Don’t get me wrong: Trump is a bad man. But I think that between you and me and everyone else on the Internet and the media, Donald J. Trump has been insulted in all possible ways. I won’t try and be redundant. I want to instead praise Trump—and not even in a sarcastic, ironic way. For someone without any political experience or fundamental knowledge of governance to win a major party nomination is really quite incredible and…yuuuuuuuuuge!
Donald Trump’s image is one of a narcissistic, bombastic bully. He knows that. He flaunts it. He holds no principled beliefs other than a desire for more money. He prides himself on being unpredictable. The media loves falling into the trap of perpetuating its image, when in fact it is potentially one of his greatest assets. In a nation where the desire for an outsider, and an agitator is so great, the more extreme Trump seems, the better he does. While most politicians are hyper-conscious about how they appear and what words they use, Trump is consciously revolting against that mindset. He doesn’t want to appear “smart,” or “competent.” Politicians have being playing that game for decades, and people are tired of it. Donald knows that the appeal of being different is more than enough to compensate for acting crude.
The Republican primaries: the perfect storm for inaugurating Trump into the general election. The lack of superdelegates and the number of winner-take-all primaries propelled Trump to victory. More moderate Republicans, unable to decide on an establishment candidate (Jeb v. Rubio v. Kasich v. too many others), allowed Trump to take the plurality of more right-leaning disenchanted voters. And while mainstream Republicans continued to hark their less-government-protect-the family-strong-military song, Trump tapped into a completely different demographic:
These are the poor white working class. They don’t care about smaller government: many of them are on welfare. They don’t care about preserving the traditional family: many of them have and come from broken families, living in fractured and suffering communities. Lots of them have lost jobs (literally to Asia and Latin America), and are stuck in depleted neighborhoods, unable to move out due to poor mortgages and declining property value. There is a great book, Hillbilly Elegy, by JD Vance, who talks about this often forgotten sector of American society. When we talk about rednecks and hillbillies—the ones we love calling racists and bigots—we forget they are real people who have lost hope, who feel abandoned by both parties. They see that Democrats are obsessed with minority rights at the expense of struggling whites, while Republicans have strayed away to their base of wealthy and middle-class whites. No one in Washington really represents them.
Now they do have a propensity to blame government and immigrants for their problems. That’s not really right either. But there is a lot of legitimate discontent that politicians have neglected for several decades. Trump has very successfully mobilized this demographic, and perhaps in the most dangerous way possible. But he has energized a group that has for too long been overlooked, and in a way not unlike how Bernie Sanders sparked hope for a Progressive movement that has been sidelined since the early 70’s.
Donald Trump has placed his bet on an anger that is real and in need of address. To have that anger win can be disastrous, but it is not going to go away easily. Trump is an easy hero to so many people. He talks the way “real” people talk; he has money and riches and fame the way most of his supporters can only dream of. He is “I’m tired and sick of politicians and elites” embodied.
Donald Trump deserves credit for utilizing these sentiments towards his own success. In the same way that he complimented himself for avoiding taxes and making gains during the Great Recession, he’s played the politics game the only way he knows how: to win. Unlike other politicians who make an effort to conceal their ambitions and Machiavellian ploys, Trump doubles down and openly shows blood on his hand. He does not care. And why should he?
We live in a society where the ruling class has tried to appeal to the people for support while trying to sustain their own influence and wealth. I will probably talk about this subject some other time. The so-called “system” has been modified piecemeal to reach out to voters just enough to keep them satisfied while the politicians and the wealthy sustain their own interests. In a system that was only meant to appease people, Trump dared to use it to inspire voters and overcome systemic barriers. So here we are…