Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

26 May 2016

Could Trump Win?

At least twice (1 and 2), I’ve gone on record opining that Donald Trump will never be president. I stand by that prediction.

But with GOP luminaries who should know better falling into line and GOP money-men opening their pockets, it’s time for a reality check. Many paid pundits, including David Brooks, are multiply on record saying that Trump would never get even this far.

Before asking “Could Trump win the presidency?,” it helps to ask a related question. What makes so many support him? It’s certainly not experience, policy, logic, practicality, consistency, good character, diplomacy or politesse.

But something has gotten him this far. What is it?

A clip from Trump’s Wednesday rally brought me close to an answer. It showed Trump’s reaction to the State Department’s Inspector General’s report on Hillary’s e-mailgate.

You have to see the clip to believe it [set the time at 00:29], let alone assess its emotional impact. A transcript simply won’t do. If Trump had not been so successful in getting votes, it would seem like a self-parody, something right out of Jon Stewart.

In the clip, Trump repeatedly characterizes the Inspector General’s report as “bad news” and “not good” for Hillary. He doesn’t say what was in it. He doesn’t state a single fact or conclusion from or about the report. You could easily come away from the clip believing that Trump made his remarks in complete ignorance of the report, relying only on second-hand information that it was unfavorable to Hillary’s campaign. Maybe he did exactly that.

To me, that clip was absolutely extraordinary. It did something that all Americans are supposed to hate. It told Trump’s supporters what to think. He wasn’t giving them any facts, data or reasoning at all. He was telling them what to think without even telling them why. And he was expecting them to follow, as they have his ridiculous “plans” to build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it, or to cure the flight of 60,000 of our factories abroad by imposing tariffs on the goods they make.

Somehow, the image of Trump’s once-popular “reality” TV show came unbidden to mind. The highlight of the show occurred when Trump would dismiss a contestant, crying “You’re fired!”

People actually like to watch that? Not anybody I knew when I was growing up. From the day I was old enough to understand what “firing” meant, I was old enough to understand the standard American response to “You’re fired.” It wasn’t knuckling under. It was, “Fuck you!” Or, as a famous 1960s rock-n-roll song declared, it was “Take this job and shove it!”

How did the average American Joe or Mary, in a mere half-century, go from the confidence to raise a middle finger to a firing, to sheep being led to slaughter and told what to think? Answer that riddle, and you will know why Trump is the virtual GOP nominee. You will also know how close we Yanks are to replicating the Nazi psychosis.

For “beaten-ness” is the root of the analogy. It’s not just bigotry, but the total surrender of independence, autonomy and disbelief. Those who support Trump are beaten, utterly, in a way that no large class of Yanks (save our slaves) has ever been beaten before. They are beaten much like the Germans were beaten by their loss in World War I, their collective punishment by the Allies, and their Weimar Hyperinflation—the worst in human history. They are beaten to the point where they see nothing less than a total loss of control over their lives and an unstoppable downward trend.

How beaten are they? This beaten. They can’t use or fix their computers or TVs without waiting in a telephone queue for advice from someone with a funny accent in India or the Philippines. They can’t adjust their billing or services without like advice. They can’t even fix their cars anymore because cars have sealed microprocessors that require special tools and legal licenses to fiddle with.

If they have jobs at all, their jobs require little skill and entail nothing like the self-respect of construction or manufacturing. They’re told they need education and “retraining” when their last stint in school came decades ago. Many of them have lost their homes or have home values less than their mortgages.

They know they can’t assure their kids a better life than theirs. Their incomes are declining on a real and purchasing-power basis. They think the world prefers once-despised minorities over them, when in fact all they have lost is unfair, automatic privilege, which they never understood they had. Their collective health is declining, as is their life span, and their suicide rate is rising.

These folk are so beaten they have no hope of getting to their feet. All they can do is surrender to a powerful figure who shares their disgust with their lot and their prejudices and promises to raise them up. They are not about to forsake him when he gives them what passes for hope, let alone for something so abstract as logic or facts.

This is the reason why David Brooks and other mainstream pundits could never predict Trump’s success. They and their social class have never been remotely as beaten as Trump’s sheep are, and they never will be. They live in a different world from those who have lost the will to rise and can only bleat plaintively or stampede in anger.

This fact makes Hillary’s candidacy horribly risky. On the one hand, she offers women hope, and women are the majority, not a minority group. On the other hand, she cannot offer Trump’s sheep much because most of them are men, and they identify her with their oppressors. Only Bernie can offer the beaten a ray of hope, by identifying the core cause of their beaten-ness and promising to fix it.

So if we end up with Hillary versus Trump, the outcome will depend primarily on three variables: (1) how many of us feel beaten, (2) how many of them will go to vote, and (3) how many of us will hold our noses and vote for Hillary despite her instances of terrible judgment (Iraq, e-mailgate), her refusing to distance herself one whit from the monied elite that the beaten fear and despise, and the unshakable popular suspicion that she’s not really on the up and up. Under these circumstances, the Trump candidacy appears to have raised the risk of a Nazi-like psychosis happening here from twenty to thirty percent.



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