August 21, 2015

Trump lovers want a strongman

Donald Trump, mad king of the GOP: What his surging popularity reveals about Republican extremism

Donald Trump's demagoguery has been so successful for the same reason rightwing extremism is on the rise

By Conor Lynch
The form of populism that we have seen Donald Trump embrace, a kind of nationalist nativism, promising to “make America great again” by keeping the brown people out and bringing jobs back to white America, has obviously gained traction. Trump is the antithesis of a career politician. He is openly sexist and xenophobic, but does not have to worry about losing campaign donations from his inflammatory comments. He does not talk like an anti-government rhetorician, but instead embraces the passions of the rightwing base—whether it be xenophobia, nationalism, or anti-intellectualism—while also promising to use his strength as president to crack down on all of society’s perceived ills.

And here lies a major contradiction with this man, who talks endlessly about the concerns of conservatives, yet promises to address them with the strength of the federal government and executive office—something which conservatives are supposed to oppose.

When given a choice, it seems that followers of the extreme right are willing to use the strength of the federal government, as long as it is addressing their concerns (e.g. national security, illegal immigration, abortion, gay marriage). Of course, not all conservatives have embraced Trump, and many see through his demagoguery—but the people (at least a current plurality of GOP voters) have been enamored by his strongman shtick.

Trump is just one person, and may very well fade away in the months to come—but it is becoming clear that the right wing has increasingly retreated into a “mythical self-glorification,” as Hedges put it. Trump and his followers want to “make America great again.” But what does this mean? No doubt, Trump would say cutting our debt and bringing back jobs from China and Mexico, which is something most Americans would agree on. But the overwhelming rhetoric against immigration, foreign nations, and diplomacy (and diplomats) does point to a kind of retreat from reality into a hyper-nationalist mythology of American exceptionalism. Conservatives seem to be craving a strong personality like Trump, who can come into office and restore traditional values and America’s global supremacy with his superhuman business know-how. This similarly happened in the early 20th century, when strongmen like Mussolini and Hitler rose to power with a promise to restore national supremacy, while creating scapegoats for their problems. Trump wants to restore America’s greatness, and is going after immigrants and foreign nations to provoke much of white America.
Donald Trump’s campaign of terror: How a billionaire channeled his authoritarian rage—and soared to the top of the polls

Democrats have been having a good laugh at Trump's expense this summer. Here's why we shouldn't be laughing

By Heather Digby Parton
It’s easy to dismiss Trump’s ramblings as the words of a kook. But he’s tapping into the rage and frustration many Americans feel when our country is exposed as being imperfect. These Republicans were shamed by their exalted leadership’s debacle in Iraq and believe that American exceptionalism is no longer respected around the world—and they are no longer respected here at home. Trump is a winner and I think this is fundamentally what attracts them to him:I will be fighting and I will win because I’m somebody that wins. We are in very sad shape as a country and you know why that is? We’re more concerned about political correctness than we are about victory, than we are about winning. We are not going to be so politically correct anymore, we are going to get things done.But his dark, authoritarian message of intolerance and hate is likely making it difficult for him, or any Republican, to win a national election, particularly since all the other candidates feel compelled to follow his lead. (Those who challenged him, like Perry and Paul, are sinking like a stone in the polls.) And while Trump’s fans may want to blame foreigners for all their troubles, most Americans know that their troubles can be traced to some powerful people right here at home. Powerful people like Donald Trump.

Still, history is littered with strongmen nobody took seriously until it was too late. When someone like Trump captures the imagination of millions of people it’s important to pay attention to what he’s saying. For all his ranting, you’ll notice that the one thing Trump never mentions is the constitution.
Comment:  For more on Donald Trump, see Trump Promises "Normalcy" aka Whiteness and "Restoring America's Greatness" = Disneyesque Dream.

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