Dear fellow progressives,
Understanding the phenomenon called Donald Trump is an exercise in futility until you understand his loyal base. And the very reason you find the thought of knowing them better repulsive is the reason they're able to ignore his multiple missteps and love him all the more. They already know how we feel about them yet he's willing to give them the respect we withhold.
First of all, they are not as homogeneous as we might like to think. Our claim of their homogeneity is just another way of refusing to grant them the importance of a serious look at their issues. "They're all a bunch of (fill in the blank)."
It's kind of fun being part of the in-group of intellectuals who look down on their lack of sophistication, minimal educations, and disdain for the finer things in life. What we miss is the fact that they know how we feel about them and don't give a tinker's damn.
The Donald knows these folks pretty well and his campaign strategy is well-formed to appeal to their deepest concerns. These are people whose very lives have been disturbed, interrupted, rejected, even eliminated by big government in bed with big business. They've been abandoned by both corporatized political parties. They survive in a marginalized world created by global trade agreements, exported jobs, imported inferior goods, exploitive business practices, declining educational opportunities but excellent tax shelters and incentives for the big corporations who've abandoned their civic responsibilities and contributed to their misery.
We like to think they don't understand the sophisticated dynamics that bring about their misery and they probably don't. How could they understand and vote for the very people who bring them this misery we ask? Well, maybe Trump is just different enough to convince them he isn't one of those politicians who've sold out to the military industrial complex. Maybe he's not lots of things I can't fit into such a short letter.
But the one thing I know for sure is he appeals to their lack of agency -- their feeling of impotence in a complex world of so many moving parts not even the most educated can really understand it. And what do most of us want when we feel threatened and lost in the morass of any complex problem? When we don't have a clue about how to fix the most important worries and concerns we have, those that threaten our existence?
We want a strong leader who can lead us out of the dark scary woods. A leader who takes charge, kicks ass, takes no prisoners, bullies his way to success, doesn't care about the negative fallout on others as long as he's saving his people. After we're out of the woods we can sit around and discuss the morality of the tactics. Sound familiar?
The answer my friends is to be found in this statement from Latin in regione caecorum rex est luscus, credited to Desiderius Erasmus's Adagia. Roughly translated for our purposes, "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
Consider these thoughts as you decide how to vote. But the time to think of Donald Trump as a joke, an anomaly, is long past. For his loyal followers, he's the king. And they will be at the polling stations in large numbers anxious to bring an end to their misery by electing a man who understands their plight and will lead them back to the American dream that made America great. You can take this to the bank.
Robert De Filippis