There are two major reasons that we have the anti-politician, if not the anti-Christ in office: one of them is that about one-third of Americans are members of Donald Trump’s hardcore base, who would not be dissuaded from voting from him if he was setting puppies on fire in prime time; and then there are “the others” who voted for him, those casting a protest vote. Somehow, incredibly and miraculously, a TV game show host with no previous experience in government was going to clean house and provide America with new direction and purpose. Trump descended the escalator and American politics departed from reality.
A lot of the people who voted for Trump did so because he offers simplistic answers to complex problems, and many find that refreshing. The fact that it’s the biggest political scam in history, all talk, no action, is something that those who cast a hopeful ballot for Trump in 2016, may find themselves unwilling to do again — or so we hope.
One reason is that in his speeches he rarely tries to persuade the uncertain, he only tells the certain they’re right. He does antagonism and aggrievement. But the American people are not only about those things, and young people with searching minds are not those things at all. They have the hope of youth for better things to come. Trump needs to give people a sense of striving for something larger, if only to provide the idea we can strive for anything together, that we’re not so blasted to bits that we can never again have a common mission. He will not do this because he doesn’t have the tools, and because he thinks cooperation is for sissies.
Because of his simplicity, Trump has many other possible supporters, if he were remotely reasonable, but thankfully he exhausts them with his oddness. His embarrassments and crudities, his making trouble that doesn’t have to be made, his sloppiness and lack of professionalism—all give a sense that there’s no there there if trouble comes. He exhausts you not into submission but, for some people, not into ultimate aversion.
He has not, in three tempestuous, trouble-seeking years, lost his core — or so we are led to believe. He does have a certain number of white people come to his rallies and with Mike Pence’s nephew and other chant leaders in charge, we hear “Lock her up!” and the new and improved hate chant, “Send her back!” coming through loud and clear.
Trump was elected with all the giddy approach-avoidance conflict that one finds in a jailbreak. They want to do it, even though they know their asses are going to get kicked for doing it. They’re just too exhilarated with the possibility of somehow getting away with it that they do it. Voting for Trump represented a violent split from cultural norms, coupled with a delight in anti-social behavior. Instead of being imprisoned in what was the cultural narrative, (as Trump voters feel they were) of at least superficially showing people courtesy and tacitly acknowledging that all men are created equal and women are as good as men, and what people do in their own bedrooms is their own business, now all bets are off. The election of Donald Trump has given people permission to run amok, in a fashion that would do a prison riot proud. Immediately after the election, children started using racial slurs on children of color. In early 2017 a nine-year-old black boy was almost lynched by his school mates. They had him strung up to a tree and when he was cut loose, his neck was a welt of rope burns and his psyche scarred. Hate crimes spiked in the first 72 hours following Trump’s election and they have been on the rise in the past two and a half years.
Now, Trump has seen fit to ratchet up the hate index yet a few notches higher, with his attacks on House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings. Trump tweeted out Friday that Cummings’ district was “filthy” “rat infested” and “no human being would want to live there,” the clear inference being that those who do live there are somehow sub-human. Saturday, Trump doubled down on his attacks on Cummings, showing video of a trashed out yard in Baltimore. There are trashed out yards in every congressional district in the country. A bad pocket in an area doesn’t invalidate an entire district as a place to live, nor shame the elected official from that district. But Donald Trump is a propagandist par excellence. He wants to win reelection and right now he’s banking on racism being the high card to do that.
The flaming hypocrisy in all this, is that while Trump castigates Cummings, his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a notorious slumlord in Baltimore. Last year ProPublica did an expose on Kushner’s buildings, which described maggots oozing from the carpet and raw sewage bubbling up into the sink, plus a legal team that swindled people out of their damage deposits and wrongfully assessed late fees. Yet Trump turns his back on that, when in all logic, since Kushner is a family member, Trump might be able to persuade him to change the lives of a few black people at least, by cleaning up his buildings. What a paradox. Trump can’t disparage Cummings fast enough, for a trashed out yard in his district, people “living in filth,” yet he won’t persuade his own son-in-law to spend a few bucks and clean up his act. If Baltimore is a “dangerous and filthy place” Jared Kushner has done more than his share to make it so.
“Trumpism did not gain steam based on policy,” author Tim Wise, who was instrumental in the political downfall of David Duke, explained to MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Sunday. “People who voted for Donald Trump didn’t sit down and compare policy positions and 10-point plans. They were responding to the rage that Donald Trump was tapping into. He hates who they hate and that is why they’ve stuck with him — I’m talking about the hardcore base.”
Hatred and fear are Trump’s two key tools — as they are any demagogues. Trump unconsciously tapped into the currents of repressed rage that flow just beneath the surface of our culture. He cracked the ice and that rage geysered upwards and continues to geyser upwards. If racial madness starts to abate for a short time, Trump fixes it by posting a video on his Twitter feed of young black people beating up a white man — today’s feed is from Baltimore. Trump has Baltimore on his mind lately, because of his enmity towards Elijah Cummings.
Cummings most probably has found out something due to his overnight investigations, that worries Trump greatly, because Trump’s raging at him is the same as Trump going off on Robert Mueller several days before Mueller’s congressional testimony. Cummings may have something incriminating to drop on Trump and he may be terrified. He’s certainly acting that way.
In any event, back to Tim Wise. He said that Democrats are “bringing spreadsheets to a gunfight,” referring to the racially dominated contest that 2020 is ramping up to be.
“So, you’re not going to win an election against an emotional movement by just talking about your wonderful plan for this or for that,” Wise said. “Not that we don’t need good plans, but I think the entire campaign of any Democrats needs to be focused on the existential threat that Trumpism poses to the America we care about and the values that we believe in.”
“That’s going to have to be the message that unifies people,” Wise continued. “Not just simply having really good plans. The Democrats are bringing spreadsheets to gun fight. Right? They are bringing debate evidence to a gun fight rather than understanding this is about values, the values we care about as a country as opposed to the values that Trumpism represents.”
Trump is the pied piper of the lost, of those who hate and fear — because that’s exactly who and what he is himself, a man who hates and fears: an insecure, shallow, venal, envious, greedy, shell of a man. He has one gift, that of tapping into the irrational fear and hatred that exists in the darkest recesses of the cultural psyche, an ability to extract it, and then mainline it back into his voters again, and again like a drug. The MAGAts are addicted to Trump. He is both cult leader and Kool-Aid all in one.
With his hate ramblings of the past few weeks, Trump is getting the electorate psyched out for 2020. 2020 is going to be a referendum on racism. It likely is going to be the last battle of the Civil War. We need to be realistic about this going in. 2020 is not business as usual, with an analysis of issues and a comparison of policies. 2020 is about getting rid of Donald Trump. Democrats have no other purpose right now but to focus on that sole imperative and come up with a plan to get the reins of power back into sane hands.