(Editor's note: The Lieberman Award is given annually to the worst example of a human being over a twelve month period. Click the tag at the end of the post to review past winners.)
Gin and Tacos and its parent company, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, hold very high standards with respect to the final product you see published here four or five times per week. When we say someone is an asshole, we want you the reader to know that we have done our homework and vetted the subject thoroughly. We aren't going to give you people who are just kind of an asshole. You can rest assured that when we look back at a year and say "This person was an asshole of such magnitude that 2015 was in part defined by how rotten he is at being human," the honor is richly deserved and well earned.
As loathsome as it may be at this point to give Donald Trump additional attention, there really is no other choice for this award. Here is a man who is so much of a asshole that he succeeds in making people like Ted Cruz seem rational and intelligent by comparison. He leads what is a fascist movement in all but name, exposing the ugliest aspects of the American electorate to no end more complex or noble than to bask in the attention it brings him. Here is a man so devoid of principles that he doesn't mind being embraced by the white supremacist movement and spreading its propaganda, operating on the apparent theory that it doesn't matter who follows him as long as he has a following. He may or may not, as Hillary Clinton claimed, be an effective recruiting agent for ISIS but he sure does wonders for the dying American neo-Nazi movement.
There is no doubt that the thrill of having an audience of fans and admirers is a high on which it is easy for a public figure to get hooked; Elia Kazan's 1957 film A Face in the Crowd demonstrates that principle and its deep roots in American politics. But like any addiction it has the ability to rob people of their dignity in the pursuit of the next fix. People with the ability to feel things like shame and self-awareness are confronted with a moral dilemma; how far will I go to get more attention? Will I lie to get it? Will I stoop to appealing to the lowest common denominator? Will I wade into the basest swamps of populism, playing on racism and xenophobia in exchange for the thrill of standing before a crowd of admirers?
Well, Donald "Lonesome Rhodes" Trump doesn't need to worry about any such questions, because in his mind there is no question. There are no issues of morality or decency, only the goal of having cameras and microphones stuck in his face. Anything that accomplishes that goal is, by definition, acceptable behavior. The end result of his egomania, and the sad willingness of the ratings- and hits-hungry media to debase themselves by rewarding it, is the death of the last few vestiges of dignity in American elections. What were already expensive, hyperbolic spectacles of little interest to many voting-eligible Americans have now become fully indistinguishable from reality shows – and not even the higher class of reality shows that require participants to have some sort of talent to put forth for public consumption, but the most vulgar, Real Housewives of Whatever variety driven exclusively by egomania and delusions of grandeur. So that one man can get half-erect from an ephemeral feeling of power, we've turned the process of electing the president of our country (a process already teetering on the brink of credibility in recent years) into a nauseating hybrid of Survivor and a lynch mob.
There is neither use nor interest in criticizing the things Donald Trump says because the words don't even mean anything to him. They are simply his calculation of whatever he can say at a given moment to draw the most attention to himself. And at this he is truly gifted. No one can deny his incredible instinct for self-promotion. His ideology is not an ideology; there is nothing he says that you could not find in YouTube comments posted by 14 year old boys. He says what people who don't think about things believe. And that is why they find him so inspiring. He boasts of "telling it like it is" when even the most cursory look at his life would lead to the conclusion that this man hasn't the slightest experience with reality or How Things Are. Yet the evil genius of it is that his intended audience is far too dumb to consider that, or to care when it is pointed out to them. The kind of person who could convince himself that a spoiled, sociopathic billionaire is the voice that the Common Man really needs is fully prepared to accept any logical impossibility that he decides to embrace.
In short, Donald Trump is not merely a terrible person. He was the terrible person of 2015. God help us, he will probably ruin most of 2016 as well.