By Ron Mwangaguhunga
Just as newspapers and magazines were disrupted during the Great Recession when ads shifted to digital, so is the Republican Party at present being disrupted by its lewd and swinish front-runner. “We had a low-information elite,” writes Peggy Noonan, no doubt breathlessly, of the Establishment, in the Establishment paper of record Wall Street Journal. Her argument, quite right, is that the elites should have been forewarned
of this moment of American political exigency; they should have had the data on their impending demise.
No one saw Trump coming. If anyone says they did, they lie. In hindsight, however - the rise of Wallace, Pat Buchanan, Perot, Huckabee and Santorum in Iowa caucuses past – populism has been gaining momentum, just under-the-radar, for decades. Trump just came along at the right time in history.
For five decades, this unlikely Republican coalition held together. It was in retrospect a partnership almost entirety of opportunity. Nothing could be more Nixonian than the lusty Banker convincing the pretty waitress at the Club that he will take care of her. Someday, one can almost hear that
negotiation playing out, I will leave my wife and we can be together. But that was never his intention. Now, after years of empty promises and countless soiled hotel room mattresses, long-suffering blue-collar Republicans want more.
Enter: Chris Rock. After years of false promises of things getting better in LaLa Land regarding issues of representation on screen as well as recognition, people of color reached their breaking point with the Academy. Chris Rock got the gig to host the Oscars based on his reputation as a truth teller, the intellectual heir to Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce. Chris was supposed to tell Hollywood, to its face, what it needed to hear. And yet his performance, though it had members of the Establishment in the audience at moments cringing, voiced to the elites not what they needed to
hear, but what they wanted to hear. He was willing to jab at the power in the room, but not do so in a manner that might make for a real turning point on the discussion of race in America. “It’s just, we want opportunity,” said Rock. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it.” Considering the stakes it was more of a low-risk monologue than one that was truly edgy.
Chris Rock’s mild exercise in truth telling served only to the reassure those with power and privilege in the audience. Hollywood liberals went home feeling that they listened, but that was about it. #OscarssoWhite was deflected. The performance was in essence more comedy club roast than the historic television moment that we were led to believe in the preamble leading up to the event. On explaining the subject of racism in Hollywood
and why not a single person of color was nominated this year, Rock proved himself as hard as clay. “It’s a different type of racist,” Rock rolled. “Hollywood is ‘sorority racist.’ It’s like, we like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’” Charmed, I’m sure.
What, one wonders, happened to the razor-sharp Rock of old? That Chris Rock certainly didn’t shy away from drawing blood, from speaking Truth to Power. That Chris Rock would not explain away racial inequality in Hollywood by way of a Greek/non-Greek collegiate analogy. Omar Wasow, in TheRoot.com, got it exactly right: “Rock is like a weak intermediary struggling to navigate between the conflicting demands of an insurgent subordinate group and a recalcitrant dominant group.” Sound familiar?
This brings me to Mitt Romney. In the first week of March, right after the Establishment shellacking of Super Tuesday, a well-rested Romney emerged from, presumably, his golf course pinks-and-greens. It was supposed to be one hell of a presser but of course it was not. The idea of hoisting Mitt “47 percent” Romney as a foil to the semi-savage Don Trump shows just how low-information the Republican Establishment really is. Trump, in due course, ate Mittens up, describing Romney’s losing campaign in lurid detail and, in the process, winning the news cycle.
And so – here we are. We are at present witnessing the Great Republican Crack Up in real time. Although five decades in the making, it was a process accelerated by the loss of retail and manufacturing jobs caused by the Great Recession. Cable news ratings this election season are bound to be “yuge.” But if Trump actually wins the Presidency and not just the nomination of a disrupted party quite possibly in decline, the future of America will be anything but great.
Ron Mwangaguhunga is a Brooklyn based writer on media, culture and politics. His work has appeared within Huffington Post, IFC and Tribeca Film Festival , Kenneth Cole AWEARNESS, NY Magazine, Paper Magazine, CBS News.com and National Review online to name a few. He is currently the editor of the Corsair.