Many of the people whose job it is to observe and comment on American politics were probably not the least bit surprised that Donald Trump entered the race for the presidency. Every four years a bevy of wannabe leaders throw their hats in the ring with little hope of achieving a semblance of success. On first blush that appeared to be the case with Trump and it is certain that no-one is as surprised at his success than he is.
One even wonders if he really wants to be president; what with all the Constitutional constraints on the office like the Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. Trump demands he is accountable to no human or god, and he knows that attitude would never fly in Washington. American politics may often appear to be a reality, game show, but that is not the case. So why is Trump really running and why does he garner such ardent support?
The authors of a N.Y. Times article do make a reasonable argument for why Trump is even in the race for the GOP nomination. They assert he is desperate to be taken seriously as a superior American and wants to prove it to the Republican establishment. They wrote that “Mr. Trump’s campaign is driven by a deep yearning sometimes obscured by his bluster and bragging: A desire to be taken seriously.”
However reasonable that claim may be, it is likely that winning the nomination will be the ultimate “act of revenge against the establishment” that has shunned him as a celebrity joke and refuses to allow him to control anything related to the Party.
It is that sense of getting revenge, only against 21st Century American society and culture that drives Trump’s angry white Christian base. It is the same base the Palins among the GOP represent who want to get their own “payback” against an increasingly not white, not Christian, and not bigoted population. It is the “take our country back” several decades mindset that Trump guarantees to see to fruition.
The kind of people who love Donald Trump most are angry they are not the center of, or control, all American life and culture; it drives the current “make America great again” movement that began when Americans elected an African American man as President. These “so-called Americans” see the nation with a Black President and more diverse population as an abomination to “their white Christian” America and it drives their heartfelt embrace of Trump’s mantra that “it’s payback time.”
Trump’s supporters in particular, and the conservative movement in general, include the kind of people who believe they have been assaulted by the Civil Rights movement, feminists, minorities, women’s movement, and the LGBT community they are convinced robbed them of “their America.” They also firmly believe the rest of the population owes them due deference for being the only “real Americans” instead of being mocked for what they really are; bible-thumping racist knuckle-draggers stuck in pre-Civil War America.
Despite what many pundits errantly conclude, that mindset is not down to Donald Trump; it was created by the “party elite” and diligently cultivated and promoted by the entirety of the conservative movement. In fact, since then-Senator Barack Obama came on the national scene in 2008, it has been the Republican narrative that America is wrecked and a theme propagated by the conservative media. Conservatives, their pundits, and their belief tanks have incited “cultural resentment” for decades and Trump is just savvy enough to tap into that resentment with greater success than his GOP rivals. All of the Republican hopefuls hew to that mindset, albeit not as openly as Trump, but it is deeply ingrained in the Republican movement.
The worldview and angst Trump has tapped into is also not about economics as some pundits have suggested; the preponderance of Trump supporters hold the extremely wealthy, the so-called “one-percent,” in the highest esteem. Trump even said in his Florida victory speech, to wild applause, that making the rich in America even richer is a vital part of his plan to “make America great again, so America can start winning again.” In no sane universe could a political figure campaign on giving the uber rich more wealth than in the angry white Christian base Trump panders to.
Of course this is insane since Trump’s base is not part of “the one percent” by any stretch; they just want their revenge for “losing their dominance” as white conservative Christians. This sense of loss likely began in “the Sixties” and it helped foster the arrival of the Moral Majority, extremist religious right, and various anti-anything hate groups dominating the conservative movement today.
Trump’s promise to elevate the hateful and institute their version of a white Christian nation where minorities, women, secularists, and liberals know their place resonates among the “hate group” that senses their way of life was stolen and must be taken back. Since the 2008 general election this has been the overriding narrative driving conservative populism and the religious right, anti-women, anti-gay and anti-minority movement. It is why there are glaring similarities between Trump, Sarah Palin types, Ted Cruz and even the least extreme elements within the GOP.
The major appeal of Trump is not foreign or economic policy, but his acknowledging and inciting that cultural resentment among his base. They feel their “sense of cultural entitlement” has been eroded, if not nearly destroyed. This “loss of entitlement” permeating Trump’s acolytes’ is based on their delusion that there was a concerted effort to take over “conservative America” by a growing number of undesirables; “hippies, artists, people of color, secularists, feminists, and gay people.”
Trump’s supporters sincerely believe, and have wholly embraced, the GOP narrative that America stopped being great when white Christians lost control of American culture and society. They want that power and control returned and Trump is smart enough to convince them that he is the only man who can deliver; to Hell with the Constitution and “political correctness.”
What Americans should be most concerned about is not a Trump presidency; his particular brand of hate is not yet main-stream enough to see him winning the White House. No, what Americans should remember is that after Trump is gone, his angry racist base will remain and they will be angrier than before. This is something a few “political” experts seem to miss and continuing to scold the GOP establishment and Party elite for creating Trump is completely wrong-headed. The GOP did not create Donald Trump; he has always been a blowhard megalomaniac and a bully.
However, the GOP did spend the past eight years putting all its energy into creating and cultivating Trump’s angry racist base of support. If they were not aligned behind Trump, it would be Ted Cruz or whichever Republican promised convincingly enough that they would give the white Christian base what they and their hero du jour Donald Trump desperately want; revenge and a serious dose of payback for not letting them control America.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.