Politics in this country is not much different than cramming a handful of potato chips in your mouth. You know it’s not good for you, but it’s so enjoyable.
There’s a reason for it. Potato chips are engineered to be a crap-ton tastier than “real” food.
That’s the premise behind the book The Dorito Effect, by Mark Schatzker. Schatzker argues that as we have become accustomed to the highly engineered flavors of processed foods, healthy foods have become more bland. Ergo, we choose junk food over the foods that are good for us, which makes us grow outwards.
American politics work the same way. Look no further than Donald Trump, who is currently the GOP frontrunner. Not only is his hair Dorito-orange, but he delivers about the same amount of nutritional value to the political conversation. In other words, he’s political junk food — all taste and no substance.
Political junk food has been creeping into our nation’s public debate for years. A.M. talk radio is an on-air truck stop of political junk food. Is President Obama a Muslim? Yes! Is the U.S. government tyrannical? Hell yes! Are they coming for our guns? Oh my God yes!
Of course, all of that is absurd, but it doesn’t matter. Substance isn’t what’s important here. It’s all taste.
Sadly, Americans crave taste over substance. That’s why the more offensive, vitriolic and bombastic Trump behaves, the more his numbers climb.
That fact isn’t lost on Idaho politicians. In the past week, two losing candidates in the last year’s GOP primary crawled out of the corn chips and dropped an opinion piece in the Idaho Statesman.
Both these men ran on the hard-right. Both are shrewd politicians. And both are paying attention to Trump’s philosophy of stagecraft over substance.
The first is Lt. Gov. candidate Jim Chmelik, who lost on a platform – well, more like plank – of “disposing” public lands. In his piece, he argued that public lands, “subject us to tons of toxic smoke from catastrophic wildfires,” while killing, “ millions of animals” while, “homes are burned and human lives are lost.” The only way he could make his message “Trumpier” is if he called Melissa Davlin a “horrible person” while celebrating the death of Cecil the Lion.
By comparison, a substantive discussion about public lands and the role of fire in forest ecology is pretty bland. And who wants bland when I can cram my face with hysterical hyperbole?
A week earlier, Chmelik’s running mate, gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher published a piece decrying Idaho’s acceptance of federal dollars. “Imagine,” he wrote, “if our founding fathers blindly accepted whatever was dictated to them by the prevailing government at the time. That’s right, there would be no America.”
Boom! Fulcher gets it. He channels the Trumpster like a champ. Suggesting America wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people like him to fight the king is just the kind a braggadocios rhetoric America craves. It doesn’t matter that there is no king. Nor does it matter that if the rest of the nation withheld federal dollars from poor states, Idaho would turn into Greece of the Pacific Northwest. Forget all that. That’s substance. And substance is for chumps.
Bring us the flavor, baby.