By Bob Dorn
I’ve got two explanations for the Trump phenomenon. They’re both a little hollow.
The first is, he’s the leading example of white privilege, and he’s proud of it. He’s got so much money he wouldn’t know how to fry an egg for himself if he were starving.
People like Trump have so much money and have been rewarded by media for so long they’ve lost track of what real people experience. They’ve become isolated. After decades of going out only to places where they can think and play with people whom they agree with these guys don’t have to watch what they say any longer.
He’s not exactly alone among white male Americans incapacitated by their political ranking. There’s Scalia and Cheney (whose first name really is dick) and Limbaugh and Hannity and, who knows, the Kochs, named after roosters, and all the other cocky sorts who carry guns and avoid having to enlist themselves in the wars they’ve been promoting.
They’re free to indulge themselves in fantasies about how hard they work, how it’s only fair they pay no taxes because they bought an offshore island for their headquarters, how white guys with guns aren’t terrorists because… they’re white, too.
But Donald Trump is out there, all alone. He’s running by himself. No one’s quite like him. The wind lifts his yellow hair off its moorings and blows it sideways and forward and backward in all four directions with one gust and his poll ratings don’t drop.
He can talk shit and get away with it. So, white males who are mystified by their own lack of success when they talk nonsense are thinking… this is my guy. He understands me. He’s their Trump card.
One of the truly amazing things about Trump is, that’s really his name… he’s the ace of trumps, the winning card. Trump trumped Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie. But trump is also another verb, a phrasal verb, as in when you “trump up” some excuse for an outrageous remark by saying, “I’m just saying what everybody’s thinking.” It may be a lie, but what the hell, I’m a man of the people (which is another lie). Another usage for “trump up” is to fabricate a meaningless spectacle.
And still another meaning of trump, albeit really obscure, is “to fart audibly.” Honestly, that’s what my online dictionary has, and it adds that this meaning is old German and probably is imitative of the sound made when one gets too free and can gas unfettered by social norms. Trump.
Maybe we all can relax a bit about Trump. He’s got just 30% of Republican votes. There must be some Latino and Black and Women Republicans who’ll vote for a Democrat before they’ll vote for Trump. Certainly Muslims won’t be running to him. And if you figure the Democrats have roughly half the country’s voters (it’s actually slightly more than that) then Donald Trump right now is a minority candidate, most of it comprising white reactionary males. So that’s good news.
My second and other hollow explanation for Trump is that he set out a long time ago last June when he announced his presidential campaign (doesn’t it seem longer ago than that?) to destroy the Republican Party by becoming the ur-Republican, the white male “embodying the basic or intrinsic qualities of a particular class or type,” as my online dictionary defines the prefix ur-, which is also German.
I don’t believe Republicans have always advocated relieving the burdens of the ur-wealthy by lowering their marginal tax rates and eliminating the capital gains tax, or that the sheer magnitude of wealth today is a burden. And I don’t think Republicans always thought war was intrinsically a good thing, or that certain… umm… ethnicities are stupid, like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia just revealed. (Who has he been hanging out with?)
Trump seems to understand the strangeness of Republican aesthetics so well that he’s been able to take it further toward mainstream than any Republican has so far (with the possible exception of Ted Cruz). He’s been coaxing his party to come out with its supremacist fantasy, essentially freeing it to express its gasses as if even those acts were evidence of superiority.
At the beginning of his candidacy, when he threatened to run as an Independent if the wasn’t “treated fairly” by the Republicans, Trump seemed to know the GOP might wind up gagging on its own bullshit. That’s the trump card he’s holding. If he bolts the party he’ll drag away the vigilantes, the Texas secessionists, the warriors without uniforms and all the other white fantasists who normally vote Republican, leaving only Jeb! to represent establishment Republicans, which is what a bamboozled and castrated press calls Wall Street.
Republicans would lose big if Trump plays out this scenario. Even Hillary Clinton could win in a three-way contest.
Maybe that’s why Jon Stewart, when he still had his Daily Show, rubbed his hands and smacked his lips with glee on camera just after Trump announced his candidacy. He knew The Donald as well as The Donald knew the GOP, and saw the future.
Now, both these two ideas can’t be true. The Donald cannot be our Mussolini, about to strut the world stage and form the first American Reich, while at the same time he’s plotting the downfall of the American Right by coaxing it to reveal its deepest and most terrifying beliefs
Personally, when I’m in doubt about what’s really going on in this country I blame Big Media.
Feckless, it reported uncritically what Trump was saying and he was quickly enabled to make himself the leading political story (see “Donald Trump is the Most Honest Man in Politics”). At this point, no one on either side of the nominating process can get any sustained political coverage from Big Media. Who gets more ink?
I can’t think of anyone who’s depicted the big fail of political reporting better than David Roberts recently did on Dec. 01 at Vox, in his “The real reason the press is rising up against Donald Trump.” Here he is, talking about how the mainstream big boys have realized (perhaps too late to restore their credibility) that they were Trumped by their own instincts to view The Donald as a real candidate only because the Republicans had done so.
Their trepidation has less to do with the fact of Trump lying than with the way he lies. They don’t mind being properly lied to; it’s all part of the game. What they cannot countenance is being rendered irrelevant. Trump is not kissing the ring. He barely bothers to spin the media. He does not need them, or give two shits what centrist pundits think. Their disapproval only strengthens him. Media gatekeepers are in danger of being exposed as impotent bystanders.
It may well be that the major voices of journalism some time ago became our versions of the eunuchs of ancient Sumer and the castrati of Imperial Rome, close to power and trusted by the powerful to repeat orders without aspiring to any power of their own.
Now that the Republicans have discovered that The Donald is endangering the party with his extremely white program of hate and vengeance, the mainstream eunuchs are lining up against him.
Of my own hollow theories I’m more convinced by the second; the possibility that he intended all along to blunt the Super PACs and big money with what amounts to a satirical run for the presidency. He has exposed, finally, the Republicans for what they are. And they seem already to have gagged on their own Trump.