Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Trump's Land


I hoped you listened to the Ryan Harvey-Tom Morello-Ani DiFranco rendition of the previously unpublished Woody Guthrie song about racism, "Old Man Trump" on Sunday when we embedded it. If not, please do by clicking here. Just as I posted it, someone sent me the dystopian rendition, above, of Woody Guthrie's best known song with the message "If Trump's land isn't your land, vote." Frightening, specially if you haven't contemplated the reality of this sociopathic narcissist gaining political power over this country.

In his exhaustive look into who Trump's supporters are, in the summer issue of the New Yorker, George Saunders wrote "It’s oddly riveting, watching someone take such pleasure in going so much farther out on thin ice than anyone else as famous would dare to go."
The speeches themselves are nearly all empty assertion. Assertion and bragging. Assertion, bragging, and defensiveness. He is always boasting about the size of this crowd or that crowd, refuting some slight from someone who has treated him “very unfairly,” underscoring his sincerity via adjectival pile-on (he’s “going to appoint beautiful, incredible, unbelievable Supreme Court Justices”). He lies, bullies, menaces, dishes it out but can’t seem to take it, exhibits such a muddy understanding of certain American principles (the press is free, torture illegal, criticism and libel two different things) that he might be a seventeenth-century Austrian prince time-transported here to mess with us. Sometimes it seems that he truly does not give a shit, and you imagine his minders cringing backstage. Other times you imagine them bored, checking their phones, convinced that nothing will ever touch him. Increasingly, his wild veering seems to occur against his will, as if he were not the great, sly strategist we have taken him for but, rather, someone compelled by an inner music that sometimes produces good dancing and sometimes causes him to bring a bookshelf crashing down on an old Mexican lady. Get more, that inner music seems to be telling him. Get, finally, enough. Refute a lifetime of critics. Create a pile of unprecedented testimonials, attendance receipts, polling numbers, and pundit gasps that will, once and for all, prove-- what? ... He is not trying to persuade, detail, or prove: he is trying to thrill, agitate, be liked, be loved, here and now. He is trying to make energy.

...Where is all this anger coming from? It’s viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems. You and I approach a castle. One of us has watched only Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the other only Game of Thrones. What is the meaning, to the collective “we,” of yon castle? We have no common basis from which to discuss it. You, the other knight, strike me as bafflingly ignorant, a little unmoored. In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a “dove” and a “hawk,” say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional. (As a proud knight of LeftLand, I was interested to find that, in RightLand, Vince Foster has still been murdered, Dick Morris is a reliable source, kids are brainwashed “way to the left” by going to college, and Obama may yet be Muslim. I expect that my interviewees found some of my core beliefs equally jaw-dropping... LeftLand and RightLand are housemates who are no longer on speaking terms. And then the house is set on fire. By Donald Trump. Good people from both subnations gape at one another through the smoke.

It's s clear enough to those of us who don’t like Trump why we don’t like him. What isn’t clear is why it isn’t clear to those who like him. The Trump supporter is your brother who has just brought home a wildly inappropriate fiancée. Well, inappropriate to you. Trump support, nationwide, stands at around forty per cent. If you had ten siblings and four of them brought home wildly inappropriate fiancées, you might feel inclined to ask yourself what was going on in your family to make your judgment and that of your siblings so divergent.

...The Trump supporter comes out of the conservative tradition but is not a traditional conservative. He is less patient: something is bothering him and he wants it stopped now, by any means necessary. He seems less influenced by Goldwater and Reagan than by Fox News and reality TV, his understanding of history recent and selective; he is less religiously grounded and more willing, in his acceptance of Trump’s racist and misogynist excesses, to (let’s say) forgo the niceties.

As for Trump’s uncivil speech—the insults, the petty meanness, the crudeness, the talk about hand size, the assurance, on national TV, that his would-be Presidential dick is up to the job, his mastery of the jaw-droppingly untrue personal smear (Obama is Kenyan, Ted Cruz’s dad was in cahoots with Lee Harvey Oswald, U.S. Muslims knew what was “going on” pre-Orlando), which he often dishonorably eases into the world by attaching some form of the phrase “many people have said this” (The world is flat; many people have said this. People are saying that birds can play the cello: we need to look into that)-- his supporters seem constitutionally reluctant to object, as if the act of objecting would mark them as fatally delicate. Objecting to this sort of thing is for the coddled, the liberal, the élite. “Yeah, he can really improve, in the way he says things,” one woman in Fountain Hills tells me. “But who gives a shit? Because if he’s going to get the job done? I’m just saying. You can’t let your feelings get hurt. It’s kind of like, get over it, you know what I mean? What’s the big picture here? The big picture is we’ve got to get America back on track.”

The ability to shrug off the mean crack, the sexist joke, the gratuitous jab at the weak is, in some quarters, seen as a form of strength, of “being flexible,” of “not taking shit serious.” A woman who wilts at a sexist joke won’t last long in certain workplaces. A guy who prioritizes the sensitive side of his nature will, trust me, not thrive in the slaughterhouse. This willingness to gloss over crudeness becomes, then, an encoded sign of competence, strength, and reliability.

Above all, Trump supporters are “not politically correct,” which, as far as I can tell, means that they have a particular aversion to that psychological moment when, having thought something, you decide that it is not a good thought, and might pointlessly hurt someone’s feelings, and therefore decline to say it.

...American Presidential campaigns are not about ideas; they are about the selection of a hero to embody the prevailing national ethos. “Only a hero,” Mailer wrote, “can capture the secret imagination of a people, and so be good for the vitality of his nation; a hero embodies the fantasy and so allows each private mind the liberty to consider its fantasy and find a way to grow. Each mind can become more conscious of its desire and waste less strength in hiding from itself.” What fantasy is Trump giving his supporters the liberty to consider? What secret have they been hiding from themselves?

Trump seems to awaken something in them that they feel they have, until now, needed to suppress. What is that thing? It is not just (as I’m getting a bit tired of hearing) that they’ve been left behind economically. (Many haven’t, and au contraire.) They’ve been left behind in other ways, too, or feel that they have. To them, this is attributable to a country that has moved away from them, has been taken away from them-- by Obama, the Clintons, the “lamestream” media, the “élites,” the business-as-usual politicians. They are stricken by a sense that things are not as they should be and that, finally, someone sees it their way. They have a case of Grievance Mind, and Trump is their head kvetcher.

In an interview with Politico published this morning, Nate Silver says he expects "that there is going to be a fairly significant third- and fourth-party vote, and people under-voting the top of the ballot." 20% of voters say they don't want to voter either Trump or Clinton. I'm one of them... but the idea of Trump as president...

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At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd think that in your California it might be safe to vote for a 3rd party and not risk tilting the election toward Trump. But after electing Schwarzenegger...twice?! I'm not overly sure about that.

At 8:13 AM, Anonymous mc said...

IOW, you can live with Clinton as president. Death by fire is bad but death by ice is something you can live with.

Sorry. That's just as pathetic as Trump's supporters.

One less viewer of your blog, sir. Sure I'll be missed.


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