My rough guess is that over the past few months, for every minute scrolling through my Facebook timeline, an image of Donald Trump has confronted my eyeballs four times. The vast majority of the images come from links about some vile or ridiculous or outrageous thing he has said or done, or simply how outrageous or ridiculous or vile he is, with accompanying commentary. I try not to pay it much attention. I thought a recent New Yorker cartoon captured this feeling well. So I shared it.
Then it occurred to me that my attempts at not staring into the abyss was not going well. What if the New Yorker cartoon was part of the abyss too, and now the abyss was sharing photos for me?
Trump is a monstrosity, a grotesque, and so it is easy to outline where you stand on him and his followers. As another New Yorker contributor puts it: Palin Endorsement Widens Trump’s Lead Among Idiots. Trump is a monster and his followers are idiots. Maybe a more interesting question is where you stand in relation to Donald Trump. I mean, the fact his horrible face crops up everywhere with such appalling regularity must mean that there is a constituency interested in how atrocious he is, right? Maybe you and me form part of an ad hoc public of sensible, reasonable, enlightened people who, however much we might differ on other matters, are appalled at this rough beast, this array of desperate morons who have anointed this puffing, preening turd as their chosen leader?
You might have subscriptions to The Economist, I might have a Rosa Luxemburg t-shirt, but perhaps we are at one when it comes to Trump’s remarks about deporting Muslims or persecuting so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ or bombing the shit out of Iran or wherever. Does Trump not provide us with a common bond, one that we might otherwise never realise existed? Does he not provide us with a shared perspective on things, a sense that whatever else might be wrong with the world, we should set all that aside so this dreadful threat can be forestalled? Or maybe you and me disagree on the scale of the threat posed, but we can at least agree on the fact that he is a terrible creature?
You can see how this kind of shared feeling works its way into the realm of elections. Since it is unthinkable that someone like Trump should be afforded the reins of political power, it is preferable -or so it is suggested- that Hillary Clinton be given the job instead. In reality, given Clinton’s history and her donors, this translates into rejecting the overtures of one billionaire in favour of the representative of the billionaire community at large. This is the logical course of action, on which our newfound community must surely agree. It boils down, as elsewhere, to the choice presented between stability and chaos. This stability, in reality, is the continuation of rule by big business, of perpetual war, of environmental destruction, the dismantling of each and every institution founded on collective solidarity and its replacement by subjection to the market, of the stripping away of social and labour rights. That is what figures like Clinton stand for, and the fundamental thing they have to propel them is nothing other the sense that the alternative is worse.
Sarah Palin made a speech yesterday. Or was it the day before? I can’t be sure. I’ve seen several articles from mainstream sources parsing her speech, the images she used, her syntax and so on. Yet as Jon Schwartz notes, some of it made quite a lot of sense. But the consensus arising from this critical analysis is that she fell short, way short, of the standards demanded by reasonable people like us. Only the brutes and the rubes of our imagination will like it.
Those would be the same brutes and rubes who are, in sum, the product of decades-long media stereotyping of working class people. You know, the people who can’t read or write or think properly and who never proved capable of making their way in the world the way you did. But suppose you were to go looking for someone who fits such a stereotype. Suppose you had to fetch just one from the hundreds of millions who are supposed to fit it, one single person who, on close examination, demonstrates that your model is correct. You would not be able to find a single one who continued to fit the stereotype after an hour’s conversation and closer examination. If you examine Sarah Palin’s rhetoric properly, you can see how it is tailored to appeal to people who know very well they don’t fit the stereotype created for them.
It’s true enough that neither Sarah Palin nor Donald Trump actually gives a shit about such people and see them only in terms of getting just enough of them as a means to their end. But the sense of being caricatured and denigrated is likely based on real experience. It wouldn’t be unexpected for such people on occasion to identify with an aggressor and project their own fears onto someone else who may be in a far worse position: black people, ‘illegal immigrants’, Muslims, and so on. Trump and Palin, like many other demagogues, amplify people’s fears and then promote themselves as just the people to do something about it. Then figures like Trump and Palin appear, in turn, as the threat to the reasonable consensus, even when it is precisely this reasonable consensus that has done so much to produce and maintain these fears in the first place. And even then, the journals of respectability that would have no difficulty in describing Islamic State, say, as ‘the terrorist group Islamic State’ would never make mention of ‘the racist US presidential candidate, Donald Trump’.
Fortunately, the billionaire community at large is far too sensible to allow these things to get completely out of control. That is why it is so important to vote for whoever stands for stability in the next elections in a Western democracy near you. Voting will save us in the end. Share if you agree!