2016 — February 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Trolling the Pope will probably help Trump


It’s all about boosting the ego of white guys who thought they’d do better with their lives


It’s almost forgotten history that at this point in the 2012 election, Rick Santorum was leading Mitt Romney in the national polls. The former Senator and spokesman for homophobia could have taken the delegate lead by defeating Mitt here in Michigan.

But then — to the relief of the party establishment — Santorum insulted John F. Kennedy, a fellow Catholic who in his 1960 presidential run made a historic assertion of the Separation of Church and State. This was necessary back when America’s fear of papal domination was among our surfaced phobias.

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,” Santorum told George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country … to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

Did it cost him Michigan? Who knows? There’s evidence he lost Michigan’s Catholic vote to a Mormon, which few predicted would happen.

But Santorum was saying a lot of dumb things at the time and though he was inspired speaker on the stump, especially compared to Romney, you usually don’t translate a losing Senate campaign into a presidential nomination.

Meanwhile in 2016, a birther who was humiliated in 2012 is destroying his Republican competition largely by campaigning as a parade float of barely veiled racism and alpha male bluster. It’s the Southern Strategy with a New York affect.

Trump had been trolling the Pope’s visit to the Mexican-American border, which has become the fixation of Trump’s campaign as part of the contradicting fantasies that Mexico is dominating us economically yet Mexicans are still invading us in droves.

On Thursday, the Pope trolled back by suggesting that Trump isn’t Christian if he wants to build a wall on the border.

Trump blasted back with a statement that included some blather about ISIS and being a big strong man who doesn’t wash feet.

This exchange will probably only help Trump in South Carolina, where only 7 percent of the state is Catholic. And at least in the GOP primary, it’s probably a net positive as it draws attention to the big reason his supporters love him — he makes them feel better about being white people who expected to do better with their lives. This kind of trolling fits right in with the dog park domination that they admire in Trump.

We should stop imagining that anything Trump says is about actual policy.

Controlling the border is something most Americans support — and Obama has been far more successful at it than his predecessors, which is why actual unauthorized border crossings are at a generational low.

The wall is a dumb idea because it’s nonsensically expensive, it wouldn’t work and we should spend the tens of billions of dollars we’d waste on it fixing bridges or building bullet trains.

But us fixating on policy while Trump is arguing symbolism that appeals to a promise of domination is how the billion-dollar baby is winning.

We have to understand that what is going on with Trump is pure demagoguery that is testing our democracy’s immune system. And the media isn’t going to save us.

As Slate‘s Isaac Chotiner wrote:

I would have said six months ago, perhaps naïvely, that a blatantly bigoted candidate would face such a sustained media firestorm (especially in liberal precincts) that he would be incapable of getting elected. That’s not yet the case. Indeed, there are no signs that the media’s sick, interminable honeymoon with Trump will come to an end anytime soon. Which means that rather than witnessing the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s time in the political spotlight, we may not even be at the end of the beginning.

Michigan’s GOP turned against Santorum because they knew Santorum wouldn’t win because he’d say endless dumb things that most people don’t agree with. Trump is saying endless dumb things that many, many people do agree with. And he just changes his mind when it’s to advantage in any way.

It’s important to talk about how how dangerous and reckless he is and stress the fact that a man who will turn on anyone — including the Pope — will have no problem turning on you.

[Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]