Trump is doing exactly what his supporters expect him to do
By Neil Steinberg/ Chicago Sun-Times/ July 18, 2017
Ah. Now I see. Finally, finally I get Donald Trump. It all makes sense to me now.
Took long enough.
He has been president for nearly six months — the grim half-year anniversary is Thursday — all the while I, along with the rest of the mainstream media, have been baffled, thickly pointing our trembling index fingers at all the promises he repeatedly made and then glibly broke. There would be no border wall, never mind one paid for by Mexico. No overturning Obamacare. No infrastructure renewal. Coal’s still dead, manufacturing still sputtering.
But when we document this to his supporters, they don’t care. They just shake their head and smile, or rather, sneer, pityingly at us, the lamestream media. “Sad!” they mocked, echoing their hero. They still love him.
How can this be? It’s easy to dismiss them as dupes, as ripped off, gulled, credulous marks who, pockets turned inside out, would rather hold tight to a fantasy than confront a difficult truth. And I did that for a while. But as the months clock on, castigation seems too simple. Too easy. Dismissing the other guys as mere idiots is what Republicans do. It makes a person feel good, perhaps, but leads nowhere. An empty high.
So I looked again. And realized that in one realm, Trump constantly and consistently delivers: invective, a steady stream of insult, against the media, against politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, against elites and whatever unlucky individual falls under his basilisk gaze. Machine-gun chatter of “Disaster!” Funny nicknames and repeated fabrications. This isn’t the sideshow. It’s the main act. Not a flaw but a feature.
That’s why he was elected. Donald the Destroyer, the scourge of liberals. And that dynamic makes perfect sense. The game was up, the world trotting toward its future. Part of the liberal miracle over the past 60 years is to take marginalized people — minorities, gays, women — and invite them into the tent. Good for them, bad for people who used to own the tent and now feel threatened by these interlopers. What about their hopes and dreams, of a white America that manufactures stuff out of iron? They were not going to be ignored.
So they elected Trump, to flay the infidels. They’ll hate me for saying it, but there’s a clear parallel between right-wing America and radical Islam. Both see themselves mooted by a world they can only lash out at as it flies by. Both spend their lives bitterly resenting who they aren’t rather than joyously being who they are. If you think America should be frozen in 1953, with Hispanic serfs hidden back in the kitchen, what do you do? The same as if you think any woman who isn’t veiled is a whore: extract vengeance.
Trump never has to create a job or lay a brick. All he has to do is say he will, any moment now, and keep a constant bead on those already long demonized by Fox and Friends. The soil was prepared for him, turned and broken and fertilized. Ready for Trump to bloom.
The media has been slow to catch on. We are used to it playing news certain way — we keep reporting each new development in the Russian scandal, not realizing that Trump’s shape-shifting supporters simply morph. Big thumbs up to Putin and the Russian Federation, our new best friend in the world.
Then again, the media always tends to lag; newspapers still create a product out of mashed wood pulp that is thrown at customers houses every morning. We still print comic strips. If a giant meteor were discovered that would end the world tomorrow afternoon, we’d report it on the front page but the baseball schedule for the rest of the week would still be in the sports pages. Slow on the uptake.
And what would that headline be? “Earth to end today.” Too weak. “Rock shock!” Better, but a bit New York Post-y. “WE’RE DOOMED!” feels about right, though we might want to save that one for Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.
Well said, “X.” One of his scariest personality quirks is his unpredictability. You never know what he is capable of or will do next. We do know, however, that it will be bad1
Yep. Trump base elected a performance artist on a “fuck you” vote, not a president. And as long as the economy is sputtering along and we don’t get nuked by North Korea, the country can keep skating on autopilot, nothing he actually does would be an issue for them: it’s all a reality show to them, basically. Given Washington’s dysfunction and inability to accomplish anything major, the rest of us will mostly be able to more or less skate through as well.
Unfortunately, if a major crisis hits and a competent leader is needed, a performance artist will not suffice.
Even more unfortunately, most of his base will still blame anyone but Trump for mishandling the crisis.