If "All the world's a stage," then, as Donald Trump exits stage right, we should give him a standing ovation for his compelling personification of a demagogic villain.
Donald Trump as writ large the premise that undergirds a predatory world. The American election of 2016 is a contest over whether to affirm the primal idea of "every man for himself" that Trump embodies, or to build dignitarian institutions that reflect the emerging consensus that human beings are mutually dependent co-creators, interconnected and inseparable.
Like all demagogues, Trump is not a creator but an orchestrator of popular resentment. We focus on the histrionics of the band leader, waving his arms and captivating the crowd. But what we should pay attention to is the embittered alienation that Trump channels. If the inequities and shame that buoy his demagoguery go unaddressed, don't be surprised if the music turns martial.
Trump supporters are not all of one stripe. Among them are casualties of a variety of novel forces including globalization, automation, and modernization.
But Trump's fans do have one thing in common. They suffer from a dignity deficiency. Like a vitamin deficiency, a dignity deficiency can be lethal. Symptoms range from taking a chance on a charismatic strongman to joining a gang or signing up for jihad. Though he has orchestrated their discontent, Trump is hardly responsible for all the real and imagined indignities that make his supporters indignant.
Trump prescribes a dose of national pride: "I will make America great again," he assures his followers, assuming that a profusion of tribal pride will trickle down and dissolve the frustration that fuels their anger.
False pride is the medication offered by all demagogues. The only antidote to their quack remedy is the dignity everyone requires--that ofa respected, secure, and fairly compensated place in society.
In practical terms, this means sharing the costs of modernization, leaving no one out, and dismantling impediments to social mobility. In the absence of tolerance, dignity, and belonging ,another demagogue will grab the baton, mount the podium, and, before long, a mob will be marching to his tune.