As we are stocking on Purelle and popcorn in preparation for tonight’s debate, Trumpists continue to baffle the non-Trumpists world over.
Many theories have been put forth to explain their existence:
–being authoritarian and subjected to strict and/or abusive upbringing;
–being poor and/or poorly educated;
–being white, undereducated male;
–being deplorable and/or (or?) conscience-deficient racists;
–being conservative, identity-conscious racists;
–being desperate and in throes of death instinct;
–being traumatized somehow (this one is underexplored, I’d say).
While non-Trumpists search for explanations, Trumpists scoff and laugh and deny any resemblance to the images painted by the above mentioned speculations.
But there is some truth in them, if only because Trump supporters cut a wide swath of the American population. (There are Trumpists in other nations, too, and it is a fair assumption that they fit one of the above theories about their behavior and motivations.) This means we will find Trumpists among nearly all groups of people.
Pundits especially have trouble with comprehending all this, as they have not seen what America looks like down there, way beneath their ivory towers. It is almost adorable how they try to grasp what may motivate people who struggle for a living and whose existence is marked by deepening hopelessness. “We must feel something for the poor! They are in pain!” exclaims Joe Scarborough. “But, oh, the poor poor!” laments David Brooks, vowing to be a better, more attentive (to the poor) person from now on.
That’s all nice and good, if a tad condescending — and not quite accurate in this instance, as data shows that Trumpists are not poor.
My own, limited experience confirms this. The Trumpists I know (of) personally are definitely not members of the poor, huddled masses.
For example, my son’s boss — a wealthy and seemingly reasonable (and well educated) man is for Trump. So is a lovely grandmotherly psychotherapist whom I’ve met at conference recently. She drives a sporty Mercedes, lives in one of the wealthiest suburbs of our city, and believes firmly that Trump represents the change we need.
The energetic young woman who is part a professional, part personal acquaintance of mine, and better informed about politics than most, votes for Trump and for the change he represents. (She too drives a luxury sport car. Hm.)
In the upper-middle-classy neighborhoods around ours, TRUMP signs are proudly popping up on the manicured lawns surrounding semi-mansions (with the likely illegal Mexican laborers working around them).
A couple of middle-ageish white men of my acquaintance are also for Trump, because yes, we need change. And Hillary somehow rubs them the wrong way. The hate-filled way they talk about her makes me suspect that their opposition to her is not based on issues as much as on her evoking some more primal motives, like their fear of a punitive mother/shrill ex. Just a speculation.
The arguments about our need for change are most reasonable and more than justified. But if one really wanted a positive, meaningful change, of the kind that lifts all boats and makes our lives genuinely better, then one would have supported Bernie early on, as it is obvious that Trump has nothing of substance to offer.
The truthful slogan of his campaign should have been “Much Ado about Nothing.” Or maybe, and better, “The Tale of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing.” Because nothing is the only thing he knows something about. The man’s staggering ignorance itself — never mind (!) his profound character defect, of which that ignorance is an integral part — should be the disqualifying factor, if we lived in a healthy or even normal society.
Obviously we don’t.
Trumpian change is that of destruction for its own sake — or, as one young person I know says, for shit and giggles. We bulldoze what’s in front of us to have a satisfaction of inflicting pain and punishment on those who, as we believe, are responsible for our misery in life. This kind of rageful destruction obviously does not help us build a better world — on the contrary. But Trumpism is not really about building a better world, is it, even though Trumpists may say so when asked. A closer look at their motivations says otherwise.
I am repeatedly reminded of Dorothy Thompson‘s description of the followers of another leader with a similar character defect, in a different place and era.
Here’s that relevant excerpt, with Trump references inserted in the place of the original ones:
It’s fun—a macabre sort of fun—this parlor game of “Who Goes Trump?” And it simplifies things—asking the question in regard to specific personalities.
Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Trump. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes—you’ll never make Trumpists out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Trump in a crisis.
Believe me, nice people don’t go Trump. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.
Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Trump. It’s an amusing game. Try it at the next big party you go to.