lives of their constituents, which, of course, would have required working with their black president.
And so when all those would-be presidents showed up months ago on the same stage with Donald Trump, the TV guy with his name on everything, they had nothing to show for the last eight years except to say they would be different than Obama. And maybe hint that they weren’t so fond of gays. Or abortion.
Trump didn’t hint. He knew who was living in the Republican basement all these years. They watched his TV shows. They could eat tacos and hate Mexicans. Muslims? An easy target. And blacks, of course. Demonize and victimize them at the same time. But why stop there? People with physical disabilities were to be mocked for their ability to abuse the system. Women? In the kitchen, in the bedroom, slim and silent. Just tell them you’ll be great for women. You love women. All women. Every man’s woman. Your daughter even.
They bought it. In truth, the GOP offered nothing else to buy except stale bread and promises that couldn’t be kept. So the angry constituency voted for Trump and he got more votes than the rest of the clowns in the car. And he kept saying more outrageous and actually stupid things and those elected Republican officials all said, “Well, that’s just Donald. It’s a show. He’ll change when he’s actually running for president.”
Well, Donald being Donald, he actually got worse, emboldened by his success and support from the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, anti-Semitic groups, crowds of angry white men and silent Republican officials.
His lies and offensive remarks were dismissed by Republican officials as they criticized him, but continued to support him as their party’s nominee. His utter lack of experience and knowledge of what it takes to be president was also ignored. He’ll put smart people around him, the elected officials said of the man who lives in bankruptcy court and lost a billion dollars in one year on a casino (which is rigged to make a profit), then bragged about not paying taxes because he’s so “smart.”
A billionaire not paying taxes! That’s “smart” to Republicans because after all, we can finance the government on … well, on the backs of all those middle-class Republican voters in the basement, not that we’ll tell them that. If they ever figure it out, we’re in trouble.
And so it went, until a few days ago when a TV show released a tape of Trump being Trump, talking in lewd terms about making unwanted sexual advances on women he finds attractive. The kind that a prosecutor would define as assault. Suddenly, dozens of elected Republican officials — virtually all male and white, of course — had had enough. How dare he talk that way about women!? Why, we have wives, daughters, mothers, sisters! Yes, and they all gave their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers a piece of their mind about that clown running for president as a Republican (which he really isn’t).
Suddenly, the officials were called upon to do something they hadn’t had to do for some time as Republicans — make an individual moral judgment. (C’mon, McCain, say something!) If they had responded to the wishes of the Trump base of support, they would have just tsk-tsked him again. Almost as if he didn’t say what they just heard him say. His supporters, as usual, excused him because they still blame Mexicans, blacks and Muslims for their problems. And the Trump women? I haven’t figured that out.
Nonetheless, if sex is the tipping point for Republicans — not surprising, actually — then perhaps it will remind elected officials that they have a sworn duty to all the people they serve, to the greater good, and not just to to the bigots in the basement because they happened to vote for them.
In fact, If Republicans want some historic perspective on this matter, Edmund Burke, often referred to as the “Father of Conservatism,” gave a famous speech in 1774 in the British House of Commons, in which he acknowledged the duty of an elected representative to his constituents: “It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own. But his unbased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. … Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Paste that on the Big Orange Elephant in the middle of the room.
The betrayal Burke spoke of arises out of self-serving fear. “If I don’t deny global warming, the thinking goes, they won’t vote for me. If I support gay marriage, they won’t vote for me. If I respect all religions, they won’t vote for me. If I welcome immigrants, they won’t vote for me. If I reject Trump, they won’t vote for me. But I think global warming is a real threat. I think gays deserve the same rights as straights. I respect the First Amendment on religion. I believe immigrants built America. And I think Trump is a narcissistic, scary clown. What do I do?”
Donald the Groper just did them a favor.