Q & A: Why Trumpism?

By: Bill Whaley
19 January, 2021

From a Reader:

“Why Trump? How did he make “those guys” become political?

“We’ve known those guys all our lives. We grew up with them. ( The guy chasing the Capitol policeman up the stairs is from Des Moines.) “Those guys” hated all politicians. They grumbled in their beer down at the tavern, but then went out to their duck blind or went ice fishing and on to the next day.

“Is it just the perceived loss of white privilege and the fact that Trump made overt racism acceptable? Is that why they glommed on to him as a savior?

“Is there any more than that? Is it decline in standard of living? Is it rage at bicoastal elitism? (Even I can see how Nancy Pelosi could make one grind his teeth!).

“How could an obvious fraud, a faux strong man, a third rate would be Mussolini incite such emotion.

“It’s not that he is “one of them”. He so clearly is not like them in any way and could not understand their experience or lives. They must know that. Maybe they do know that, but know he is their best chance. “

Extended Blah Blah: Love they Neighbor

The above questions, raised by my college roommate (Fall of 1964) from Iowa, and fellow football teammate from Colorado College, home to some of the more “smug” members (elites) of the American bourgeoisie, suggests how non-plussed we all are by the emergence of Trumpism. Despite their historic stance as the party of “patriotism” and “law and order,” most republicans (white supremacists) support Trump et al and about 40% of the current Congress have sided with the “Big Lie” about the Biden election and recent insurrection. Here’s my 12 point attempt at a “blah blah” answer.

1. So, yes, white supremacy, a feature of “classicism” and “racism” drives “Trumpism” just as Corporate America seeks control of labor, profits, and thrives under deregulation (lawlessness), seeking tax breaks, and political power, while claiming unfettered “free markets” will set you free though said markets, like the game are, of course, “fixed.”
2. The fusion or synthesis of political experience by inexperienced and one-time skeptics of “politics” in general, has been nourished by a triumvirate of forces in an imperfect storm: Social Media, the Pandemic, Trump as voice of personal, social grievance, hate as a substitute for “meaning.”
3. Sociologists, academics, and Silicon Valley executives, as well as “users” all admit to the mesmerizing, addictive, and even changes in the physical responses of the brain to the bombardment of social media. Some attribute the single biggest change to the brain as the result of the emergence of the iPhone in about 2007. My own students with whom I’ve had these conversations about social media experience agree. Further, studies of Broadcast media as entertainment or brainwashing show that these organs have created a generation of right wing and left wing factions v. those with shared experience and shared facts about interpreting social forces.
4. The ideals of the Declaration (all men are created equal) clash with the retrograde repression of minorities (only white men are equal) in the Constitution. The manifest propaganda of Conservative campaigns about “law and order” is underscored historically by liberal band-aids that do little for the masses but serve as a sop to the same Wall St. funders for left and right. The “Big Lie” is inherent in “Compromise,” the art of politics and its failure to express beliefs founded on the moral imagination and ethical acts. You can’t compromise with killers i.e. Bush war criminals or racists, whose policies promote poverty, like student debt, aimed at re-enslaving large segments of the population and some white people for the first time.
5. Education has particularly failed the masses in public schools or private and public universities by emphasizing science and vocational training at the expense of humane critical reflection on the values of experience, including moral training in taking responsibility for one’s “roots” followed by ethical treatment of human existence and environmental justice.
6. Alienation among middle and working classes, engaged in meaningless work or unemployment, creates an opportunity for drug and drink addiction or focus on conspiracy and cultism as a temporary answer to meaningless routine. Between Trump’s “politics” as “reality TV” and Social Media overexposure during the Pandemic, all the factors of modern meaningless merge as folks with little to do, few spiritual or intellectual resources, and old-fashioned empty souls apparently found their guru in Q Shaman or Donald Trump and white hot hate for the “other”: black and brown or “different.”
7. Young men with nothing to do in Arabia turned to Osama Bin Laden, just as young Palestinians, repressed and marginalized, turned to the Intifada and suicide bombing in Israel and across the world. People with little investment, real experience in American society, whether in the art of human relations (politics) or authentic religion turn to riots empty of social justice. Socrates, Jesus, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X all died for what can be considered justice, a codicil of freedom. No justice, no peace. BLM responded to 500 years of injustice.
8. The propaganda uttered by almost every American organ of society (commercial, religious, academic, media, tech) subverts and manipulates the masses as well as the face in the mirror. Say it again; the language of public relations and advertising or lies affects politics, government, education, religion, the arts, etc. but finally disturbs most those with empty souls who lack spiritual resources and the capacity to resist the barrage.
9. While seeking authentic experience that unites body and soul in spiritual fulfillment tied to ordisnary experience, the marginalized come a cropper of powerful social influences. See the examples of solace offered by family, work, joy of athletes and artists, those who love what they do and have committed themselves to: ways of life in accord with temperament and values as well as the saving grace of those who have historic roots that also nourish their lives. See friends with ordinary lives who feel fulfilled.
10. Read Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor (Man’s Search for Meaning) and see what happens when you take everything away from those who have no inherent or habitual spiritual resources. Think of spirituality as the total possibilities of the human being: existence, knowledge, courage, wisdom, temperance, faith, hope, charity. Or just think of trying to live without “meaning” and you began to realize, unfortunately, that both “hate” and “love” offer antidotes to emptiness.
11. Socrates said, it is better to suffer a wrong than to do wrong. Jesus said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Now we must choose between Trumpism, the schism and the hate or the Biden way of trying to unite in common decency.
12. Like maybe the Town could take a first step: offer visitors and locals a warm place to respond to the calls of nature, which is a universal claim on being in this world.