Understanding Donald Trump’s Appeal & What it Means for 2017

trump-burke_imgIt would appear highly likely that Donald Trump’s campaign has fallen into a death spin from which it cannot recover. But how is it that over 35% of Americans can support this man who appears to be a parody, a rancid stew of sexist, racist, xenophobic beliefs? This donald-trump-shamer-in-chief-the-nation by Adam Hanslett from the Oct 4th The Nation Magazine not only describes the origins of the Trump movement looking back over 20 years, but gets into the psychology of the Trump supporter with roots not as much in anger, but in shame.

Haslett quotes, the widely cited Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by National Review contributor J.D. Vance, who recently offered the following view from the world of the Trump supporter.

We know we’re not doing well. We see it every day: in the obituaries for teenage kids that conspicuously omit the cause of death (reading between the lines: overdose), in the deadbeats we watch our daughters waste their time with. Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right.

Haslett also ingeniously points to how many progressives share a similar form of shame.

“There is something very important to listen to here if, in the long run, we’re to have any hope of repairing the vandalism that the right wing has visited on the body politic, and that Trump is committing with such abandon. Shame is what we have in common. It is the messy, volatile, and most often intolerable feeling that haunts unemployed young men in isolated rural communities and urban ghettos alike. It gnaws at millions of women who are belittled, harassed, and underpaid, and who live on their own in higher numbers than ever in our history while still being told that family is the key to fulfillment. It plagues African Americans humiliated by the police, or who have had loved ones killed by them, only to be told that the victims were to blame for their own deaths. Despite the advances in gay rights, it still consumes LGBTQ youth, who kill themselves at four times the rate of their straight brothers and sisters. It eats away at veterans consigned to poverty. And yes, it troubles the spirits of many white Americans living in what are glibly called the “fly-over states,” who perceive—not incorrectly—that most of the gild of the age is concentrated in cities on the coasts, whose wealthier residents consider them cultural primitives.”

The entire article is worth reading, as toward the end, it points to what we can learn from this campaign and how the progressive leader –Bernie would have done this exceedingly well–could reach into these humiliated and exploited communities and found common ground with those who campaigned so fervently for him. We who want to sustain the Revolution would do well to learn from Chapter One.

By the way, I highly recommend purchasing The Nation for all your friends and family who are not subscribers. Published for over 150 years, The Nation provides rock solid progressive journalism in well-researched articles that are mostly one page long, making it easy to read throughout the week. Get it at TheNation.Com.