Donald Trump, more persona than person, has demonstrated that style, not substance, is what Americans want in a leader. Sure, there’s substance behind Trump. He’s got positions on things. But they aren’t really what we care about. We care about spectacle. It’s why more people tune into network reality shows than cable news. Trump has been in that business long enough to know how to apply its tenants to the greatest reality show of them all: American Politics!
Here’s some insight that floated around the Internet-tubes, courtesy of a French Philosopher named Roland Barthes, who studied why wrestling is so popular:
“The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words,wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.”
So Trump is a wrestler and his opponents are boxers. The spectacle is what matters, not whether or not it’s real. We know the outcome is scripted. Hunter S. Thompson puts it pretty succinctly:
“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
I will readily admit, despite not being a Trump supporter, that I absolutely love him in action. I bought the ticket and I’m taking the ride. In fact, as a Bernie Sanders supporter, I see why both are appealing: Trump and Sanders are outside of the mainstream, establishment world. The Guardian sums it up quite well:
“But you don’t need some grand overarching political science theory. There are millions of miserable people in America who know exactly who engineered the shattering of their worlds, and Trump isn’t one of those people – and, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, everyone else in the field is running on the basis of their experience being one of those people.
“When you are abused and bullied enough, anyone willing to beat up or burn down whomever put you in that position is your friend. Even a bully can be a hero if he targets others bullies – and that is, more or less, what Trump has done since day one.”
While I’ll gladly vote for Hillary over any Republican who wins, Trump included, I won’t be excited about it. I’ll be excited to vote for Bernie, should he make it. It’s simple: the political elite of this country have sold us out, over and over. Why would I want to vote for another one of them? Rubio, Cruz, and Clinton are all part of the machine.
Matt Taibbi, the spiritual successor to Hunter S. Thompson as far as I’m concerned, wrote an excellent article in Rolling Stone that explained people’s disaffection and how it factors into Trump’s recipe for success.
On the Trump message:
“His pitch is: He’s rich, he won’t owe anyone anything upon election, and therefore he won’t do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e., approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people.”
And that’s something I, as a Bernie supporter, can get behind. In fact, it’s why I support Bernie. It’s why a lot of people are rallying to Trump. I also suspect it’s why a lot of people are willing to forgive Trump’s xenophobia, race-baiting, side-show of a campaign. Amusingly, the more political of Trump’s supporters forgive him because they believe it’s an act he’s using to get elected (which I find disturbing, inexcusable, and a symptom of America’s ever-quickening descent down the lead-poisoned toiletbowl). Then I’m sure there’s a cadre of supporters who support him because they don’t think it’s an act. It probably explains why white supremacist groups are lining up to endorse Trump in droves (but hey, that’s on them, not Trump, amirite?).
On his appeal to Republicans:
“No one should be surprised that he’s tearing through the Republican primaries, because everything he’s saying about his GOP opponents is true. They really are all stooges on the take, unable to stand up to Trump because they’re not even people, but are, like Jeb and Rubio, just robo-babbling representatives of unseen donors.”
On Democrats selling out their base:
“Every four years, some Democrat who’s been a lifelong friend of labor runs for president. And every four years, that Democrat gets thrown over by national labor bosses in favor of some party lifer with his signature on a half-dozen job-exporting free-trade agreements.
“Unions have been abused so much by both parties in the past decades that even mentioning themes union members care about instantly grabs the attention of workers.”
Exactly. Trump talks about jobs being exported (much like Bernie does) and rails against NAFTA (as well as Hillary’s role in it). This only broadens his appeal: he’s speaking to the anxieties and, in many cases, realities of the America worker. Is my job going to be shipped out? What is going to happen to me? Or even, why was my job sent to China or Mexico? Why didn’t politicians fight for me? The message is clear: Trump will fight for the working man. And given his brash, unforgiving persona, he’ll win. Hell, according to Trump, he always wins. He’s a winner. Everybody who goes up against him is a loser.
On the media:
“Trump knows the public sees through all of this, grasps the press’s role in it and rightly hates us all. When so many Trump supporters point to his stomping of the carpetbagging snobs in the national media as the main reason they’re going to vote for him, it should tell us in the press something profound about how much people think we suck.”
Yeah. The media does suck and pretty much the entire American populace knows it. It’s clear that the media is culpable for the sad state of politics in this country. They have ratings to worry about. Profits to worry about. Advertisers they have to cater to. Corporate executives they have to pander to. They have to kiss ass to get next to the candidates in order to get the story. But by kissing ass, they’ve already ruined the story and done a disservice to an America that’s looking for a modicum of answers. And because, for years, we’ve gotten nothing of substance from media, we rightfully distrust them. It’s not a liberal or conservative issue. Both sides can’t stand the media. Look at how Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (supposed conservatives on a supposedly liberal network) fawned over Trump offstage at one South Carolina debate. If they want a ticket to the show, they have to play by the rules. And Trump is making all the rules right now because he understands what people want. And people aren’t going to get what they want from a media or political elite.
So why are people willing to forgive his assaults on women, minorities, Muslims (we have religious freedom here, whether or not you’re scared of the world’s second-largest religion), and so on? It’s simple: everything that’s distasteful about Trump’s beliefs are superseded by the fact that he’s not one of them. Who is them? The people who’ve made it their life’s work to give us a raw deal: wealthy political donors who have access to government in a way that we don’t, a media who serves corporate masters more interested in profits and their own agendas over the agenda of average people, and, finally, politicians who sell out to the highest bidder because it’s the only way to get in and stay in office.
Those are many of the reasons I’m voting for Bernie. It’s just that I agree with Bernie’s policy positions and rhetoric, rather than Trump’s (either sincere or not) race-baiting, xenophobic reality show.