Our attachments to Trump are far below the level of rational understanding and as these underground or abyss level attachments have proven politically potent in the past, we cannot fail to be attentive. Trump has all the gravitas of the Id, the magnetism of the Inferno.
Published on http://bad.eserver.org
A compelling and in depth review, one that makes the necessary historical connections, of the meaning of Trump’s presence on the American scene can be found in Henry Giroux’s exemplary “Trumping America,” which ends with answering the question as to why we should know this and what can we do about it: “Rather than despair or laugh over the spectacle of Trump’s media romp, a more promising beginning might be to recognize the utter intellectual, moral and political bankruptcy of the extremists now running the US government and economy of which Trump is symptomatic. This suggests the possibility of rethinking politics in the way the Black Lives Matter movement is doing, one that is connecting different groups under the banner not of isolated and short-lived protest demonstrations but calls for real ideological and structural change.” (Truthout July 8, 2015)
While Giroux stays on the surface of rational explication, I append here the footnotes of a subliminal American imaginary, one that sits down at the Mad Hatter’s tea party table and tries to represent the topsy turvy sense they make. My impetus was Rachel Madow’s expression of frustration regarding America’s attraction to Donald Trump. She could not imagine how Donald Trump could in any way be taken as a viable presidential candidate. She remains, as always, an incisive reporter of an intelligible consciousness. Unfortunately, our attachments to Trump are far below that and as these underground or abyss level attachments have proven politically potent in the past, we cannot fail to be attentive. Sad to say, the “intellectual, moral and political bankruptcy” Giroux cites is not limited to “extremists” but seems deeply embedded and pervasive in the American cultural imaginary.
I have six reasons to offer her, reasons you can dive into the American cultural imaginary of the moment and find. Largely, they represent a dark logic of the Id, of subliminal recesses we in a past analog world made efforts to conceal. Now in our age of interactive cyberspace rant and snark all manner of nasty, virulent invective, all displays of the worst devils of our nature reach the light of day. It makes little sense to say that Trump is a buffoon no one should pay attention to, least of all as a viable presidential candidate, when Trump has been leading all Republican presidential candidates in the polls for over two weeks. There are troubling attachments and affiliations being made in the American cultural imaginary that we cannot simply rise above by applying a rationality that is not universally acknowledged, or a realism that rejects the phenomenal nature of reality, the “as it appears to me” nature of reality, or a sanity that, as Lewis Carroll has so brilliantly portrayed to us, depends greatly on which rabbit hole your mind has fallen.
It is troubling that Trump has found a welcoming reception with so many. Republican candidates for the presidency have been fearful of rankling those who share Trump’s views because these candidates are courting the votes of these people. The New York Times reports that it is “exceedingly perilous for the Republican Party to treat Mr. Trump as the pariah many of its leaders now wish he would become.” (July 10, 2015) But this is media’s preference to call a presidential election as a horserace. What this approach obscures is the real magnetism of the American electorate’s dark affiliations manifested in the coded appeal to racism against blacks that permeates Republican politics and more recently the xenophobia and bigotry that lies at the bottom of the immigration issue. Quite clearly the appearance among Republican presidential candidates of a detachment from Trump belies the fact that the appeal of their own platforms lies in the same muck as does Trump’s.
A Republican victory in 2016 will not be won by an appeal to the better angels of our nature but rather to a baseness most easily courted. A magnanimous generosity toward others, a sense of equality and fraternity, a sense of cooperative sharing and mutual aid are not fostered by a zero sum capitalist enterprise. It is therefore no surprising that the better angels of our nature are not nurtured when we live within a “war of all against all” culture. The persistence of this warfare of each against each has long ago permeated the American cultural imaginary. And, once again, cyberspace has brought this moral and social devolution into clear focus, more clearly displayed than the disingenuous concealment game of politics.
Cyberspace is filled with open windows to exhilarating discoveries but also to an unsettling glimpse of the worst in us. What we find revealed are profound indicators of what is going on beneath the surface of what we read and say. Trump is the most recent tip of the iceberg in the Great Ocean of Offline Realty to break the surface and he makes a number, I list six here, attachments to links we may pretend to be too many steps from the abyss out of which he emerges to perceive.
- Private Sector Hero: Trump is a pure product of that brand of capitalism we have descended into since Ronald Reagan. To ridicule him is to ridicule the whole enterprise of a zero sum capitalist game. Neither Liberals nor Neoliberals dare to touch this true third rail in American society. It is as if once this locked box is open, its inviolability will, like the Emperor without clothes, melt away. And because our economic goals set our values, Trump fits the American Dream: Fame & Fortune. He is a Winner. A celebrity. He has got as much time in the spotlight as he wants. The press may ridicule him but they are Liberal, preferring that Everyman be allotted the same piece of the economic pie, something the combative individualism of Americans will not accept.
- The Sovereign Citizen: Trump is a sovereign of a mogul’s domain that can not only do what a government made timid by Liberals cannot do but he is a symbol of a welcomed defiance of government, a defiance that has led to the extremes of the Sovereign Citizen movement. He exerts his own personal will against all comers, bending to no reasoning but his own. He is the businessman, mogul, and celebrity who obviously disdain politicians, in the same way that polls reveal Americans do. In the role of The Sovereign Citizen,” Trump encapsulates the private, personal above the public, and governmental. The sovereignty that a smart phone gives everyone to personal interaction with everything, to designing and arranging a personal order of things that defies any external order finds its political complement in the “sovereign citizen” attachment. Whether knowingly or not, Trump has tied himself to this.
- Hard-ball Competitor: Trump wears the mantle of a triumphant, winning competitor with the savvy to move whatever opposes him in his direction with methods that “good guys” run from but Winners know how and when to use strategically. “Good guys finish last and guys who can play hard ball” win. Trump fits the role in our imaginary. Trump is the man with power who can use that power to say, “You’re fired!” This is a very attractive quality in a society where most Americans want everyone in Congress to be fired, in fact, every career politician. A powerful business Mogul as president would replace the weak, timid and confused presidency of Obama. “I beat China all the time” resonates in an American cultural imaginary locked into China paranoia. Congressional gridlock would be as improbable as gridlock in anyone of Trumps corporate boardrooms.
- Defender of White Culture: Trump symbolizes the disgust and anger of those who are increasingly not comfortable with the welcoming and inclusive rhetoric of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Trump offers no sop to those perceived as a menacing invasive horde of Latinos threatening a WASP culture. There is a powerful subliminal rejection in the American imaginary of the sort of egalitarian society of which Obama speaks. Instead there is a decidedly anti-egalitarian attitude where suspicion and not trust rule, where anger is aroused by any extension of tax payer relief to those who suffer economically, where difference and diversity are the actual enemies of personally chosen and designed “friending” circles that mock the compatibility and unity that America boasts to the world. Trump’s attack on Mexicans is within this abyss an announcement that he is the “Great White Hope,” the man most fit to lead the country against all that now stands as legitimate.
- Rebel Outsider of Politics: Trump as presidential candidate is the pure outsider of politics. In this role, though no American who admires him and would vote for him shares his wealth and power, they feel that he is as much an outsider as they are. The outsider is best suited to dismantle the “insiders,” who exhibit a combination of corruption and incompetence, who are clearly agents of foreign domination, determined to take away all personal freedom, from guns to honoring the confederate flag. Trump is the champion knocking at the gates of the Washington insiders and demanding entrance. The more loud and obstreperous he becomes, the more he incites the insiders to carp at his impertinence, insuring his outsider status in the eyes of others.
- The Truth-teller: Trump is the Truth-teller, harried by the media, by Beltway politicians, and by a Federal bureaucracy, that increasingly entangles individual freedom in the coils of restraints. The “Truth-teller” is fearless in his expression of what others cowed by government, left-leaning Liberals and a corrupt media will not say. Trump now is the one who has given us a real picture of what is going on with illegal aliens easily crossing the border. His statement: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists” resonates in the dark abyss of an imaginary in which White America sees itself lashing out against a “browning” of America. Trump’s truth-telling has reinforced the “birthers'” accusations that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Although factcheck.org makes it clear that Trump is more a purveyor of falsehood than a “Truth-teller,” we are more able to imagine factcheck.org as a conspiracy of liars than accept their fact checking of Trump. “Everything about Obamacare is a lie, a filthy lie,” Trump claims, and finds many in agreement, although Paul Krugman writes “Hooray for Obamacare” and supports that with facts. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/opinion/paul-krugman-hooray-for-the-aca.html)