Today I am writing on the subject of the reasons why those who oppose Trump explain his support among a large block of Americans. The subject is vast and I do not pretend to be comprehensive. Over time I hope to catalogue, however partially, the reasons why Democrats and others of the political Left insulate themselves from the realization that they are losing a large political battle for the soul of the United States, when they think they are winning it.
” Trump has provided a dark, dank hole into which these folks can dump whatever it is they’re mad about ….
“Guns are a symbol of fear, but they are also a symbol of power, a way for the everyday person to feel important and potent, to be a participant in the great game show of life. Guns have replaced the previous religion of Texas, which was football, and Trump is the high priest. Fear sells, and it stimulates. Trump and his cronies constantly tell us, without actual facts, how bad crime is and how evil all foreigners are — especially if they dress funny — and they repeat over and over the false information that the economy is on the verge of collapse and you better build that bunker and stock up, because if you don’t, all you’ll have for protection from the certain rise of crazed liberals is harsh language.
“This is a world so many conservative Republicans feel they can control. A frightened world. A world where the happily stupid, bless their little hearts, can thrive within their own fear-based mythology. A place where those with and without teeth, with and without educations, will happily pull the lever for the Great Pumpkin come Election Day.”
A more sophisticated interpretation comes from The Atlantic Magazine’s George Packer. His discussion begins with Victor Klemperer’s writing on the subject of the use of language in Nazi Germany, where Klemperer lived in hiding throughout the Second World War.
” Klemperer was a literary historian, and to preserve his mental balance under Nazi rule he used his diary to continue doing the academic work from which, as a Jew, he was officially banned: He studied the language of the Third Reich. He recorded how, after Hitler took power, certain words in various forms—Volk, fanatisch—soon became ubiquitous in public and in private; how religious terms imbued the ruling ideology; how euphemisms such as evacuation and concentration camp were coined to make massive crimes sound bureaucratically legitimate; how the German language grew impoverished and uniform; how Nazi language became a total system outside of which Germans could no longer think, and which did the thinking for them, to the bitter end.”
“Klemperer seems to be describing Trump’s speeches.”
” Compare this to the language of Trump’s populism. There’s not a breath of inspiration in it. The crowds attend his rallies for red meat—Hillary Clinton, Ilhan Omar, Mexicans, the media, corrupt “elites” of various kinds—and go home satisfied. Nothing whatsoever is asked of them. Their hero never paints a convincing picture of what American greatness would look like— “
” The strength of Trump’s populist language lies in its openness. It requires no expert knowledge and has no code of hidden meanings. It’s attuned to some of the strongest currents in American pop culture, and it gives rise almost spontaneously to memorable slogans—“Build the wall,” “Lock her up,” “Witch hunt,” “No collusion,” “Make America great again.” It’s the way people talk when the inhibitors are off. It’s available to anyone who’s willing to join the mob.”
Having settled to his satisfaction why Trump’s rhetoric is working, because it resembles the simplifying tendencies of language in the Third Reich (bad, bad Nazis), and that all you need to do is be ready to join the mob, he proceeds to examine why the rhetoric of Trump is more satisfying than the rhetoric employed by the political Left. Here he gets to the interesting admission, that the rhetoric of the political Left is unattractive. His insights are profound.
“The crudeness of Trump’s rhetoric makes it both dangerous and politically potent. By contrast, the language of the contemporary left is anti-populist. Its vocabulary, much of it taken from academia, is the opposite of accessible—it has to be decoded and learned. Terms such as centered, marginalized, intersectional, non-binary, and Eurocentric gender discipline separate outsiders from insiders—that’s part of their intent, as is the insistence on declaring one’s personal pronouns and showing an ability to use them accordingly. Even common words like ally and privilege acquire a resonance that takes them out of the realm of ordinary usage, because the point of this discourse is to create a sense of special virtue.”
“The language of the left creates a hierarchy of those who get it and those who don’t. Mastering the vocabulary is a way of signaling entry into a select world of the knowing and the just. The system is closed—there’s an internal logic that can be accepted or rejected but isn’t open to argument or question. In this sense, though much of the language of the left has academic origins, its use in the public square is almost religious. The abandonment of language that brings people in rather than shutting them out is one of the left’s many structural disadvantages in American politics today.”
‘A sense of special virtue’, ‘an internal logic than can be accepted or rejected but isn’t open to argument or question’ – these are emphatically the terms upon which the political Left chooses to conduct itself. It is anti-rational in the highest degree.
Over the course of a lifetime dealing with Leftists, it has been my observation that their prevailing motive is a sense of self-assigned virtue. The likely consequences or actual consequences of a policy are not the basis upon which it should be judged, but only the degree of virtue one feels in imposing it. Thomas Sowell describes this dynamic well in “The Vision of the Anointed”. He calls it self-congratulation as the basis for social policy. Hence no learning is possible or required, since the feedback from policy to consequences is decisively broken.
I recall the first time I heard the term correct applied to politics. It was in 1975 or thereabouts. A young PhD student in the Trudeau the Elder regime said the question being asked on the Yale campus where he took is degree was “are you correct?”. He meant it in the Marxist sense: that politics was not a matter of persuasion and belief but of scientific deduction. Your answers to political problems were correct or not in the same sense that your answer to 2+2 was correct or not.
“An internal logic that can be accepted or rejected but isn’t open to argument or question”.
And the pundits think those who favour Trump are ignorant, fear-driven and irrational. Maybe they know what sort of people they are dealing with: a bunch of Robespierres leading zombie armies of the night.