Are there too many articles about Donald Trump? You might say yes, until, that is, you realize the man has a fair shot at being America’s next president. With that disaster in the making, one must speak up, which is what Tom Engelhardt has done at TomDispatch.com. Engelhardt shows us what Trump is all about – and what that reveals about the present American moment.
Here’s a telling sample from Engelhardt’s latest:
He’s made veiled assassination threats; lauded the desire to punch someone in the face; talked about shooting “somebody” in “the middle of Fifth Avenue”; defended the size of his hands and his you-know-what; retweeted neo-Nazis and a quote from Mussolini; denounced the outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs and products while outsourcing his own jobs and products; excoriated immigrants and foreign labor while hiring the same; advertised the Trump brand in every way imaginable; had a bromance with Vladimir Putin; threatened to let nuclear weapons proliferate; complained bitterly about a rigged election, rigged debates, a rigged moderator, and a rigged microphone; swore that he and he alone was capable of again making America, and so the world, a place of the sort of greatness only he himself could match, and that’s just to begin a list on the subject of The Donald.
Engelhardt highlights an aspect of Trump that more Americans need to see: Trump the Sore Loser. Consider his first debate with Hillary Clinton. Instead of taking personal responsibility (“I had a bad night, but I’ll win the next one”), Trump blamed everyone else and anything else. The election’s rigged. The media’s against me. My mic was bad. And so on. Everyone’s accountable except himself.
In his sore losership, Trump is much like America. One example: It took (some of) us nearly fifty years to get over defeat in the Vietnam War. In fact, many U.S. “experts” still aren’t over it, arguing that America really won that war (like Trump argued he’d won the debate with Hillary at subsequent rallies), or alternatively that the war was “rigged,” i.e. that American troops were winning until they were stabbed in the back, betrayed by a hostile and biased media and pusillanimous and disloyal civilian leaders. Really?
Here’s another telling excerpt from Engelhardt on Trump:
In relation to his Republican rivals, and now Hillary Clinton, he stands alone in accepting and highlighting what increasing numbers of Americans, especially white Americans, have evidently come to feel: that this country is in decline, its greatness a thing of the past, or as pollsters like to put it, that America is no longer “heading in the right direction” but is now “on the wrong track.” In this way, he has mainlined into a deep, economically induced mindset, especially among white working class men facing a situation in which so many good jobs have headed elsewhere, that the world has turned sour.
Or think of it another way (and it may be the newest way of all): a significant part of the white working class, at least, feels as if, whether economically or psychologically, its back is up against the wall and there’s nowhere left to go. Under such circumstances, many of these voters have evidently decided that they’re ready to send a literal loose cannon into the White House; they’re willing, that is, to take a chance on the roof collapsing, even if it collapses on them.
That is the new and unrecognizable role that Donald Trump has filled. It’s hard to conjure up another example of it in our recent past. The Donald represents, as a friend of mine likes to say, the suicide bomber in us all. And voting for him, among other things, will be an act of nihilism, a mood that fits well with imperial decline.
Trump, in other words, embodies the resentment of Americans who are used to seeing themselves (and their country) as winners, but who now recognize, at least on some level, they are no longer winners – that they may be, horror of horrors, losers. And, much like Trump, they are sore about this – but not sore (or honest) enough to look in the mirror. No – far better to cast about for scapegoats, to shift the blame, to avoid taking any personal responsibility.
Trump is the Sore Loser of sore losers. His (possibly winning?) appeal is to tell certain Americans exactly what they want to hear: That it’s not your fault that you’re losing. No – it’s the fault of others. Mexicans. Muslims. China. Pushy women. The liberal media. You name it.
Trump, as Engelhardt notes, is a declinist candidate, a rare thing indeed. But he’s declinist with a twist. He’s not trying to motivate Americans to be better. There’s no idealism to his pitch. No appeal to the better angels of our nature. No – Trump is all about finding (marginal and vulnerable) people to blame and punishing them.
Again, he’s the sorest of losers. Come this November, Americans need to make sure he remains a loser.