How do you burst the bubble?
Blindsided by Donald Trump’s surprise election victory in November, liberals and progressives the world over are berating themselves with this question. How did “the smartest people in the room”, as long time Trump friend and advisor Roger Stone smugly observes, fail to see this coming?
Looking for answers, many are turning to the sources themselves: the “alternative” media outlets and political players shunned by the mainstream press in the lead up to the election.
For those with the stomach to read it, Stone’s book outlines some uncomfortable truths.
Stone, the mannequin-like Republican strategist beloved of “alt-right” media outlets like Breitbart, offers one such window onto Trumpland. His book, The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution hails Trump’s victory as a “miracle” for “middle America”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Stone’s vision of this so-called “Silent Majority” jars dramatically with how many Democrats understood the American electorate.
For those with the stomach to read it, Stone’s book outlines some uncomfortable truths. It’s very hard to reject Stone’s assertion that “Hillary Clinton was an unattractive presidential candidate who did little to inspire Democratic voters to go to the polls”. Amongst his conspiracy theories and outright insanity (more on that soon), Stone arguably does a better job than many in explaining Clinton’s humiliating defeat.
Clinton failed to turnout the African American and Latino vote that she needed to win. She failed to appeal to women in sufficient numbers. The email scandal that plagued her entire campaign damaged her credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of voters. She was out of touch with those Americans who hadn’t seen an increase in their earning power in decades. She could point to years of experience in public office but no significant policy achievements. She was running on a platform of continuity when voters were desperate for change. And on, and on.
Stone, like many of his colleagues, embodies a rank hypocrisy that is unsurprising and yet remains terribly shocking.
If the gleeful exposition of Clinton’s failures were all Stone focused on, the book might have been bearable – maddening, but bearable. As we should already have come to expect from the “alt right”, though, there’s much more to it than that.
Stone, like many of his colleagues, embodies a rank hypocrisy that is unsurprising and yet remains terribly shocking. Positioning himself with Trump as an outsider, Stone is nothing of the sort. He is, in fact, an original “ratfucker” – a political aide to none other than Richard Milhous Nixon, for whom his admiration knows no bounds. That’s right – Richard Nixon, consummate political insider, conspirator and liar.
It’s a kind of hypocrisy that must require nothing less than total self-delusion to accommodate. Stone spends thousands of words eviscerating Democrats for allegedly paying operatives to incite violence at Trump rallies. Several chapters later, he gleefully outlines how he organised to pay people to wear Bill Clinton “Rape” shirts at Democratic rallies – with a bonus if they got on television.
Even this, though, is arguably a fairly standard tenet of American politics. Republicans and Democrats are constantly engaged in hypocritical political strategies. It’s the extension of this magical thinking into conspiracy and downright insanity by Stone and his “alt-right” colleagues that is really frightening.
The book is littered with conspiracy theories. Some will be familiar – climate change, is of course, a conspiracy of “creeping socialism”. But there’s more. Ted Cruz is connected to the leftist conspiracy to create a “New World Order” and was positioning himself for a coup. The Mexican judge who was presiding over the Trump University case is connected to an organisation that seeks to reclaim California for the Aztecs. John Brennan, former CIA Director, secretly converted to Islam in the 1990s. Hillary Clinton has brain damage and Parkinson’s disease.
Stone’s fear of anyone different, sometimes naked and sometimes obscured, is constant and deep.
That’s just a short list, and reducing Stone’s writing this way of course highlights the insanity of it all. The genius of the “alt-right” and their “alternative facts”, though, is in how these conspiracies are presented. Stone offers pages and pages of “evidence”; figures, sources, names of organisations and operatives, that are seemingly unconnected but raise questions that must be answered. Suddenly, you find yourself engaging in an actual argument about whether Hillary Clinton is taking rat poison to stop her blood from clotting or whether Huma Abedin is a “Saudi spy or terrorist agent?”
THIS REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED WITH THE SUPPORT OF DAILY REVIEW READERS. FIND OUT MORE HERE
Abedin, given her name and her heritage, is an easy target. Stone’s fear of anyone different, sometimes naked and sometimes obscured, is constant and deep. He and his colleagues who now occupy the White House nurture a visceral hatred of anyone who doesn’t share their vision of America. That’s why Stone can suggest that when you exclude California and New York, which have become so out of touch with the real America as to be completely illegitimate, Trump won the popular vote. The so-called “coastal liberal elite” are nothing less than un-American traitors. The sense that Stone and his friends would welcome, perhaps even encourage, the chance to wage actual violence in a new Civil War against their liberal enemies is not, I think, unreasonable.
The terrifying thing is, these people are now pacing the halls of the most powerful office on Earth.