Making (Miss) America Great Again: On Donald Trump and Meg McGuffin

Good morning Austin:

Went to the Trump rally in Dallas last night.

Big crowd. Very festive.

I sat near Steve Kitchen who, according to the card he handed me, is a “Party Starter/Dancing Fool.”

Steve Kitchen, party starter

Steve Kitchen, party starter

 

Steve Kitchen, dancing fool

Steve Kitchen, dancing fool

It is worth taking note of Kitchen, because, while swatches of Trump’s speech – and a very important part of his appeal – are the bluntly nativist appeals that prompted the most tremendous roars of approval Monday, and make you wonder about where all this is headed, there is also a kind of kitschy, Let’s Make a Deal, Price is Right, Sábado Gigante (oh how we’ll miss you) quality to Trumpmania that takes the edge off.

It was apparent last night that, even in Texas, Ted Cruz has to worry about being swept away by the Trump wave. For all its cartoonish, comic book qualities, and ideological sloppiness –  and perhaps because of it – Trump’s movement is potentially more open and expansive than Cruz’s coalition of evangelical and tea party voters, who can be awfully demanding and very exacting and unforgiving in their demands.

At tea party events, folks sometimes glare at reporters with suspicion.

At the Trump event, they smile and are delighted to talk about why they’re there.

Both Cruz and Trump are appealing to a deep sense of grievance and loss, but with Trump, it is all being processed through an easy, familiar, one-on-one relationship between a kind-of-ridiculous but kind-of-not reality TV star and his fans, who, by signing on to his movement, become part of the show.

Maybe it will get old. Maybe it will get tired.

Maybe at some point America, like Nick Cage in Moonstruck, will get that Cher “snap out of it” slap in the face.

But maybe not.

And, if not, and Trump somehow sweeps to the Republican nomination, about the only thing that might be able to stop him from going all the way would be the Democrats drafting Stephen Colbert for president.

Monday’s rally was the second big arena event I had watched in as many nights.

Sunday night it was the Miss America Pageant, which I watched, switching back and forth to the Giants-Cowboy game.

I have watched Miss America for as long as I can remember.

I love it.

It has its cringe-worthy elements. That’s a big part of its appeal.

The opening sequence this year featured each of the 52 contestants (Puerto Rico is 52), shimmying to the music as they recited some promotional tidbit about themselves and the state they represent. The low point/high point was Miss Wisconsin inviting folks to, “Come smell our dairy air.”

Not good.

Anyway, Miss America is the original reality TV show.

It’s got sex. There is no other satisfactory explanation for the swimsuit competition, this year to the pulsing beat of Give it to me, I’m worth it.

It’s got the talent competition, with its shades of Ed Sullivan, Star Search and American Idol.

I admit I find the evening gown competition a bit of a bore. It’s really just a matter of seeing if anyone trips.

And then there is the most deliciously squirm-inducing final question.

Somehow, in a misguided attempt to seem serious and relevant, Miss America has come to ask its finalists to grapple with the most divisive, hottest-button issues, in 20 seconds.

The softest ball went to Miss Colorado.

What woman would you put on the ten-dollar bill?

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Miss Colorado

Miss Colorado:

The woman I would put on the ten-dollar bill would be Ellen DeGeneres. I think that women is so amazing. Not only is she kind. Not only is she intelligent. Not only is her entire platform speaking tolerance and equality for all, kindness, but she is able to be funny without insulting anybody and I think that is an incredible feat.

Ellen “Dances with Hillary” DeGeneres?

This same question was asked of all the finalists at the Trump-owned Miss USA contest earlier this year. (Hint: The correct answer is Oprah Winfrey.)

Miss South Carolina was asked:

America loves our 2nd Amendment, but gun violence continues to be a tragic problem. Do you support a ban on military-style assault weapons?

Her answer:

I don’t. But I think it’s because we need to increase education. We have to go back there. If we teach people the proper way to use guns then we will reduce the risk of having gun-related accidents. It starts with education.

 

Miss South Carolina

Miss South Carolina

Ok. But the fact that Miss South Carolina, let alone a black woman from South Carolina, could offer a such a facile endorsement of  the right to own military style assault weapons, without any reference to the  shooting only three months earlier at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that traumatized the nation is remarkable.

Former Miss America Vanessa Williams prefaced her question to Miss Tennessee with a warning: “Take a breath. It’s a tough one.”

Her question:

Some legislators are threatening to shut down the government over federal contributions to Planned Parenthood, even though no federal funds can be used for abortions. Should Planned Parenthood funding be cut off?

Miss Tennessee’s reply?

I don’t think Planned Parenthood funding should be cut off. The $500 million that gets given to Planned Parenthood every single year goes to female care. It goes to screening for cancer. It goes for mammograms. And if we don’t give that funding to Planned Parenthood, those women will be out of health care for reproductive causes.

 

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Holy cow.

She knows Planned Parenthood’s annual take in federal money?

And she supports it, unequivocally. No mamby-pambying.

Take that Ted Cruz.

Here was Miss Georgia’s question:

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for his part in the so-called Deflategate scandal, then reinstated by the courts. Legalities aside, did Tom Brady cheat?

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Miss Georgia asked to have the question repeated because she couldn’t hear it. Then this:

Did he cheat? That’s a really good question. I’m not sure. I think I’d have to be there to see the ball and feel it and make sure it was deflated or not deflated. But if there was question there? Then yes, I think he cheated. If there was any question to be had, I think that he definitely cheated and there and I think he should have been suspended for that. That’s not fair.

What? Terrible. She’s on every side of the question – starting out as declaring Brady innocent until proved guilty and ending up at guilty until proved innocent

The Kim Davis questions went to Miss Mississippi:

 Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was jailed for defying the Supreme Court’s order to issue same-sex marriage licenses. She claims the order violates her religious freedom. Does it?

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Her reply:

It absolutely does not violate her religious freedom. That is her job that she was voted into doing, and that law is a federal law throughout the rest of the country. So, yes, she did violate the law there. Thank you.

Take that Ted Cruz.

Miss Louisiana got an impossible question, that has already, in  Martin O’Malley, done in at least one presidential candidate.

The Black Lives Matter movement grew as a reaction to unarmed African-Americans being killed by police. Now there are voices raised who call it a hate group and think it should be called ‘All Lives Matter.’ What do you think?

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Her answer:

I believe that black lives matter, all lives matter. It shouldn’t matter what we base our labels on. Everybody matters. And I think that we can stop all of the violence with police brutality with body cameras and making sure that all of our policemen are trained and ready to go into the field. Every life matters.

Finally, here is the questions that was posed to Miss Alabama.

Before we get to it, though, let me tell you a little bit about Miss Alabama.

Her name is Meg McGuffin.

Yes, Meg McGuffin.

And, as if her parents could not have predicted this, her nickname is Egg McGuffin.

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For her talent she did what she called an “edgy” dance routine to Clubbed to Death from The Matrix ssoundtrack.

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Meg McGuffin drew the following question:

According to a poll released this week, Donald Trump is leading Republican candidates by 32 percent of the vote. Why do you think he’s leading by such an overwhelming margin?

Here is Meg McGuffin’s answer, delivered forcefully, fluidly, and without hesitation.

I think Donald Trump is an entertainer. And I think he says what’s on a lot of people’s minds. But I think that the Republican Party should be absolutely terrified of all the attention that he is taking from incredible candidates like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush who could absolutely do the job of president of the United States. If I were a Republican, I’d absolutely be terrified of that.

 

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Wow.

What an answer.

From Miss Alabama.

Taking on Trump, mentioning two other, in her mind, better qualified candidates by name, but even then, qualifying that endorsement by saying, “If I were a Republican.” As if, maybe, what’s really gnawing at her is whether she is more drawn to the feminism of Hillary Clinton or the socialism of Bernie Sanders.

Moments later, the judges announced the five finalists.

McGuffin was fourth runner-up – last among the top five.

Miss Georgia with her ridiculous, “I’d have to be there to see the ball and feel it and make sure it was deflated or not deflated,” answer was crowned Miss America.

I am sure that McGuffin’s brave answer cost her the crown. Those judges knew that if they chose as the new Miss America a woman who had just said Republicans ought to be “terrified” of Donald Trump, there would be hell to pay – from Donald Trump.

But, the next day, McGuffin said she had no regrets.

“I’m proud of the way that I answered my question because it reflects my beliefs and who I am,” she said. “I hope that maybe, if anything, my answer shed some light on the fact that Donald Trump does not have any ties to the Miss America organization and I think that’s something that so few people understand.”

Maybe Donald Trump will be elected president and emerge as a beloved figure, the next FDR, the next Ronald Reagan.

But if he isn’t, if he’s a disaster, it’s not as if America wasn’t warned.

It isn’t as if we didn’t have that Cher “snap out of it” slap in the face.

Meg McGuffin, Miss Alabama, warned us.

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