There is something darkly profound going on in America political life and discourse. The rise of Donald Trump is, I’m beginning to think, more than a political shift. It’s a deeper cultural and psychological shift that is the logical outcome of the polarization and gridlock that has gripped our democracy ever since the emergence of the Tea Party and quite possibly sooner than that. The truth is, there had to be payback from the people to those who govern when they let themselves get so mired in partisan polarities that they just stopped doing their damned jobs in any reasonable and productive way. Think about all those polls showing 10% approval rating for Congress. Trump is perceived as a kick-ass antitote to the foolish, selfish, stupidity that has resulted in what is widely perceived to be dysfunctional democracy. Trump is perceived as the anti-politics solution to Washington’s failure to deliver satisfaction to anyone, left or right.
Robert Reich has put a finger on it when he writes:
Anti-politics pits Washington insiders, corporate executives, bankers, and media moguls against a growing number of people who think the game is rigged against them. There’s no center, only hostility and suspicion. Americans who feel like they’re being screwed are attracted to an authoritarian bully – a strongman who will kick ass. The former reality TV star who repeatedly told contestants they were “fired!” appears tough and confrontational enough to take on powerful vested interests.
What’s going on is not so much political as it is psychological. People are so disgusted with the failure of political discourse and hence with politicians, that they are willing to overlook Trump’s many obvious flaws and just roll the dice and take a chance that he’ll get in there and kick enough ass to break up the gridlock and get things moving again. They’re willing to sacrifice some of their political ideology in favor of “let’s turn this guy loose and shake things up.”
The scariest part is not that this is just a unique phenemonon. Writing about democracy two thousand years ago, Plato (who was not a fan of democracy) foresaw the emergence of a demogogic strong man as the inevitable outcome of late stage democracy.
Reich point out that Trump’s recent rise in the polls from a 50-39 defict to a dead heat with Hillary Clinton in less than two weeks has happened at a time when “Trump has been the object of even more unfavorable press than he was before – about his treatment of women, his propensity to lie, his bizarre policy proposals. Before this came months of news coverage of his bigotry, megalomania, narcissism, xenophobia, refusals to condemn violence at his rallies, refusals to distance himself from white supremacists, and more lies.” Yet in spite of all of that — look what’s happening?
What will be the outcome in November?
I will say this.
Anyone attempting to project what will happen needs to be studying psychographics as much as demographics.
If you’re a democrat, the situation is not helped by the fact that the dem candidate is the ultimate insider, a poster icon of the entitled elite. She is the perfect foil for Trump. And he knows how to get the most out of Hillary as an opponent–how to use her to stoke the sense that the system is rigged, that it’s all about the elite and not about me.
Will America finally, at the eleventh hour, sober up and make a sober choice? Or will will the nation collectively cash in its 401k, buy a Harley, and take off into a brave and frightening new reality with Trump?
Dems be forewarned. Don’t think for a minute that he can’t win, because he can. America is just that pissed off, just that filled with rage.
Take a deep breath and get ready for the very real possibility of President Trump.