The challenge to say something nice about Donald Trump is unfair. He’s mentally incapable of envisioning and investing in the betterment of other living organisms. Through a purely abstract lens of objectivity – I’d say it’s not his fault. It’s the brain he was born with. Taking your challenge broadly, I’ll point to something positive about him: his ability to speak to the white working class in its own language.
Besides cranking their dopamine pump by insulting ethnic groups allegedly responsible for all their problems – and the press – he speaks to them in a way that’s sympathetic and often genuinely funny. He addresses their economic issues in a detailed but not pedagogical way. In a country with an outmoded education system that teaches most of us to hate learning, that’s a real hook.
Trump’s developed a mastery of working class memes over decades of self-promotion via the New York tabloids, Howard Stern Show, TV Wrestling and reality TV. If he had any intellectual curiosity he seems constitutionally unequipped to take in complex information. College degree aside, like much of his base, what sticks is hero/villain narratives delivered by media screamers.
He adopts the voice of the Jewish comedians that many in his audience might have seen on the Ed Sullivan Show when they were kids. Southerners and Midwesterners swooning over a guy who sounds like a New York Jew? But that was also the voice of Archie Bunker and gangsters in the movies. To a population that’s been insulted in cosmopolitan media for generations, Trump’s working class persona is the media image they identify with – the rare version that isn’t trailer trash. That character is funny and tough, who knows how to have his way. He markets heroin rather than OD’ing on it.
Any one of Trump’s negatives would have sunk another candidate but his supporters stay loyal. Like Richard Nixon, he’s felt rejected by affluent elites. Regardless of his wealth, he’d always be the idiot clown to New York high society. To his base, which shares his resentment of elites, his working class shtick is authentic.
Yeah, he lies, cheats everybody he does biz with; so who doesn’t have friends and family members who are assholes half the time? Trump is the asshole positioned to pull them out of their very real despair. Every Republican they elect shoots down any legislative attempt to help them.
It’s easy to dismiss Trump’s ability to excite and activate a population under such duress. He doesn’t really care about them and from Day One in the White House he’s put their health and economic survival at risk. But his working class persona is authentic. A mafia don is an authentic working class one-percenter, as is the mafia Donald.
It’s not just the language. His narratives are palpable: how Ford would promise to open a plant in the US only to change its mind and build it in Mexico. It wasn’t a pile of stats. It was about a real company run by real people who thought about it and decided to invest in lobbyists rather than American workers. Those narratives sound real to real people living real lives. And the punch line where Trump would tell his audience exactly what he’d say to Ford’s scumbag CEO always closed the deal.
It was also a self-interested parade of puerile boasts and exaggerations. But who else spoke to these people with any semblance of respect, humor and sympathy? We have something to learn here.
— Polar Levine, News Goo Dissection, May 27, 2017
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