Trump’s Shooting Gallery Politics
At every carnival I ever attended, there has always been a shooting gallery where for a few bucks you can try to knock over enough targets to win a prize of some kind, a teddy bear or a doll. And this seems to me a pretty good description of
Trump’s politics, shooting gallery politics.
Trump has targets that he aims at, some more often than others. Some of Trump’s targets are immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, Europeans, North Korea, China, proponents of global warming, teachers and other public employees, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, Robert Mueller, all Democrats and some Republicans. And Trump’s ammunition is his tweets, which he fires off at his convenience. Trump practices shooting gallery politics and as might be expected given how often he shoots, he is pretty good at it.
But there are limitations, defects in shooting gallery politics. One defect is that it is impossible to “kill” enough targets to “win,” as is obvious from the global war on terror and its “targeted killings.” No matter how many targets one kills, more targets always appear and the killing must go on. As shooting gallery proprietors know, “the game” is endless. At best, one wins some relatively worthless prize, like a teddy bear or another “tweet battle.”
Another defect in shooting gallery politics is that there is no overarching goal. FDR promised the American people a “New Deal” while LBJ promised them a “Great Society.” As a result of these overarching projects. FDR’s and LBJs actions did not seem random. They were not taking “pot shots” at different and apparently random appearing targets. FDR and LBJ had “enemies,” of course, but it was relatively clear who the enemies were and why they were enemies.
As a result, FDR and LBJ would make speeches about their political projects, speaking in paragraphs in order to persuade, whereas Trump sends out tweets that often take on the characteristics of what are called “tweet storms.” These tweet storms are not intended to persuade but to overwhelm. Trump’s tweets are used as ammunition, much like how many right-wingers use information. There is no attempt to engage, to create the conditions for discourse, but merely to overwhelm with “facts.”
Shooting gallery politics is incompatible with republican or popular politics insofar as republican or popular politics requires public discourse, public debate, and public engagement. By embracing shooting gallery politics, Trump shows he has no interest in public discourse, public debate, or public engagement. He aspires to despotism as he is anything but a republican.