Donald Trump claims that if he loses the election it’s because the whole process is rigged. But a rigged game is not why Trump will lose. He’s going to lose because he’s offered no compelling vision about why he should be president. (I don’t think “making America great again” is such a vision.)
What’s most remarkable to me about Trump’s campaign is how negative it’s been. America is in decline! Our inner cities are wastelands! Immigrants are thugs and rapists! Muslims are out to get us! Our leaders are stupid and crooked! Indeed, until recently, Trump argued our top leader wasn’t even born in America.
A relentlessly negative campaign says a lot more about Trump than it does about America. Sure, this country has problems. But there are many silver linings in the dark clouds (economy on the mend; job growth up; health care extended to more people; rights for the LGBTQ community more accepted; the U.S. auto industry is back; more action on climate change is forthcoming, as long as Trump doesn’t win).
I was reading Arthur Schopenhauer’s “Counsels and Maxims” and came across a passage that reminded me of Trump. Here it is:
No man can see over his own height … You cannot see in another man any more than you have in yourself; and your own intelligence strictly determines the extent to which he comes within its grasp …. Hence intercourse with others involves a process of leveling down. The qualities which are present in one man, and absent in another, cannot come into play when they meet; and the self-sacrifice which this entails upon one of the parties, calls forth no recognition from the other.
Consider how sordid, how stupid, in a word, how vulgar most men are, and you will see that it is impossible to talk to them without becoming vulgar yourself for the time being. Vulgarity is in this respect like electricity; it is easily distributed…
That’s Trump in a nutshell: vulgar. Vulgar language. Vulgar action. Vulgar appeals. The question is: Will that vulgarity triumph on election day? Is it enough? My guess is that it isn’t. That it won’t be.
His opponent, Hillary Clinton, has her own set of issues, but compared to Trump she has run a more hopeful campaign, or, at the very least, a much less vulgar one. “Stronger together” is a tepid slogan, but it does stress togetherness, a certain strength in numbers, a degree of tolerance. And Hillary has simply done a better job than Trump at reaching out to wider constituencies with a message that is positive rather than declinist.
Sure, a lot of people will vote for Trump, and for many reasons. They don’t like or trust Hillary. They’re loyal to the Republican Party. They see something in Trump that resonates with them. They feel they’ve gotten the shaft and think that a wild card like Trump can help them more than a face card like Hillary.
But ultimately I believe Trump will be done in by his own vulgarity. He will lose because he couldn’t see past the limitations of his own height — his own flawed character.
But if I’m wrong, prepare yourself for four years of vulgar appeals, of sordidness and stupidity, to quote Schopenhauer. For as the philosopher said, vulgarity is easily distributed.