As many of us have (more than I would have guessed, according to polls) I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump, and this startling wave of publicity he’s riding. He’s always been one of “those” people – in the news for various things, none of them very positive, most seeming pretty slimy. His wealth certainly represents one aspect of success, and I’m sure many people see him as a powerful man, but those things don’t explain, for me, why he’s suddenly the front-runner in the GOP’s pack of nominee hopefuls.
So why? How can a man who is almost a caricature of himself suddenly capture the minds and attention of millions of people? I think one answer is that he is the ultimate white man’s fantasy persona. He does and says whatever he wants to – regardless of its impact on other people – and reaps no significant consequences. He appears to need no significant relationships, have no important emotional attachments that are impacted by his behavior and words, and we know he has all the means he would ever need to support himself.
In short, he’s the ultimate loner and mythic hero figure, at least in the minds of some; a “man’s man” who doesn’t have to be “politically correct” or cater to the needs and whims of all these namby-pamby weepy types who populate the world. He’s free and able to say exactly what he thinks, do whatever he wants, have whatever women he wants, and buy anything his heart desires. But where a hero is usually deeply connected to a quest, often a quest to make life better for people who are suffering somehow, Trump only wants to make life (even) better for others like him – über wealthy, privileged, entitled men whose power means they (seem to) answer to no one.
I believe that the men who support him are men who, like him, are terrified of the changes they know are coming. They see the power structure that has benefited them starting to shift, and they’re having trouble coping (as anyone would). When they hear Trump saying all the vile, hateful, angry things they’re thinking – they’re relieved. Someone else feels the same way, and someone is actually saying all the things they think but won’t say. I use the word “won’t” deliberately because I think not saying those things is a case of will, not a case of ability.
On some level, I believe many of the men who are so enamored of him right now know that the statements he makes are wrong. That they are mean, vindictive, hateful, and largely inaccurate. It’s the difference between being pissed and having a crazed rant inside your head, then getting your shit together and dealing with the problem in a mature fashion, or just standing around calling the other person names, or threatening to punch them in the face. It’s much easier to just rant and rave and ignore any significant work that needs to be done.
Thinking with nuance, from a variety of perspectives, and acknowledging multiple opinions and needs takes a lot of work and effort. Screaming angrily about what you don’t understand or care about, the unfairness of it all, and that you don’t want things to change is much, much easier, and Trump is the master of that rhetoric. He’s the poster boy of the entitled, privileged white male who simply doesn’t acknowledge that all those other water-filled meat sacks are actually human beings.
He seems to just not care. And that’s why he won’t last. Because most of those white guys who fantasize about doing what he does know, on some level, that it’s wrong. Many of them have women they care about, they have friends or colleagues of different ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, and so on. Most of those men care about hurting someone’s feelings, even if they aren’t aware of that care. That’s why they don’t actually *say* those things, but live out their fantasy through Trump and men like him.
Even though people are often greedy, petty, and oblivious, I just can’t bring myself to believe that Trump represents anything other than a fleeting moment of vicarious excitement. I have to believe that the majority of people do care about the feelings of others, even if that care is deeply buried. I have to believe that mean and spiteful men like Trump don’t truly represent the men (or women) of this country.
GOODFELLAS, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Joe Pesci, 1990
No accountability, no consequences.