Donald Trump and the stunts that expose the GOP

In a curious way, this little Dada stunt was revealing in exactly the way that the Dada stunts Donald Trump pulls off day after day are: designed to shock and compel attention, they end, as such stunts should, by throwing light on the hypocrisies of the establishment in power. What Trump oddly does is X-ray the Republican id, pure and raw, without the quavers that they have learned to execute in order to get down the street without being stopped. Being a Republican candidate is like being a professional wrestler. You’re supposed to be maximally crazy, but you’re supposed to pretend to pay attention to the referee who is, sort of, there to enforce fair play. You’re supposed to hit your opponent over the head with a chair, but you’re supposed to pretend to hide the chair you are about to hit him with from the view of the referee. Trump is willing to be maximally crazy, when it comes to the more extreme positions of the G.O.P., but he can’t remember, or perhaps never learned, the minimally sane-sounding speech acts that the referees want you first to attach to the craziness.

The actual position of the Republican Party since the Bush Administration, for example, has been to violate Reagan-era treaties, reject the Geneva Conventions, and torture people—but you’re not supposed to say you favor torturing people. You’re supposed to say that you are opposed to torture, but what you’re in favor of isn’t really torture and anyway you would only do it when you had to and anyway they tortured us first. (Terrorism equals torture, so they started it.) To actually state the position plainly—that you would order soldiers to commit war crimes and fire them if they didn’t—is like showing the referee the chair and then hitting someone with it. It’s the same act but the wrong decorum. And so being in favor of open carry and the Second Amendment guarantee to unlimited private gun-flaunting is fine—but actually encouraging people to bring guns to Cleveland? Not so much.