When I was 16, my aunt bought me the new Donald Trump book. It was full of empty anecdotes and meaningless solutions to nonexistent problems. I think I used it as a doorstop for a while (sorry, Aunt Dee). I guess I never really took "The Donald" seriously. In my eyes, he's just an archetype: the charlatan, the swindler, the man whose entire identity is mindless narcissism. Snake-oil salesmen don't care about the "facts" or "truth," they only care about the next con, the next source of income and fame. That's Trump's entire past: whether it's business, sports, or his TV shows. And like any good profiteer, he knows it!
So it has come as no surprise to me that the man who uses illegal immigrant labor while milking legal loopholes is now "running for President" on the backs of those very laborers and those very loopholes. Every Trump-related headline can be shortened to: "Blowhard says blowhard thing (video at 11)."
Most baffling, though, is this notion that "he tells it like it is." No, he doesn't. He's not a self-made man; "sanctuary cities" have lower crime rates; illegal immigration is actually down; the USFL should have stayed a spring league... you get the idea. He's not even a Republican. He's probably not even actually running for President!
Although, it's not Trump's fault he's popular. After all, archetypes are merely reflections of culture. We need folk characters to help us make sense of our surroundings, our values, and our anxieties.
So what does Trump tell us about ourselves, then?
By being loud and obnoxious and by having no allegiance to anything resembling the truth, Trump is the perfect personification of politics today.
It's trite to blame the amorphous "media" for everything, but sometimes there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. The political press has responded to their own economic problems by advancing divisive and destructive discourse at the expense of almost everything else. This isn't unique to any side or agenda, either. And it's more than simple partisanship; every political outlet in the history of mankind has been partisan. No, it's worse than partisanship--it's for-profit nihilism.
Today's outrage industry is just that--an industry. Entire websites have built themselves around daily "scandals" that reward their bank accounts but leave a wake of bitter and self-righteous keyboard activists floundering for more. It's no surprise, then, that someone like Trump can enter stage right and become an instant sensation.
The political media has nurtured and profited off of this environment and now they're reaping the fruits of their labor. Do you really think that anyone at a major political outlet is unhappy Trump is loud and obnoxious? It's guaranteed clicks!
There are animals that can survive in the sulfuric discharge of undersea volcanoes. It's not the animals' fault they can survive there and that they thrive in that environment--it's evolution. Politics today is that sulfuric cloud and Trump is the apex invertebrate. The two sides not only understand each other, they need each other.
When you've turned politics into reality TV, you get reality TV personalities running for office. When you demand sound bites that only exist to drives clicks, you get politicians who speak only in sound bites that drive clicks. When you substitute brand management over being a real human being, you get the ascent of brands over human beings.
Trump is a brand, a logo, a simulacrum devoid of nuance and depth. Trump is a swindler offering empty anecdotes and meaningless solutions to nonexistent problems. And we love him for it.