For some reason, America keeps getting the presidents it deserves.
The other day I was reminded of how powerless some people feel. And for some, when they experience a little power (especially social power) they just stomp the hell out of someone new or newly powerless to feel what they always imagined power to be like.
I’ll be the first to admit an American History X curb stomp feels great, and I get it. Finally feeling heard, acknowledged, and strong by kicking the crap out of someone (verbally, physically, or especially by crushing their social standing) is mesmerizing. You finally matter! They can’t control you anymore. I guess. Going out on a limb here, but there’s probably a lot of mental illness involved.
But why is he still wearing the same underwear from prison? Holy crap, that’s a solid metaphor.
Each time Donald Trump ran for president, it was a goofy marketing ploy and we all enjoyed it as such. But The Donald has the blood sense of a shark, and he understood rather early that a lot of people felt like they were bleeding. They couldn’t get over the hump, finish paying off credit cards, or the plant was in the middle of more layoffs. I won’t try to speak for everyone, but let’s remember this is America and you’re probably white. Is it truly that bad?
Here’s where marketing, from Trump or anyone, comes in. Marketing hasn’t truly sold us anything for a long time, and I suppose it’s Don Draper’s fault. The ad changed. It’s no longer selling product, it’s driving aspiration. Apple is like Don Draper on meth–it so completely sold us identities we can’t afford, not having the newest iPhone became a point of hidden shame. Years ago in college, I marveled at those broadcasting identity (via those lighted Apple-logo Macs) even in the coffee shops where we poor kids usually congregate.
We need to keep up the identity we took a second mortgage on. But we can’t. We’re mad and we’re certain we deserve better.
Oh, FYI, I’m talking about Democrats, liberals, and the anti-Trump brigade here. The ones who feel the most passion about Donald Trump. You know the person–they think Jon Stewart was an important thought leader, or that lunches should be Instagrammed. They probably think they understand the plights of African Americans, LGBT, or Syrian refugees better than those people themselves. At least they hash-tag all the right things. “I like listening to PBS and TED Talks!” Oh for God’s sake… They’re like alcoholics, but they consume outrage porn and give birth to exclusion. Thought crime is now worse than crime. Kick a puppy? That’s bad, but it’s nothing like having the wrong opinion about refugees in Germany.
Do you see? A not insignificant portion of the Schadenfreude that Trump voters experience is sticking it to the kind of person they know is profoundly hateable. I’m not sure when this started, but I remember the last time is happened so broadly: when Obama won his first term. All the wrong people joined with some sincere people and just rubbed everyone else’s faces in it. It was so comically common it became a meme on South Park.
Ever read the speeches that Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln delivered as they debated and campaigned for a Senate seat from Illinois in 1858? Those things are electrifying. I fully understand how simply and thoroughly animal hatred works in an election, but… damn, at one point I feel like we did things a little better. At least in public.
Donald Trump is popular because hate sells so awesomely. You’re a producer or editor or probably an intern for CNN/WashPo/Fox News, what do you lead with? John Kasich, saying generally smart things in a calm, controlled manner? Bernie Sanders, the most hilariously typical candidate ever supported by the right kind of white people? Dude. You know you’re leading with Trump every time, even if all he said new that day is some quip about his penis. What’s worrisome is no matter who you are, you feel a very strong emotion about what he said.
It’s a perfect storm of re-Tweets, Nielsen ratings, and newspaper sales. Trump is the candidate of the disaffected, the media, and the fuck-you crowd. He has the hatred of people who hate for a living, er, I mean, provide free advertising. #NeverTrump.
Very much like Obama in 2008, the celebrations when Trump wins are gonna be vicious, and perfect for making Vines with. What about the others? Hillary is a scolding meanie who doesn’t like you at all. You probably had to Google how to properly pronounce Kasich’s name. Even Ted Cruz’s coworkers don’t like him.
When Obama pushed his way past Hillary, despite having some of the worst ideas for a president in my lifetime, I realized America was simply getting the president it deserved. If Trump wins, it’ll be more of the same. Do we really hate Donald Trump, or have we made him our fetish?