Monday, June 13, 2016
Week of 06/13/2016
Donald Trump: Champion of the Ugly American
With the ascension of Donald Trump from media novelty to presumed GOP nominee and “serious” presidential wannabe, we have a surge of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing and supposed “soul-searching” by pundits and consultants and columnists trying to figure out how the hell we got to this point.
It’s pretty clear that the party bosses and the rest of the “establishment” underestimated Trump and the masses that voted for him. It’s almost like a bad comedy, with the “establishment” as Wiley Coyote setting up complex traps and snares only to have it blow up in his face with Trump’s Road Runner showing up behind him and saying “Meep-Meep!”
I find it interesting that this comes at a time when the cable channels are airing documentaries that focus on history’s most notorious leaders, including and especially Adolf Hitler, and how these people came to power. The masses didn’t just wake up one morning and find some megalomaniac in charge of everything. These leaders were actually welcomed and cheered by the masses. Their efforts were even praised by other leaders of the time! Weird, isn’t it, to know that people like Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini were getting praise from Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt?
Yes, their rises to power were orchestrated and engineered. Circumstances were ripe for it to happen, and the so-called “establishment” were absolutely shocked that it could. Sound familiar?
The ironic part is that the “secret” to Trump’s victory was revealed by, of all people, a cartoonist on a political talk show hosted by a stand-up comedian. Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, told “Real Time” host Bill Maher that Trump has actually been employing the same kind of tactics that hypnotists use to persuade people. Things such as branding others with sticky insults (“Lying Ted”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”), not providing any rhetorical targets for his opponents to use, and not relying on facts, but rather using confirmation bias to get his points across.
In other words, while Trump is crazy as a Fox (News) and as narcissistic as Narcissus himself, he also knows what he’s doing. It’s not random moments of insanity as some in the media have tried to dismiss it as.
But it also helps when you know your real audience. And this is where the GOP “establishment” has failed so miserably. Trump knows his audience... and that audience just happens to be the GOP’s base.
The GOP “establishment” like to pretend that they’re “ordinary people”. That they are just normal hard-working average Americans just like everyone else. But that’s really not true, and they know it.
In truth, the “establishment” live in their little protected bubbles of power and influence. They surround themselves with lobbying groups and Super-PACs, hosting fundraisers for big corporations and big money donors. They have more in common with their Democratic counterparts than they do with their own “base”, which explains why they’re able to finagle deals behind-the-scenes while publicly vowing to die before making any such deal with “the enemy”.
So, no, they don’t really know their own base, which explains why they’ve failed to connect with them. But Trump does know who and what they are.
You know who they are too. They’re the stereotype known around the world as the “Ugly Americans”.
They’re the “’Mericans” that to go other countries and order a steak with French Fries. They wear the loudest shirts with the ugliest shorts and flip-flops. They think that English is the universal language that everyone in the world should already know. They live in their own bubbles of Fox News and talk radio and conservative columnists and email threads from their friends and neighbors. If Rush Limbaugh says it, then it must be true, and if Tom Brokaw says it, then you know it’s a bold-faced lie.
So when Trump attacks Mexicans and Muslims and the media, when he mocks Fox News personalities and calls the competition schoolyard bully names, whether or not he really means what he says is irrelevant. He’s saying what the Ugly Americans are already thinking and saying to each other about these things. He’s reaffirming every single bias that they already have. And, more importantly, he is saying out loud and on the Internet what the other wannabes didn’t have the courage to own up to.
And we saw how that has been playing out over the past few months. The GOP “base” was abandoning the so-called “establishment” candidates in droves and embracing “The Donald”. Even when the so-called “outsiders” like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz suddenly became the de facto “establishment” candidates, it pretty much became the kiss of death for their campaigns. Trump would beat them. Not because he was the “better” candidate, not because he had some sort of coherent plan to fix things, and not even because he was an “outsider”. It was because he was reflecting everything that the Ugly Americans believe about the world that exists outside their “bubble”.
Let’s get brutally honest here... whether the GOP bosses and party-players know it or not, the Ugly Americans have become their “base”, and it is a base that they no longer have any control over. Maybe once upon a time they used to have some measure of control. They could always keep the Ugly Americans quiet and pushed away in some dark corner of the room. They could ignore the Ugly Americans and let them be shamed into silence. But those days are over with. The Ugly Americans aren’t going quietly anymore. They’re ready to burn the house down if they have to. And now they know they have a champion that goes by the name of Donald Trump.
The Ugly Americans are born from arrogance and boastful ignorance. No, they don’t know better, and they don’t want to either. In their mind, the world is full of winners and losers, and for the first time in a long time, they’re getting a chance to feel like “winners”. It’s not about making America “great again”, it’s about making the Ugly Americans “winners”. In their minds, that is the only “greatness” that they care about.