It’s been a few decades since I last had to take a standardized test, so I don’t know if they still use those word-ratio questions that took something like this standard form —
auto : steering wheel = sailboat : ?
You’d select a word from the multiple choices that best completed the ratio, in the above example perhaps “tiller”.
A variant of the same word problem could be —
raven : ? = ? : writing desk
where the answer would be one word that, inserted into each side of the equation, formed a consistent and logical word association.
If you haven’t seen viral footage from Donald Trump’s first attempt at a Town Hall with his supporters in New Hampshire, you can check it out here. It was all over the news tonight, and after I’d seen it a couple of times the idea struck me that one of the meanings of that encounter could be simply expressed as a word ratio of the second type —
Asshole at Trump rally : ? = ? : Republican Party
Let me explain why the correct answer is “Trump”.
In varying proportions of glee and tut-tutting, the talking heads on the shows I watched were doing their best to hang this Islamophobe’s point of view on the Donald himself, and old soufflé-top didn’t do himself any favors by taking the “I’ll look into that” route when asked when we can get rid of all the Muslims. After all, John McCain set the gold standard on responses to this type of question all the way back in ’08.
To my eye, the Donald was embarrassed as soon as he understood where this guy was going, first trying to get the crowd’s support to laugh it off before putting on his serious face and dodging the question. I think he was genuinely surprised and thrown a little off balance by such a naked exposure of his base’s id. When another question in the same vein popped up a little later, you could see him realize that the best part of valor would be to get the hell out of Dodge City. And he did, cutting off the Q&A after only a few minutes.
My point is that for the first time in this campaign, the Donald found himself in a relationship with his base that mirrors what the Republican party has been going through with him — shock, denial, apprehension, more denial — as they realize that this demon they’ve summoned is going to be their public face. And tonight their out-of-control monster came face-to-face with the monster he’s loosed.
The Donald has made it respectable to bray lies, insults, and barely-veiled racist and misogynist appeals in the public square, to never take back or apologize. His acolytes are following his example, but without enough of his sophistication to mask the malice and the implied threat of violence in their hate speech.
We’re all heading for interesting times.