The political and media establishments in the U.S. -- which have jointly wrought so much destruction, decay, and decadence -- recently decided to unite against Donald Trump. Their central claim is that the real estate mogul and long-time NBC reality TV star advocates morally reprehensible positions that are far outside the bounds of decency; relatedly, they argue, he is so personally repellent that his empowerment would degrade both the country and the presidency.
In some instances, their claim is plausible: there is at least genuine embarrassment if not revulsion even among America's political class over Trump's proposed mass deportation of 11 million human beings, banning of all Muslims from entering the country, and new laws to enable him to more easily sue (and thus destroy) media outlets which "falsely" criticize him. And his signature personality brew of deep-seated insecurities, vindictive narcissism, channeling of the darkest impulses, and gaudy, petty boasting is indeed uniquely grotesque.
But in many cases, probably most, the flamboyant denunciations of Trump by establishment figures make no sense except as self-aggrandizing pretense, because those condemning him have long tolerated if not outright advocated very similar ideas, albeit with less rhetorical candor. Trump is self-evidently a toxic authoritarian demagogue advocating morally monstrous positions, but in most cases where elite outrage is being vented, he is merely a natural extension of the mainstream rhetorical and policy framework that has been laid, not some radical departure from it. He's their id. What establishment mavens most resent is not what Trump is, does, or says, but what he reflects: the unmistakable, undeniable signs of late-stage imperial collapse, along with the resentments and hatreds they have long deliberately and self-servingly stoked but which are now raging out of their control.
Two of the most recent, widely discussed anti-Trump outrage rituals -- one from Wednesday and the other from last night's Fox News debate -- demonstrate the sham at the heart of the establishment display of horror. This week, American political and media figures from across the spectrum stood and applauded a tawdry cast of neocons and other assorted war-mongers who are responsible for grave war crimes, torture, kidnappings, due-process-free indefinite imprisonment, and the worst political crime of this generation: the attack on and destruction of Iraq.