The only insightful thing I ever heard Donald Trump say was that the average guy didn't dislike him; he wanted to be like him. He made this comment several years ago and he was right. The average American male would like to be rich and famous and be able to have sex with beautiful women at his discretion.
Was this always the case? Perhaps. It was certainly the case after 1953 when Hugh Hefner launched Playboy Magazine. There was, however, a distinct difference. Hugh Hefner was not just a ruthless businessman/hedonist without a moral compass. In fact, he had a strong set of ethics and frequently championed many civil-rights issues throughout the years on the pages of his magazine.
Like Hefner, many men of that era generally had a strong sense of what was right and wrong and eschewed lying (my father among them). And though they may not have been the most tolerant guys in the world and certainly had their prejudices, generally speaking they believed in fair play and keeping their words. Often, a handshake was all that was needed in order to seal a deal between them.
When did this change? Well, it certainly began to shift during the Nixon era when lying and deceit entered the Oval Office, which worked to Jimmy Carter's advantage when he ran for office and proclaimed, "I'll never lie to you."
Unfortunately, Carter's sanctimonious evangelical fervor and sermons on collective sacrifice did not catch on with most Americans and they were ready for something more individualistic and invigorating in the 1980s. Enter Ronald Reagan, the conservative movement's wet dream. And like any good salesman, he told the American people what they wanted to hear; namely, it was time for America to put traditional ethics and self-sacrifice aside and "go for the gusto," to quote an old TV Schlitz beer ad.
In right-wing parlance, this meant supporting a tired old elitist economic agenda based on the anti-Keynesian philosophies of Fredrich Hayek and Ayn Rand. Greed is good, they were told. Capitalism is king. And Big Business is your friend. Big Government, as Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, wouldn't solve your problem. It was your problem.
Did most Americans fall for this trickle-down nonsense? I don't know about most, but many did, even working-class stiffs. Suddenly, it was cool to be a ruthless amoral capitalist. Gone were the days of the unselfish traditional hero, the kind John Wayne portrayed on the silver screen. And gone, too, were the anti-establishment heroes of the late sixties and early seventies portrayed by Clint Eastwood. Yes indeed, in the Reagan era, everyone wanted to be Gordon Gekko, the epitome of a rich, ruthless, greedy capitalist with absolutely no sense of ethics.
Ironically, it was real-life guys just like Gordon Gekko (with the help of their political stooges in Congress) who paved the way for the next three decades of stagnant wages and huge wealth and income disparities between the upper one percent and everyone else. Finally, during the Obama era, many guys woke up from their somnambulistic trance and realized they never would achieve the fame or financial success of a Gordon Gekko. Better late than never, of course, but by that time many of them had lost their houses, their health care, and their good union jobs.
Fortunately for the ruling class, Americans have a memory span of about two weeks, as Gore Vidal once noted. So when it came time for the next election, they were susceptible to the same old sales pitch. Only this time it wasn't "an amiable dunce" like Reagan reciting the old bait-and-switch but a consummate con artist and reality TV host named Donald Trump. This is a joke, right? The Democrats asked, licking their chops. We can easily beat this buffoon!
So what did they do? Instead of the big-money boys (and gals) of the Democratic Party getting behind Bernie Sanders, a decent, impassioned, ethical Congressman, a real populist, who actually would help average Americans not get screwed over by "millionaires and billionaires," they threw their support to Hillary Clinton, a corporate elitist who was disliked by almost everyone. As a consequence, Trump won the presidential election and revitalized the Gordon Gekko paradigm that had faded during the Obama years. And once again the average guy thought it was cool to be a ruthless businessman who talked tough and exploited women.
But this time it wasn't just the guys. Thanks to the daily propaganda and brainwashing of Fox News, Breitbart, and conservative AM radio, many women love Trump, too, despite his sexual misconduct. And so do evangelical Christians, even though Trump is the antithesis of a true Christian. And as of this writing, the president's overall approval rating is nearly 40%. So what does that tell us?
That Trump supporters (both men and women) like the president because they are just like him--only without the money and power. Like Trump, they have no ethical core. They frequently lie to themselves and to others. They are driven by their egos and prejudices and have no depth of character. They are easily impressed by status symbols and material possessions. They are easily fooled by demagogues and hustlers. And they have no spiritual dimension to their lives, despite the fact they go to church on Sunday and proclaim to be good Christians.
In essence, Donald Trump is the living embodiment of his supporters. He didn't create them; he merely exploited them, the same way Reagan did. I suppose we can be grateful that 60% of the population can see through his lies and perfidy. But 40% is a lot of people, enough to drag down the country and set it on a path of destruction. Will they attempt to do this if their fearless leader is run out of office? Well... As Trump himself likes to say: "Let's see what happens."