Monday, August 22, 2016

What Is Trumpism? It's the Politics of Resentment and Loss, Pure and Simple

Trumpism in a nutshell: My life sucks and it's you guys' fault. It's true, but with a twist.

Donald Trump experiences none of the things he decries. He tapped into
his followers' sense of loss and resentment for political gain. He's running
with it because it works. Does anyone else think it's a nasty thing to do?

The twist to Donald Trump's politics of resentment and loss is that those feeling it the most are the least able to articulate it and do something about it. But the elders in their tribe, the more successful non-college educated whites, embrace it because the sense that someone is stealing their American Dream is central to their tribe's ethos. Josh Marshall explains:
Two data points from the [Gallup] study seem much more telling to me. First, Trump support is highly correlated with areas experiencing rising mortality rates for whites - a massively important societal development, in addition to a tragedy for the many people affected. When that revelation was hot at the end of last year, some of the follow up debunking showed that a closer analysis of the data showed that the highest mortality spikes were among middle-aged white women. Critics said, well the angry Trumpers are mostly men, not women. So this argument falls apart. Once again, these correlations aren't that simple or linear.
The second, relatively little discussed, finding is that the people who are responding most to the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee politics are those most isolated from both groups. In other words, the people responding most to anti-immigration politics and xenophobia are ones living in fairly racially homogenous and white communities.
I don't want to attempt some grand overarching theory of Trumpism. But, broad brush, I continue to believe that it is best understood as a reaction to the erosion of white privilege, supremacy and centrality in American life.
That brings us to the second key point: Trumpism is about loss. And that loss is real. It's not just about being haters or uneducated or stupid. The fact that what's being lost is in most respects something that wasn't legitimate to have in the first place - status, centrality and racial privilege - should not blind us to the fact that the loss is real and that it will have political consequences...
It's here that Josh nails it: What's being lost is in most respects something that wasn't legitimate to have in the first place. One aspect of American life in a historical perspective is that slavery, followed by decades of racial marginalization and exploitation, has produced a racial and economic hierarchy that was never ours to rightfully exploit. We did so because we could, not because it was a justifiable predicate to our tragically misguided heritage.

It's striking that the loss of power and privilege that white folks are resenting -- what drives their "mad-as-hell" existence -- was never something they legitimately had a right to.

Try explaining that to the losers in our society. Funny, but the black poor know who to blame for their predicament, and in many ways they are totally justified. With the whites, too, it's not hard to figure out who to blame -- the blacks, the browns, even the white trash -- but what's missing is any justification, other than decades of taking our original sin for granted and failing to realize that it truly is our nation's original sin.

So, Donald Trump taps into this and runs with it. I find it contemptible, and there's nothing I can do about the approximately 40% of American voters who will push the lever for Trump. There's two things that help: knowing that he'll very likely lose and what he stands for will eventually be discredited and marginalized. It can't happen soon enough.

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