Political Ironist: Will the Phenomenon of Trump Triumph

November 6, 2016 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Donald Trump is the ultimate Rorschach test. For about 40 percent of American voters, he is a political shape-shifter, transforming into whatever savior their anger and anxiety project into him.

For the rest of the country, he is just a charlatan.

Everyone would agree he is not of the political ilk that defined great leaders of the past – Roosevelt, Churchill, Kennedy, or Reagan – protagonists who rallied people behind a lofty or unifying vision of the country. Trump has ridden the wave of the anti-politician. He is the defiant middle finger extended above the Washington Monument whose ominous shadow cast over that city's cozy and corrupt couplet of wealth and power. His mission this presidential election is to take down Hillary Clinton and the political establishment with which she has been a part of for 30 years.

George Will once said that the American people are contemptuous of those professionals whose services they cannot provide themselves. Doctors and lawyers are in that category, but so are politicians who are seen as an elite group that has enriched themselves and their cronies. Trump has tapped into that anger, which has been brewed by conservative pundits over the last 15 years. Their stew of rhetoric and vitriol has created an angry alternative right that believes diversity, liberal thought and a free-spending federal government are synonymous with elitism and entitlement.

Spewing from that boiling cauldron are droplets containing the seeds of suspicion and fear that have come to fruition under Mr. Trump’s cultivation. Using the powerful element of “confirmation bias,” or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true, Mr. Trump has built a campaign that provides a feeding frenzy to the 40 percent’s doubt and fears.

To nativists, Mr. Trump is the wall builder who will keep out the stream of illegal aliens allegedly pouring across our borders. That group fears the country and culture will be overrun by Muslim and Hispanic ethnicity that will dilute their quaint notion of a homogenous America – an image as nostalgic as a Norman Rockwell painting. Yet, statistics indicate that there are more migrants leaving the country each year then coming. But that narrative doesn’t embrace the fear and angst of nativists.

To those in the middle class who have lost their jobs to globalization and the attrition of American manufacturing, Mr. Trump will rip apart every trade deal that siphons off jobs to foreign countries. But according to the Economic Policy Institute, approximately 700,000 jobs have been lost over the last 15 years due to globalization. In contrast, the economy has been adding on average 130,000 jobs a month for the past three years. The challenge is to train displaced workers in a society demanding new skills. But that fact removes the government from blame for the middle-class malaise.

He reassures climate change denialists who take heart in his promise to revive the coal industry and dismantle the EPA. They encourage him to flout government regulations, applauding his defiance as a rejection of onerous federal interference in the free market. But what Mr. Trump doesn’t reveal is that cheaper natural gas has done more to wreck the coal industry than any Federal environmental rules. But that narrative doesn’t make his supporters feel as empowered as much as their contempt for the federal government.
No one knows how better to play the 40 percent’s suspicion than Mr. Trump. During his three debates, he made 104 claims that were proven false. But that’s what he needs to do in order to be a living, breathing inkblot: make pronouncements that mutate to absorb every politically disenfranchised grievance.

Then, there are the Hillary haters who believe she is at the heart of every nefarious cover up in government. Her detractors have assailed her with as much contempt as a witch to be burned at the stake. No one throws gasoline on that fire more that Mr. Trump whose incendiary accusations impugn her character at every turn. All this despite during her 30 years, she has never been indicted or convicted.

This election is not so much about a severely flawed presidential candidate as it is about pent up frustrations within the country’s forgotten and threatened middle class that longs for a more uncomplicated and provincial America. As we approach the election, there is a joke making the rounds that goes like this: “Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour on Sunday, and on Tuesday don’t set your country back 50 years.” But there is a sanguine element of truth to it.

Mr. Trump’s followers believe he will return the country to a provincial America as if somehow he can reverse the trend toward diversity and restore blue-collar jobs in an epoch of technological advancement. But this illusion fails to understand the essence of America as expressed by Roger Cohen: “In no other nation is tomorrow so vivid, yesterday so pale. Where you came from yields to American rebirth. There is no real America to take back because America’s many-hued reality is a ceaseless becoming."

Written by Mike Bernos

Mike Bernos is an award-winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.