December 8, 2015


Trump and the Joys of Hatred  (Paul Berman, The Tablet)

His supporters, then, the ones who have been around the block, who know how presidential elections go--what are they dreaming of? I think they support the Donald precisely because he is ridiculous. His impudence is his appeal. They cannot have given any serious thought to the economy or immigration or any of the major issues. They like how he insults his interviewers. Has he mocked a woman journalist's period? Hah hah!--what other politician would dare do such a thing? Has he insulted John McCain? Here is bravery, given that everyone knows that McCain is a war hero. Has he ordered Jorge Ramos, the Univision news anchorman, to be escorted from the room? All the better! They like the fact that Trump doesn't give a damn about being respectable or likable or courteous. He burps in your face. They will vote for such a man. [...]

[W]ith each new acquisition or product, he inscribed that name in ever gaudier letters into the American landscape. "Trump: the Fragrance" was always a joke, along with "Trump," the vodka (which failed, though my own liquor store stocks it). But the jokes and non-jokes cleverly established a brand, which stands for a combination of good workmanship (Trump has constructed many buildings, none of which have fallen down) and execrable taste. He has also made a point of inhabiting the gossip pages, married to one fashion model or another, or dating this lady or that in a spirit of conquest--Carla Bruni, though he claims to regret having failed to date Princess Diana--which, after a while, led to a television career, where he turns out to be exceptionally talented.

It is because he is a fanatic of his own cause. [...]

 The Donald tells his followers not to accept the poor refugees from Syria, and the followers feel entitled to shiver in horror and fear. The Donald is right now whipping up a hatred for Muslims in New Jersey. I would imagine that, all over the country, his followers are pounding the table in contemptuous disdain for New Jersey Muslims. Who will it be next week? Probably more Muslims. Trump has discovered that, for him, there is no downside in conjuring hatreds of this sort. The respectable journalists indignantly reveal that his claims vary from the reality, but this merely allows him to display still more disdain for the respectable journalists, who surely figure in his own mind as the true enemy. And so he will continue, and his followers will feel that, during the course of his campaign, they have been able to live life more intensely even than in the glorious times gone by when they used to watch Trump dismiss his flunkies on The Apprentice.

The Trump candidacy ought to remind us of the ancient reality that politics is not necessarily the home of the rational--a truth to be found in the pages of Suetonius.

Perhaps a society that has become so decent over the past 50 years just needs a release valve so folks can vent fury before they return to normal.

Posted by at December 8, 2015 12:42 PM