Donald Trump: Representative American
According to the official narrative of this Presidential campaign, there are two Americas. One, while certainly flawed, is nonetheless essentially broad-minded, reasonable and tolerant. The other has a racist, anti-immigrant and misogynist core, broadened by resentful, unemployed industrial workers. Just as there are two Americas, so there are two candidates. One is a typical politician; she trims the facts but is ultimately well meaning. The other is a flagrant liar, braggadocio, someone who flaunts his genital equipment, has no respect for women or racial minorities, and could easily turn America into a police state.
To understand the construction of this narrative, consider the relation of religion and magic in medieval Europe. Then, too, there were two worlds. When an un-credentialed popular healer cast a spell over a sick cow, that was magic, but when the Catholic Priest sprinkled holy water, that was religion. Over time, not only did the distinction between magic and religion become blurred, but also increasing numbers of people began to pay attention to the fact that it was the Catholic Church that was always drawing the line between magic and religion. These people were protestors or Protestants and they launched a reform movement, the Reformation. In my view, we need a new reformation, not to restore true religion, but to challenge the invidious, hierarchical, self-serving authority of those who are constructing the narrative of this campaign.
I am not denying that Donald Trump is an egregious, unappealing person, who would be dangerous as President. I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton, as I believe is now obligatory to say. But I cannot stop with that affirmation. I also want to register my protest at the institutions and powers that provide the dominant narrative: the New York Times, the Obama/Clinton circle that runs the Democratic Party, the financial powers who call almost all of the shots, the foreign policy establishment that has put the US at war with so many people throughout the world, the Nobel-Prize economists who found not only Trump but also Sanders beyond the pale, the experts who live and die by the market and its surrogate and finest expression, the media.
To be specific: the reason I find the line between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump more porous and shifting than others do rests on how I see Trump. To me, his essential character is that of a salesman. His real mark is telling us that things he is selling are HUGE, BEAUTIFUL, GREAT, UNBELIEVABLE and so forth. True he presses various racial and sexual buttons when he does this, but that is the nature of salesmanship in America. That is our culture.
Consider that the sitting President ran in 2008 promising a new direction, away from Bush's "War on Terror." Of course, after he took office, the talking heads all told us that we were foolish for believing his promises-- "suckers" is the ad-man's term-- as if we had purchased the Brooklyn Bridge. Consider the so-called "defense" establishment, who claim not to torture, just "enhanced interrogation." Consider that every ad we see-- for cars, for cereal, for medicines-- is based on exaggeration and false promises. Consider our unending need for entertainment, stimuli, excitement, for something new, the essential lack of seriousness of our culture, the commercialization of our intellectual life and our universities.
So please do not point a finger at Donald Trump, and demand, "where did he come from"? Vote against him, of course, but recognize that he is one of us. We have built a culture, which both domestically and internationally, rests if not on lies then on shallow distortions, exaggerations, faux-expertise and dishonest claims to authority, for ultimately that is what a market culture is. Ask not from whence Donald Trump arises. He comes from us.