Context — October 30, 2015, 11:33 am

Bombast Bursting in Air

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich surveys his competition; Lewis H. Lapham analyzes the 2016 election so far.

Published in the November 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, “Bombast Bursting in Air” is Lewis H. Lapham’s analysis of the 2016 election. Read the full essay here.

[Lede]

From a Washington Post transcript of the third Republican presidential primary debate, held October 28, 2015. The remark below was made by Ohio governor and presidential candidate John Kasich.

I want to tell you, my great concern is that we are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job.
     I’ve watched to see people say that we should dismantle Medicare and Medicaid and leave the senior citizens out—out in the—in the cold. I’ve heard them talk about deporting 10 or 11—people here from this country out of this country, splitting families. I’ve heard about tax schemes that don’t add up, that put our kids in—in a deeper hole than they are today.

Trump declared his candidacy on June 16, a deus ex machina descending by escalator into the atrium of the Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, and there to say, and say it plainly, that Justice Brandeis had it right, democracy and concentrated wealth do not a happy couple make. Money is power, and power, ladies and gentlemen, is not self-sacrificing or democratic. The big money cares for nothing other than itself, always has and always will; it is the name of the game and the nature of the beast. Trump didn’t need briefing books or policy positions to front an outdated noble falsehood. He embodied — live and in person — the proof of the proposition that he deemed it the duty of the children of the city to believe.

Trump established the bona fides of his claim to the White House on the simple but all-encompassing and imperishable truth that he was really, really rich, unbought and therefore unbossed, so magnificently rich that he was free to say whatever it came into his head to say, to do whatever it took to root out the corruption and stupidity in Washington, clean up the mess in the Middle East, or wherever else in the world ungrateful foreigners were neglecting their duty to do the bidding of the United States of America, the greatest show on earth, which deserved the helping hand of Trump, the greatest name on earth, to make it worthy of his signature men’s colognes (Empire and Success) and set it free to fulfill the destiny emblazoned on his baseball cap: make america great again.

Read the full essay here.

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More from Lewis H. Lapham:

From the November 2015 issue

Bombast Bursting in Air

The story, so far, of the 2016 election

From the May 2012 issue

Ignorance of things past

Who wins and who loses when we forget American history

From the April 2011 issue

Democracy 101

Mark Twain’s farewell address

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