Thursday, August 24, 2017

Trumpism is a cult

Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump adheres to his cult, but Trumpism has clearly become a cult.

During last year's presidential campaign, I often noted that Donald Trump's appeal reminded me very much of the sort of naked tribalism westerners associate with the so-called 'third world.' South African comedian Trevor Noah went so far as to describe Trump as America's first African president.

His presidency has shown this to be completely accurate.

Guardian piece interviewed a number of Trump supporters at one of his recent virulent rallies. He is much better at campaigning than at governing.

One woman praised him for being "anti-left, anti-PC, anti-stupid."

She's no 'deplorable', easy for snobs to look their nose down at. She is a senator in the Arizona state legislature.

But her comment perfectly encapsulates Trumpism.

She does not state one positive (in her mind) accomplishment that Trump has made since becoming president. Not one promise kept.

In her eyes, and the eyes of many Trump loyalists, his best quality is how much he hates the left. How much he hates the  "politically correct." How much he hates the media.

His emphasis on hating other Americans is not a flaw, in their eyes, but his greatest virtue. If you press them, it seems to be his only virtue.

This is why they are impervious to any kind of logical argument.

They claimed to oppose Hillary because she was investigated by the FBI but when Trump is investigated by the same, it's a conspiracy. They claimed to be furious at Hillary's handling of emails but ignored Vice-President Pence's similar infractions. They denounced "crooked Hillary" but have no problem with Trump turning the presidency into an extension of his family business (very much like a stereotypical African dictator). They cheered his insistence that he would make Mexico pay for the border wall but are silent when he threatens to shut down the government if the (US) Congress refuses to fund it.

And can you imagine the rage they would launch at any "liberal" with such deep ties to regime hostile to the US? At any "liberal" who defended symbols of anti-US sentiment (Confederate statues)? At any "liberal" who attacked Gold Star families?

The reason for these apparent inconsistencies is simple. All the claims above were not sincere. They were poses. They were pretexts invented to justify what was really a vote for a worldview, far more than a vote for a particular candidate.

That is why that when, he can't deliver on his promises, it never due to any fault of his own. It's the fault of the evil media. Or the powerless Democrats. Or of venal Republicans who don't obey his orders completely.

They could only vote for him for president. They really want to install him as emperor.

Donald Trump is part of their tribe and what he actually does is fairly irrelevant to his most rabid supporters.

Partisan politics has always had a certain tribal aspect to it. But there's always been the pretense of a certain ideological basis. Trump has resorted to naked cult appeal.

This is why his poll numbers are collapsing. In a recent poll, 61% of Americans said they had low or no confidence in Trump. Only 49% of Americans voted for Hillary. Clearly, even many who voted for him are starting to see through his scam.

In a story about the 1982 New York Democratic gubernatorial primary, a Village Voice article noted: "For too many people in our tightening political economy, the family ties and values he loves have been broken or twisted so that they bear no fruit in good health or fresh opportunities. And as openness and hope become overwhelmed by fear and hatred in enough people's lives - openness curldes to bitterness and hope shrivels to a craving for revenge - hard-pressed voters turn to leaders with a streak of malevolence resembling their own - leaders who reassure them perversely by showing them where they can extract vengeance for their own diminished lives."

It is even more true today than in 1982.