Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Hideous Truth About Donald Trump's Poll Surge

While much of America - and the rest of the world for that matter - looks at Donald Trump's surge in the polls of likely GOP voters with disbelief, the egomaniac billionaire's surge is not surprising to those familiar with the pathological sickness that has overtaken the Republican Party.  Like so much of the GOP, Trump panders to the party base's soaring racism and the insanity of the large Christofascist faction of the base that would shut down the federal government over funding of Planned Parenthood based on questionable videos released by abortion foes.  Trump seemingly recognizes the growing opposition to modernity itself that motivates the angry whites of the GOP base and, of course, the Christofascists who base their world view on the writings of unknown Bronze Age writers.  A piece in Salon looks at the disturbing phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump’s formidable lead among Republican contenders for the presidency suggests that good political common sense is officially in short supply. My statement does not lack for hyperbole, but it is entirely commensurate with the alarming cultural farce that is a Trump campaign for president. Nothing makes clearer the kind of social hysteria and lack of reason driving politics on the right these days than widespread support for Donald Trump, a candidate who up until now has provided endless entertainment of the slightly racist uncle who vocalizes outmoded views at the dinner table variety. Such characters usually exasperate us and they may even manage to make us laugh, but no one takes such figures seriously.

However, if the Republican primary were today, Donald Trump would most likely emerge the winner. . . .  let me be less generous and less polite in my own assessment of the man:  Donald Trump makes clear that he primarily cares about capitalism, about wealth, and about power. While I view his particular performance of right-wing politics and white masculinity as buffoonish, he seems to offer comfort to those on the right who are deeply invested in returning the country’s leadership to someone who looks and thinks like them. . . . his brash and unapologetic political incorrectness bespeaks comfort, a seeming return to normalcy for those Americans who believe that progress and change are happening too fast.

Trump recently argued that we actually need to “give power back to the police.” Nothing about the rampant culture of overpolicing in this country or the surveillance state in which most urban people of color live would suggest that this is a reasonable position to take. The police have more power than they have ever had, and they continue to use that power to intimidate and abuse ordinary citizens of all backgrounds, including African-Americans, Native Americans and white people.

The level of popular support for Trump is yet one more reminder that a significant segment of the populace would have us return to a world in which women have no reproductive freedom, Black people’s voting rights are significantly curtailed, and rich, white, propertied men rule the roost.

There are two competing views of democracy in this country, and one of those views is rooted in “taking the country back” from African-Americans whose outcries about injustice are treated as unwelcome ambient noise that disrupts the standard daily functions of white America. The right wants “to take the country back” from liberals, from Latinos, from Barack Obama, from women who want control over their bodies.  

No one believes Trump is a serious presidential contender, but we should pay close attention to what it is about him that the conservative base finds so compelling. . . . Trump legitimizes the most irrational and base impulses of those on the right. He makes it seem OK to have views that are politically retrograde and fundamentally at odds with a democratic project. He makes white discomfort with progressive discourse and policy feel like a legitimate anxiety.

This is what Trump represents – the kind of zealotry meant to balance the extreme feelings that many conservative (read: white) Americans have about what they’ve been “forced to endure” for the last eight years. . . . . Support for Trump constitutes a concerted refusal to acknowledge that the country is on the brink of a new full-fledged 21st century movement for civil rights.

It is this fear that has a significant segment of the white middle class willing to support candidates who care far more about money and power than about the quality of life of the American middle class. The only thing that I’ve ever known to make white people vote against their own political and economic interests (e.g., against healthcare, for massive corporate tax cuts, against reproductive rights for women, against a social safety net) is racism. 

Trump . . .  represents a feeling of safety for those white people who long for a return to the “way things were.”

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