Any sane person watching on has concern enough to be worried about Trump’s America. The very fact that this guy is still the leading GOP candidate for the 2024 presidential election is a judgement on the American people. Despots and dictators don’t rise to power without the help of the people. Everybody knows that Donald J Trump is a liar and a cheat. I mean, the guy is compulsive in both these character failings. More concerning is that he has broken the law on numerous occasions and has managed to avoid prosecution or conviction. No one voting for Trump is truly unaware of who is and how he goes about business.
MAGA & Trump
What this says about Americans is that they don’t care about the rule of law if breaking it gets them what they want. They don’t care about good character if the absence of it means their guy is going to win the race. Winning is everything, it seems, and anything else can go to hell. You have evangelical Christians, who claim the moral high ground, voting for Trump. Many of these Christian Nationalists have warped and distorted the tenets of Jesus to fit in with their aggressive stances on America and white supremacy. I have heard convenient excuses like that the immoral Donald Trump is their mercenary in service to God’s American plan. Well, if you study history plenty of mercenaries end up taking over things for their own purposes.
Toxic & Fragile Trumpian America
The USA is a privileged place in the recent historical scheme of things. A big, economically powerful nation, which has been running things on the global stage since WW2. They have hardly ever been attacked on their soil. To give you some comparison less than a million Americans died from events directly associated with WW2. The USSR conservatively lost around 33 million people during this global conflict and their territory hosted a lot of horrendous battles for years. American servicemen did great things in helping win this war and America made many of the munitions that made victory possible. However, the psyche of the nation has not been under siege from invading forces, which is why 9/11 was so shocking to Americans. Less than 5, 000 Americans died, but of course they were all unsuspecting civilians during a time of peace. Only in the Civil War, was America the battleground for years of war and they were killing each other to the tune of some 625, 000 souls in 1860-65.
Trump’s America is soft and entitled. His populism is rooted in grievance. That all these Americans reckon they are entitled to a better deal and they blame Liberal elites. They also blame moderate Republicans like Bush and his ilk. The GOP has been taken over by radicals. According to political historian Cox Richardson, you cannot describe these folk as conservatives because they do not share the essential qualities of conservatism. Of course, where they apportion blame is irrelevant, as they follow Trump because he appears to listen and repeats their grievances during speeches at rallies. This is what populism is and how it mobilises mass support. The polarisation in American politics is like a war, in the mentality achieved by both sides. Hating and not listening to the other side. Demonising opponents and claiming the high ground for your side in arguments.
“There’s no question that much of the focus on Trump supporters derives from the reality that media outlets like CNN (and The Washington Post) are centered in large metropolitan areas where right-wing, rural people are definitionally underrepresented. There was surprise, including from within Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, that hostility to “elites” was as deep as Trump’s success indicated.”
The Importance Of Appearing Powerful
Americans are addicted to perceiving themselves and their country as powerful. They have grown up believing that they are better than anybody else. That their nation is wealthier and militarily more powerful than any other. Donald Trump is a loud braggart and this appeals to many Americans. It seems powerful. Trump is in your face and delivering put downs like an automatic weapon with a pouty expression. They call him the orange Jesus on capital hill. He never shuts up in person and on social media. He is like the overbearing, deranged father figure of the nation. At times of insecurity, and Americans are prone to feelings of anxiety, which some keep hidden. Their obsession with guns has to be an example of this. Someone, somewhere, is going to take something from them. Whether this is a deep ancestral guilt from stealing the land from the Native Americans or enslaving them and millions of Africans, I don’t know. The country has a troubled soul like many new world nations.
Americans want to stay on top, economically and militarily. The rise of China has freaked them out. All this talk of a new world order has some reaching for their automatic weapons. Mister Putin seems like a strong leader. Indeed, he may have bought Trump many years ago. Strongman politics has great appeal for insecure nations. White Americans want a return to the 1950’s, when they were confident that everyone new their place. In the south, they were still lynching blacks and running apartheid states. Democracy was for white folks, end of story. They despise progressives who have made room at the table for minorities like women, coloureds, and LGBTQIA (it seems like new letters get added all the time) folk. Conservative forces have stocked the highest court in the land, SCOTUS, with their judges bought and paid for with luxury holidays and largesse. Trump had a big role in facilitating this and the Federalist Society did the rest. The way things work in the US, it is their call, the final decision, when democracy has gone through its impotent motions. Abortion is no longer a federal right in America, thanks to SCOTUS. Now, it is a matter for state’s rights and has become illegal in most GOP controlled legislatures.
GOP Right Wing Radicals
The right wing radicals, the GOP, want to turn back the clock to a time when men were men and white men ruled the roost. Woke is a wakeup call for white American men. A warning bell about the decay of civilisation. Women are primarily walking wombs and their reproductive function is controlled by the state. Private wealth should be sacrosanct in America and no matter how wealthy one gets – paying tax should not be progressive. In fact, taxes are a socialist idea and should be treated as heretical. America is a land of opportunity if you are white and born into the right family. People who are different in their sexual preference, gender identity, religion, and racial profile should remain on the fringes of society, unless they have enough money to buy their way in. God, a white Christian God, made America to rule the world. God bless America. This is the America, MAGA style, that a Trump win in 2024 promises.
International Allies Watching Closely
Trump’s America is a frightening vision for its allies in Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Isolationism, which was partly pursued in the 2016-20 Trump presidency will suit Russia and many of the other despotic regimes around the globe. Defunding NATO will suit Putin. If Trump wins office and establishes a dictatorship by circumventing the protocols of democratic government in America it will be a bad day for the world. Those supporting Trump in a mistaken belief that he will clean up the federal government will be in for a rude awakening. Ignorance about history and the constitutional design of the government will be no excuse when the shit hits the fan. Those Germans who voted for Adolf Hitler in the 1930’s thought they were doing the right thing by the country.
Americans have had far more warning about Trump than Germans did about the Nazis and Hitler.
Trump An Incompetent President
Trump was incompetent in his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. Nearly a million Americans died from the virus in one of the wealthiest nations on earth.
The handling of the pandemic became a victim of right wing ideology. Trump made dozens of inane comments about dangerous ineffective treatments for the conditions caused by the virus. He was not a wise and dependable leader of the nation. Trump is a sociopath and a narcissist, according to those who know him well. This is not the kind of President America wants when times are tough or challenging. Global warming disasters are on the menu from now on and many predict things will get much worse very soon. Americans should stop wishing for a bygone age and buckle up for a bumpy ride. Survival and not comfort is going to be the overriding consideration. A pouting celebrity President is not going to get the job done.
I have not written about Joe Biden in this article because I wanted to write about the American people rather than comparing candidates. Biden has done some big things in terms of the legislation passed via the rebuilding programmes and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). America had been outsourcing its manufacturing for the last 30 years. It had been basking in its financial sector, feeding off the global dominance of the US dollar. The global pandemic hit and suddenly they became aware of how vulnerable and dependent upon China they were for all the stuff they no longer manufacture. They were not alone in this, as the globalisation mantra of the last few decades had all the factories located in developing nations so the corporations could pay peanuts for production. The dependency on global transport infrastructure was not properly perceived until the pandemic. Biden has begun the greatest investment in manufacturing on US soil for a very long time and probably ever. The green energy transition and high end semiconductor transistors are sectors being pumped up for mass production around the nation. All of this is happening and the pay off will be big down the track, but it takes time to reverse trends of the size and nature of globalisation.
America’s Neglect Of Its People
Mark Blyth, the economist, has written about the delineation of red pro-Trump states in the US as all those heavily carbon dependent industry wise. Their economies are fossil fuel based and thus the people support a climate change denying GOP machine. Biden has messed with these somewhat by locating new mega-factories in states like Georgia and Arizona. Obviously, many people vote first and foremost for their own economic welfare and that of their families. Some commentators, like Marty Baron ex Washington Post editor-in- chief, have voiced their concern about the neglect of the people who live in these states as reason for their immersion in the Trump cult. That much of America was left behind by the movers and shakers and decision makers over many years. Industry leaders, corporation CEOs and CFOs, and neoliberal economists were those who made the call to send manufacturing offshore. They did it to make more money for shareholders and themselves. Governments oversaw this during the Clinton and Bush eras. This is the market taking care of business and small government butting out. The Trump GOP voters are illogical in their support for a party machine that ardently believes in neoliberal economic policies. That is the misguided faith of populism, however.
Trump’s America wants to be rich and powerful. They buy into an old narrative that tells them that any spoils for African Americans and minorities is a redistribution of wealth from white folk. They have long been told that white people are the deserving citizens of the nation. That blacks and the rest are lazy good for nothings. This tale has been spun by populist politicians and their parties since time immemorial. It started with President Andrew Johnson during Reconstruction after the Civil War. It has been conflated over time with a fear of communism that the welfare state is a socialist plot to bring down America. The GOP has run this out in election campaigns, time after time. There never has been an evening up of the economic playing field for those who emerged out of slavery. Racism and the Black Codes, Jim Crow and the lynchings were perpetuated for decades in the 20C. Generational poverty has been institutionalised and embedded by state governments and the white power elite. It is fitting that the political divide in the US continues to be along the north south line. The confederacy vs the union.
“What attracts people to Trump? What is their animus or driving force?
The reasons are multiple and varied, but in my recent public-service book, Profile of a Nation, I have outlined two major emotional drives: narcissistic symbiosis and shared psychosis. Narcissistic symbiosis refers to the developmental wounds that make the leader-follower relationship magnetically attractive. The leader, hungry for adulation to compensate for an inner lack of self-worth, projects grandiose omnipotence—while the followers, rendered needy by societal stress or developmental injury, yearn for a parental figure. When such wounded individuals are given positions of power, they arouse similar pathology in the population that creates a “lock and key” relationship.”
Money and power buys you anything in the USA. Presidential pardons mean that criminals can be set free. Promises can be made to buy silence. Nixon was pardoned by Ford. Steve Bannon was pardoned. Hundreds of individuals who broke the law have been pardoned by Trump. The rule of law in America is a sliding scale, if you are a top dog within the pollical system or have the right connections you walk free. Americans bang on about democracy but it isn’t really a democracy, it is a republic of vested interests. The proliferation of billionaires points to a failure in Abraham Lincoln’s stated aim of economic opportunity for all. The checks and balances have been removed from the system. The very wealthy control the levers of government and manipulate the economy to their benefit. Congress is bought and paid for by special interest groups and corporate America. Political narratives are run up the flag pole to capture the attention of the public but these are deflections from the main game. White supremacy inclinations are massaged from time to time to garner support. Keeping the n****** down, in the words of Randy Newman, still plays well in southern regional electorates.
Every political cause has to have an ‘other’, a bad guy to blame, the Nazis had the Jews, white America has African Americans, the KKK hated blacks and Jews. Born in Tennessee and flourished in Indiana, they were all over the south in their hooded sheets. The first KKK were pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers come to wreak revenge on blacks and their supporters. This is terrorism. White Christian terrorism. Burning properties and human beings. It takes a special kind of person to get up to this kind of thing. A special kind of American.
Those on the right like to assassinate their opponents via guns. Abraham Lincoln was shot from behind in the back of the head by a great southern gentleman, John Wilkes Booth. Some Americans think that shooting unarmed folk is a brave act, I don’t know why – guns and bombs are for cowards. Several presidents have been assassinated and none more famously than JFK. Martin Luther King Jnr was also gunned down by someone hiding behind the sights of a rifle hidden in the bushes. RFK was gunned down too. The list could go on for some time. The gun is an iconic American instrument of death and destruction. Most American movies revolve around shoot em up scenes in one form or another. These days, about once a week, there is a mass shooting event in the US, often, involving defenceless children. Again I do not know what the perpetrators and gun enthusiasts are proclaiming via their gutless acts but it is a decidedly American phenomenon.
Gun rights are defended by the GOP and have increased over the recent decades via state rights.
Perhaps, Trump’s America sees itself in Ayn Rand terms, as a place where the strong survive at the expense of the weak. Where white skinned Anglo Saxons use their superior intelligence to exploit the weaker races. This is all bunkum of course and what has really been going for centuries has been white privilege screwing those not favoured by those in power. Poor white folk have been shortchanged as well in a system that favours the wealthy in terms of higher education opportunities. Downward envy is a term used to describe when those in the middle blame those below them on the wealth ladder for their own lack of wealth and opportunity. It is easier to pick a fight with someone less well endowered than yourself, as they are less likely to come after you with lawyers, guns, and money. Those in the Trump cult definitely like to apportion blame upon all sorts of unlikely groups. This is similar to the antisemitism, which still bedevils populations in America and Europe for no credible reason (I exclude antizionist antipathy from this statement as a separate issue entirely). The violent threats from an extreme fringe of Trump supporters obviously colours the political narrative in the United States in 2023 and beyond.
Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of Money Matters: Navigating Credit, Debt, and Financial Freedom.