Don’t you hate it when you start reading something and you’re nodding and thinking “this guy knows his shit” and then suddenly he’s off in la-la land? Close, but no cigar.
f you want to understand the angry support for Donald Trump, seek out your local German Idealist philosopher. And to help you face your own responsibility, contact your friendly neighborhood Existentialist.
Leaving aside G. W. F. Hegel’s concept of thesis provoking antithesis and leading to synthesis, which may apply ferociously this election year, Hegel offered one of our most valuable insights into the individual and his relationship to society: the concept of Anerkennung, or “recognition.” Simply put, Hegel proposed that all humans crave recognition from other humans. He didn’t mean they expected adulation, but only that the individual requires the validation he receives when other men acknowledge his shared humanity (however humble his station). The janitor would like you to say, “Good morning!” as you rush past.
Donald Trump possessed the genius to grasp the craving for recognition in a huge swathe of the electorate ignored or actively insulted by the (previously) reigning political parties. Dismissed by the custodians of wealth; badgered by the politically correct; and taken for granted by those who make our laws; forgotten millions were ripe for Trump’s message — which reduces neatly to “You matter!”
So far, so good.
Those of us who value developed ideas miss Trump’s essence. His stage persona embodies the anger of those who feel left behind, who feel threatened, who feel cheated, and who feel the basic human need to blame somebody else, whether a horned devil or a government, for their disappointments. The unnerving dynamism of a Trump-for-president rally comes from the symbiosis between the would-be candidate’s narcissism (the need for recognition run amok), fed enthusiastically by the crowd, and his willingness to absolve the crowd’s members of social or personal guilt (Trump’s cadenced repetitions are those of a skillful preacher). Whereas other candidates, of either party, ask us to blame ourselves or take responsibility, Trump tells his followers “Nothing’s your fault. It’s them, it’s them, it’s them.”
Trump gives his supporters recognition by the private plane-load. In turn, his enchanted acolytes have no ears for his contradictions, hypocrisy, and vacuity. Nothing matters except the cult-like faith of those who believe that, at last, a candidate speaks on their behalf — and offers them that lip-smacking dish, revenge.
Missed it by *that* much.
But wait! There’s more!
The political, intellectual, financial, and cultural elites of the United States of America intolerably constrained the choices available to tens of millions of citizens they disdained. The political parties gave only the illusion of choice. The intelligentsia mocked the white working man and the working woman without a college degree (feminists must be slender and articulate). Financial elites exploited and discarded the paycheck poor. And our cultural elites championed those who live on government hand-outs while stereotyping the working class and lower-middle class as boorish, benighted, and bigoted.
Oh, good! He’s back on the right track!
In all these cases, those in power mocked, badgered, and dismissed the many who now imagine a savior in Trump.
Dammit, he lost it again!
I don’t know anybody who imagines that Trump is a savior. I guess there may be a few. What I see are people looking for someone who can break up the oligopoly that has been running the country. Voting for Trump is like hiring Clint Eastwood to clean up the town. You expect him to leave a swath of destruction in his wake, but he’ll ride off into the sunset afterward.
Donald Trump isn’t the cure, he’s chemo.
If either party had a shred of credibility left Donald Trump would not be winning.