Last week’s Presidential Election marked one of the most incredible political turn of events of my lifetime, as Donald J Trump, the real estate tycoon who’s rude antics I’ve been a witness to the majority of my life, won the Presidency of the United States with a solid electoral college victory, while losing the popular vote. Count me among the ranks of those who, although not energized by Hillary Clinton as a candidate, thought that she would triumph after watching the Trump campaign make one blunder after another. But no bullying, rude remark was enough to quell the wave of white resentment at the center of Donald Trump’s appeal. As Adolph Hitler once wrote, “The mentality of the masses has no use for half measures and weakness. It recognizes only ruthless strength and brutality.” Or as Donald Trump would say, “Take the oil.” It’s very clear that Barack Obama’s caution and gift for nuance might seem next to Trump, only a more successful, two term version of Jimmy Carter’s, coated in carmel. Trump in this scenario fulfills the American taste for heroes of old, bold white men who dictated terms to the rest of the world rather than asked. But in the 21st Century, the image of the dictatorial white man has changed. It is no longer the swaggering cowboy of old, represented by Ronald Reagen during his Presidency, it has now been replaced by an eastern business tycoon. And “The Donald” has convinced a winning plurality of working class (and college educated) white people that he is the most qualified person, inherited billions and all, to look after the common man. Now there have been rich champions of the working class before, such as FDR and JFK. But neither represented the visceral pull of Trump in this past election.
In reality, Donald Trump’s victory, though shocking, is many years in the making. The dominant political narrative, brought to the American people in its greatest form by Ronald Reagen, is that “big government” has become the problem in American life. My argument has always been that we never heard one peep about “big government” until Blacks and other minorities began to be seen as benefiting from government programs. Reagen and his advisors brilliance was to tie hatred for government into racicalized issues such as affirmative action, school busing from black to white districts, employment laws, minorities studies programs, welfare programs, jobs programs, and any other measure directed at fixing or mending racial inequality in America.
This wave is a very old one, that was brought to the fore by George Wallace and Barry Goldwater in 1964. Before that it had been seen in the violent “whitelash” after Reconstruction in the post War South. Trump emulated one of the most divisive of American politicians, Richard Milhaus Nixon, on his way to victory last Tuesday. Except with even less grace, playing to the reality TV deadened American mob of the early 21st Century. As much of the rest of the world denounced Trump’s antics in revulsion, a certain segment of American’s rapturously cheered his every rude, ill tempered tirade. Here finally was a person running for office who “kept it real.” Even some Blacks, who knew that Trump inspired the most vile and blatant racism seen since the 1960s, found Trump and his supporters real hate refreshing.
The great writer Playthell Benjamin wrote an essay on the unique American appeal of Donald Trumps brand of neo facism. It can be read here https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2016/03/14/is-donald-trump-a-uniquely-american-fascist/. Benjamin raised a fascinating point, which is basically that these extreme right wing movements, playing on simplistic ideas of going back to some lost glorious past (Make America Great Again!) and steeped in ethnic and racial chauvinism, need leaders who fit the history, myth, and temperament of the nations they’re attempting to mislead. And that Donald Trump, business tycoon and reality television star, has a personality and background uniquely suited for a number of Americans to trust him enough to turn over unprecedented power to.
Trump has, since his rise to celebrity during the 1980s, represented the American ideal of a bold, wheeler dealer businessman. This figure has replaced the cowboy and soldier as totems of American masculinity, with business and the competition for dollars seen as the true warfare. In this America, even wars such as the one’s we have conducted in the middle east are seen clearly as conquest for material resources, that all add up to money and prosperity. As Herbert Hoover was once reputed to say, “The business of America is business.” Trump is also a much different figure than the internet geeks who are much wealthier than he. Compared to them, he seems to have more of the patriarchal American boldness that is imprinted on our acquisitory history.
It seems that Americans have been running away from Democracy for many years. Benjamin Franklin was said to have remarked after the forming of the United States that he and the founding fathers had created “A Republic, if you can keep it.” The strength of the American Republic will be tested as it has not for a long time. The supporters of Donald Trumps argument, as well as right wing movements around the globe, is that the increasing wave of globalism, in which borders are undermined and resources do not find their way to actual citizens of the nations they’re supposed to be there for. This argument is problematic, as Its always been my point that the wave of globalization began with the creation of the Atlantic world, and was set in motion years ago by tragedies such as Slavery, Colonialism, and Native removal. As Malcom X said, “The Chickens are coming home to roost.” I will continue to use this blog as a space to monitor the coming changes in America, as a journal to advocate for things I believe are beneficial to human beings of all persuasions. And we will all need to remain vigilant as we’re being driven in the most sophisticated car in the world, by an elderly first time driver.