After four years of interminable assault at the hands of an abusive charlatan, America is waking up to the fact that we don’t have to take this shit anymore, but that hasn’t stopped the faithful from believing.
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, September 30, 2020
The calculous of the Trump supporter can be difficult to penetrate because it goes beyond mere logic, beyond a mathematical equation that agrees that 2+2=4, and enters the world of the metaphysical that proffers that what we see and hear need not be instructive in what we believe. Donald Trump himself does not trust what others tell him, be they experts in their fields, or first-hand witnesses, because as he says, he trusts how he feels about a thing, which is more important than what the facts are. It doesn’t matter what you can prove, it matters how you feel about it.
That has made understanding the nature of his attraction so difficult for Democrats. Nothing the President says or does changes the formula in the minds of his supporters because the whole is not a sum of its parts. They are not constantly evaluating Donald Trump based on his many misdeeds, his incendiary twitter feed, or the word salad that comes pouring out of this mouth anytime he’s front of a microphone. As political pundits likes to say, it’s already all baked in. They know who he is and accept that he’s not perfect. As the ad campaign for a glitzy hotel in Las Vegas likes to say, he’s just the right amount of wrong.
It doesn’t matter therefore what they think about what he says or does, but only how they feel about him. It’s a co-dependent relationship of dysfunction bordering on group hallucination and mass hysteria, that allows them to process any new information through the filter of his professed victimhood that mysterious forces are simply trying to bring him down.
It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.Henry A. Wallace
In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote at length about the various forms of democracy and worried extensively about the dangers of direct democracy and mob rule.
“Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob,” he wrote. “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”
Madison never contemplated several aspects of our modern era or our current situation such as the ability for social media to create insular mobs across wide geographic areas in an instant, the incredible shift in the power of the Executive Branch, or the rise of national political parties. The cooling power of the Senate, political parties, and the electoral college on the potential inflammatory nature of public rage, have been dissolved by populist efforts to increase democratic participation beginning with allowing Senators to be elected directly by the people, direct election of primary candidates by the people and various popular-ballot initiatives.
In the middle of the last century, it was typical for fifty percent of lawmakers in either party to overlap ideologically. There were conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, a concept that is entirely foreign to us by now. Today, all congressional Republicans fall to the right of the most conservative Democrat, and all congressional Democrats fall to the left of the most liberal Republican. The function of political parties have ceased to exist as they once did. They are now entirely partisan entities with no incentive left to work together.
In the last seventy years or so, as the parties have worked to consolidate power, and divide and conquer the American electorate, the chasm between the parties has only grown more pronounced. While the country itself has grown more diverse, the Republican Party has grown more homogeneousness. They have been forced by their own hand to rely more on more on appealing to the diminishing power of white men, to the extent that whether they want to or not, they have no choice but to call upon the forces of white supremacy to maintain power. This isn’t simply an ideological move based on some deep found belief in the superiority of the white race over all others, but a practical strategy to exert influence where they can.
In 2000, whites made up 76% of the eligible voters in America, with Black’s making up 12%, Hispanics 7%, Asians 2% and another 2% of mixed groups. Today whites are only 67% of the electorate, with Blacks and Hispanics comprising 13% each, Asians rising to 4% with another 3% of various other ethnic groups. This has been a long growing trend, where as greater diversity takes control over greater swaths of the electorate both geographically and demographically. According to Pew Research, “From 2000 to 2018, the nation’s eligible voter population grew from 193.4 million to 233.7 million – an increase of 40.3 million. Voters who are Hispanic, Black, Asian or another race or ethnicity accounted for more than three-quarters (76%) of this growth.”1
If you look at immigration purely as a response to dwindling white influence, you can begin to understand Republican preoccupation with it. In our current geopolitical climate, it just so happens that more immigrants tend to align with the Democratic Party than with Republicans. Therefore, the Democratic Party is growing, while the Republican Party is shrinking. If the Republicans continue to do what they’re doing, they will eventually be out of power, which is why they’ve been working so hard to cement their position of authority for the longterm with gerrymandering and voter suppression, and stacking the courts with Conservative judges that can legislate long after they’re out of power. They are preparing for the eventuality that they will need to be able to dominate American politics even after being relegated to the minority, much as the white minority has continued to remain largely in power despite being a post-Apartheid-era South Africa.
Theirs is a scorched earth strategy that has involved gutting taxes, regulations and institutions that would work to prohibit them from capitalizing on their final days of power. They aim to ride it out as long as they can, installing as many safeguards and loopholes for themselves as they can. The truth is, it’s not a question of if their rule will come to an end, but when, and just how inglorious it will be.
Donald Trump’s election was actually a combination of the collapse of the traditional Republican Party that allowed his improbably ascension, along with a favorable electoral collage and a uniquely unpopular Democratic candidate. Why Hillary Clinton was unpopular has been a matter of great debate, with many pointing to decades of vilification by the Right as well as rampant sexism among the larger population. Throw in the fierce backlash from a white population that had been fired up to believe that a Black interloper had conspired to take their inheritance from them, and you ended up with a perfect storm of an unusually tight election, and a flawed electoral system, that gave us a wholly unqualified, failed real estate tycoon and reality television pitchman to run the world’s largest economy, command the world’s most powerful military and oversee a global pandemic. It really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that he wasn’t up to the task. After all, he didn’t want the job and never expected to win. It was a public relations stunt that he hoped might help him sell a few condos and provide him a new outlet for products he could hawk.
The reason we’re so anxious about this election, even though Trump has consistently remained between 8-10 points down in national polls and has virtually no path to victory is twofold. First, the energy of his core followers is indeed impressive, even cult-like, as they have embraced him as far more than a politician but something more attuned to a cross between a team mascot and a prophet. Secondly, the fact that no one thought he could win in 2016 allows us to suspect our understanding of the data and worry that it could happen once again. We see the flags and the yard signs and think, “Well, they certainly seem to be excited about something.”
It’s true that Donald Trump has galvanized a curious group of Americans to hold him up as their candidate of choice. From redneck NASCAR fans to religious fanatics, corporate elitists to uneducated populists. He’s the Ferris Bueller of angry white American men in the 21st century. As the high school secretary Grace once explained, “Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads—they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.”
Donald Trump is in many ways, nothing more than an empty, ill-fitting suit that performs quite well as a vessel for whatever value, personality, power or imprimatur they wish to bestow on him. It’s why he can be nearly Christ-like to those who wish for a spiritual savior, a cunning businessman for those who desire an economic one, and a strongman for those who feel bullied by an intellectual world that has passed them by. He’s a unicorn that can change his spots—a mythical creature that can be whoever you want him to be. He exists, but only in your imagination.
That might serve as reason enough to explain his improbable popularity among such a large portion of the population, but it’s not enough to win re-election in America in 2020.
There is a lot of anxiety that those who follow Trump like a cult leader will turn to violence if he is defeated, and there is reason to justify this fear, but it’s less likely than people fear.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.1 Samuel 17:51
In a mob situation, people will often drop many inhibitions that would normally keep their worst instincts in check. They will cross boundaries they never would have before, with the power that they are not alone. A mob acts on emotional responses, rather than rational ones. When individuals are affected by herd mentality, they make different decisions than they would have individually.
When David slew Goliath, the opposing army didn’t rise up in anger to avenge their great champion. They fled.2
Donald Trump will lose this election, and while it may take longer than usual to determine the outcome, he will likely lose by a fairly significant margin. He will call the whole election into question, as deeply corrupt and unfair, to him. His followers will follow suit saying they were cheated and refuse to accept the results. However, many of these people were never politically engaged before Donald Trump, enjoyed his shenanigans as trashy entertainment for four years and will quickly go back to ignoring serious policy discussions as boring and irrelevant. They were always conspiratorial and distrustful of government and the elite. They just never had anyone in such a high position of power parrot their ignorant theories of disenfranchisement before.
The staying power of the religious-like QAnon is a prime example of the power of an idea to eclipse any rational thought or need for empirical evidence. Both Trump and QAnon require the same act of faith to suspend disbelief in exchange for a belief system that requires no proof. Throw in an all-powerful God that has bestowed his divine providence and manifest destiny upon you and your people and you don’t really need anything more at all.
But even that must end eventually, pushed back to the fringes along with apocalyptic bunkers, alien abductions and flat-earth theories. The election will come and go and the virus will remain. Donald Trump will not turn out to be the great puppet master after all, and the heartland will eventually give up on the idea that Democrats are trafficking children for sex in neighborhood pizza shops. It might take awhile, but eventually HBO will create a new show to distract everyone, NASCAR will again drive in endless circles and the earth will continue to spin on its axis.
The effects of Trump and his criminal enterprise will be felt for decades to come and maybe beyond. The irony of his desire to be great is that Trump will not soon be forgotten in America or in the world. It’s not easy to go from being the child of a slumlord from Queens to the most notorious man since Adolf Hitler. He will be studied for centuries. Books will be written. Movies will be made. Doctoral theses will be written and argued. But his name will be worse than valueless. It will be a curse of endless shame. His dependents will be forced to change their names and hide their heritage. If you think about it, it’s why there aren’t any Hitler hotels in Dusseldorf and no one has dared grow a small mustache on their upper lip in 80 years.
The nightmare is far from over, but morning is coming.