(Before I begin, let me say that I debated using “Trumpnomenon” in the title, before ultimately deciding against it because “Trumpnomenon” sounded stupid. But I digress…)
As some of you have probably inferred, I am (on paper) a “coastal elitist”-I was born and raised in New Jersey, I am college educated, and being that I read and listen to symphonic music, I suppose my tastes run to the fairly “highbrow”. In practice, some of my other tastes and especially my finances, place me far outside the world of the elite.
Perhaps it is my “being outside the box”, which is a polite way of saying “not having many people associating with me” (because I’m a philosopher king, of course), that enables me to objectively view the political rise of Donald Trump.
I myself am not 100% enamored by Trump, but I have gone on record stating that he’s the best of the Republican field-by far-purely because he’s the only one that doesn’t go out of his way to pointlessly antagonize Russia in the hopes of (presumably) starting World War 3
Indeed, he and Vladimir Putin have been accused of being downright chummy. And while Putin’s not a great human being, I completely understand his appeal to his countrymen (Seeing as I’m actually aware of what was going on in “the New Russia”, and how he put a stop to it through, admittedly, brutal means). And that assessment of Putin is similar to my assessment of Trump: I don’t think “The Donald” is a particularly admirable person, but I understand his appeal, and in many ways I agree with it-in short, many reason that it’s better to be ruled by a swaggering, pompous nationalist than any of the globalist neocons and cuckservatives (as if there’s really a difference) who actively want to make the world a worse place.
(Incidentally, this distaste for the status quo is also why the left is in a smaller tizzy over the rise of Bernie Sanders and the alleged “Bernie Bros.”-Sanders is for the most part a Marxist in a traditional, i.e. economic, sense, and he perhaps represents a rejection of the identity politics that dominates American discourse as well. My opinion of Sanders is almost identical to my view of Trump: Not perfect, but by far the best of the Democratic lot)
And yet, many of the chattering class just don’t seem to “get” Mr. Trump, attributing his rise purely to how “he’s politically incorrect” or his “cult of personality”-this latter hypothesis leading directly into the “Trump is literally Hitler!” nonsense that’s started to arise in the last few weeks. Respectfully, I disagree-Trump’s rise has a definite ideology to it, and it’s even an ideology that has arisen in the past (And no, it’s not fascism, moron).
In fact, Trump’s campaign is highly reminiscent of the campaign of another billionaire populist: Ross Perot in 1992. While Trump has deliberately cultivated a bombastic “edginess” about him, their policies are remarkably similar: Both of them are anti-globalist (Perot criticized NAFTA and global financial firms lobbying American government, just as Trump criticizes outsourcing and free trade while advocating protectionism). Trump is anti-amnesty (Which fits into the anti-globalist worldview), and while my “exhaustive” 5 minute Wikipedia research showed little information on Perot’s views on illegal immigration, his opposition to economically welding America to Mexico would seem to indicate he was, at the very least, more of a restrictionist then the likes of, say, Jeb Bush.
Trump has also raised the ire of the neocons by criticizing America’s “philanthropic imperialism” (ie: invading places to ensure democracy, save women from burqas, and, I don’t know, enforce the right to have gay pride parades), saying that it is our fault that the Middle East is a shitheap today, and suggesting that perhaps we shouldn’t get involved in other countries. This bears more similarity to another independent candidate who ran for president in the 1990s, one Pat Buchanan. While the fundamentalist Christian Buchanan likely has issues with Trump’s lifestyle, he has explicitly criticized the military-industrial complex innumerable times, as well as criticizing both Gulf Wars
Perot, Buchanan, and Trump, in advocating a protectionist/nationalist economic policy, a subdued foreign policy, being anti illegal immigration, and implicitly advocating for “Middle America” (ie: white people) are quantifiable figureheads for the so-called “Middle American Radical” demographic that was documented by Donald Warren in The Radical Center back in the 1970s. And thankfully, I’m not the only one who sees this, although the number of those who do is unfortunately low.
Regardless of your personal opinions on those issues, I think any fair observer would see that these positions are logical and defensible positions…or rather, they should be seen as logical and defensible positions, but sadly, empathy seems to be dead in 2016, and these positions (especially that terrifying “advocating for white people” one) can only be understood by our intelligentsia as being the hysterical scapegoating of violent, drug-addled, stupid, inbred, worthless “rednecks”. On that note…
Why does nobody ask if maybe, just maybe, the “poorly educated white trash” might have legitimate grievances, or at least feel that they do? I’m about as far from this demographic as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are, but I prefer not to demonize them and instead try to understand why they do what they do:
When I was going through my shamefully long Social Justice period (roughly from my junior year of high school to my sophomore year of college), a meme that was slung around, and taken as God-given fact, was that the white-working class were, in a political context, ignorant dupes that were fooled into “voting against their own interests” (and this was the most positive interpretation of them). And this at first seemed to make sense: the Republican party always advocates for a government that doesn’t provide social entitlements and supports big business and privatization. Why would poor people vote for this, unless they were fooled into doing so?
It took me actually meeting some of these benighted people, combined with applying critical thinking to realize something:
While the Republicans may not be working for the interest of the white working class, the Democrats REALLY aren’t working for the interests of the white working class. In fact, I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that the Democrats (or, rather, leftist intellectuals who produce media and tend to vote Democrat) explicitly hate “rednecks”.
I know I’m not the only person who notices the smug condescension leftists use when talking to these people, the unremitting demonization in popular media and academia. I’m also not the only person to notice the explicit appeals to identity politics for non-whites, and (of course) corresponding demonization of poor white people.
But one might think that’s to be expected-leftist politics, over the last 30 years or so, has given up any pretense of being concerned with economics: as illustrated by their love of “cool” corporations, and the subtle way they’ve turned reactionary genius and godfather of Wall Street Alexander Hamilton into some sort of honorary black man. The hardscrabble white working class once championed by John Steinbeck has been thrown under the bus. Surely this explains why they went over to the Republicans, who at least pretended to care about them…
Until recently, when even mainstream conservatives (“Conservatism Incorporated”, “Cuckservatives”, call them what you will) have dropped that pretense. It’s worth pointing out that this happened directly in conjunction with our rise-the alt-right, neomasculinity, and all the other countercultures that use these terms have all collectively realized how the Republicans spend more time trying to signal how virtuous they are to leftists instead of actually appealing to their constituents. And the GOP establishment has noticed-they manage to attack us directly on occasion in between the endless cavalcade of oblivious Trump bashing
So now I must ask: The white working class, the people who support Trump, have long been used to being verbally abused by the left. But now the alleged “conservatives” who are supposed to support them openly show their contempt for this demographic, calling them “white trash” and “peckerwoods” who cry about losing their “jerbs” and deserve to have their communities die, because their failures are entirely their fault. Why are you surprised that they’re angry? Wouldn’t you be?
And while Trump is far from that culture and lifestyle, he doesn’t go out of his way to despise them, and advocates policies that they feel would benefit them. So, again…
You shouldn’t be surprised at Trump’s rise.