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True Believers and the U.S. Election

By       Message Lawrence Davidson       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Reprinted from To The Point Analyses

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
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Part I -- The Universal Presence of the True Believer

One thing that Donald Trump has done is brought the U.S. version of "true believer" to the political forefront. This group of people was best described by Eric Hoffer (1898-1983). Hoffer was a largely self-educated, working-class, American social philosopher. His best-known work was entitled The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, published in 1951.

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Hoffer made the following points about true believers:

-- They consider the social conditions under which they live hopelessly corrupt and alienating.

-- They feel that these social conditions rob them of self-esteem and render their lives worthless.

-- Only by submerging themselves in a larger movement demanding radical change can they regain self-worth.

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According to Hoffer, being part of a mass on the move is more important to such individuals than the goals of a particular movement. This means that the movements that attract them are interchangeable. That is why they can be Nazis or communists, fanatical devotees of a religion, or part of an aggressive movement to, supposedly, redeem U.S. greatness.

Part II -- Mr. Trump's True Believers Donald Trump has recruited this demographic element for his campaign to become president. Indeed, it appears to be his core constituency.
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Thomas Donlan, writing in Barrons, puts it this way: "Trump voters ... are angry about being losers in the modern economy. It's harder than ever to make their way forward without the advanced education or skills that are in demand. ... They blame elites and the establishment for casting them loose. ... Trump has taken their cause to the political stump and set himself up as their winner." To get an even better sense of the emotional drive behind Trump's true believers one should read Dana Milbank's piece entitled "A Day with Trump's True Believers," which appeared in the Washington Post on 14 March 2016. "I watched Sunday night's rally here [Boca Raton, Florida] ... up front, in the crush of the crowd. ... Once Trump arrived, they [the crowd] became ominously transfixed and aggressive. They pumped their fists, flashed thumbs up, mouthed 'Thank you,' chanted 'Trump! Trump! Trump!' and hung on the candidate's every word -- often with looks of ecstasy and some visibly trembling.

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Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
Statehood
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

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