Trump’s Real Appeal

The time has come for a shift in the discussion about Donald Trump. We cannot continue to labor under the illusion that his supporters don’t know that he is a lying, racist, xenophobic misogynist, and if only they understood that, they would stop supporting him. They know it. He doesn’t hide it. All the things about him that appall us turn on his supporters. All of our earnest denunciations and editorials and Facebook updates and endless articles are not swaying these people, and nothing will. So we really need to understand why they anointed this utter jackass their new messiah. What is his real appeal?

Let’s focus on white working class men, the core of his support. My contention is that Trump’s obnoxiousness represents something fundamental that is lacking in their lives: the freedom to not care what people think about you. When they see Donald Trump being loud and ignorant and making promises he can’t possibly keep, they also see a billionaire who gets away with shit like not paying taxes while still getting the beautiful wives and plenty of tail on the side. They see a man who does not suffer the consequences of his negatives actions, and never apologizes, who always doubles-down. And THAT is what they WANT.

In their own life, they find when they are as loud and unfiltered and incoherent as Donald Trump, they suffer social consequences, the dreaded “political correctness.” When they are obnoxious, which is often, they not only want to be unapologetic about it, but feel even that such behavior is a badge of authenticity and self-confidence.

The irony, of course, is that Trump cares incredibly what people think, which is why he is so thin-skinned, and why he keeps going back to these rallies at which the worse he behaves, the more he is worshiped. His devotees, who have incredibly low self-esteem, (especially the women) misperceive his bluster as confidence; they think if they can be more like him they will no longer feel as inadequate as most of them feel in their lives. He tells them being white, Christian and American are personal accomplishments, not accidents of birth. That owning a gun is equivalent to having a college degree. And when you haven’t traveled, or learned another language, or accomplished much in your life, you don’t have a lot of things to point to that make you better than anyone else. Donald Trump represents status you don’t even have to earn with genuine achievements. When he says: “Make America Great Again,” they hear: “You will be better than others again, and you won’t have to do anything to get there.”

Trump will be defeated, but we have to understand Trumpism as a craving for status, and find ways for more people to feel good about themselves without them defining it as feeling superior to others.