Imagine that you’re at a bar with a guy and he’s railing about blacks and Mexicans and Jews. He’s just going off, and with each drink, he gets more and more unhinged about them, more conspiratorial, until toward the end he’s a sweaty mess and raving about how they are all out to get him and ruin his life, because they are evil and awful people, barely even people.
Then, about a week later, you see him. He mentions that he had a job interview, and it turned out that the people in charge were black, so he didn’t say anything racist for a few hours. Would you think, well, this fellow certainly has turned a new leaf! Because raw self-interests forced him to tamp down his essential terribleness for a spell, he clearly isn’t a terrible racist anymore!
Of course you wouldn’t. So hey, media: don’t pretend Trump’s sudden incoherence on immigration, and his faltering, obviously-insincere attempts at softening his hardline stance are anything but a transparent attempt to erase the last 14 months (and really, 5 years). You know it is a cynical ruse when he actually uses the word “softening”, which is remarkably insincere. It’s like saying “we’re about to start pandering, believe me.”
Everyone “pivots”; we know this. It’s part of politics. But running on naked racism and white nationalism for over a year, then pretending you didn’t mean that, isn’t a pivot. It’s a way to hide the essential nature of your campaign to fool people who are just now paying attention. This isn’t something he should be able to get away with. The stakes are too high.
So I really, really, don’t want to see serious discussions on “did Trump manage to massage his message enough to appeal to his base without alienating more people?” He’s still the know-nothing fascist dimwit he’s always been, now he’s just pretending to be a real candidate for five or ten minutes. He’s clearly not. It’s part of the cynicism of GOP leaders— just pretend that you won’t be an epochal and country-wrecking disaster of a President for 3 months, ok?”– and it is incumbent upon the media not to let them get away with it. This isn’t Romney pivoting away from the far right. It’s George Wallace putting on Groucho glasses and pretending to be someone else. It’s a gaboon viper telling you he’s a caterpillar. It really can’t be allowed to work.