I, like many of the ever-burgeoning hordes of the self-proclaimed nuevo pundit class, have been searching for a succinct, cliche’-free way of explaining, primarily to myself, how all this shit came to pass.
I’ve been looking for a word, a single word to describe the mental state, or at least the mental preference, which would be required for so many people to vote, not only for Trump but against Hillary.
After much Sturm und Drang, wringing of hands and sweating of brow, the only word that comes to mind is visceral. I can think of no better explanation for why some otherwise intelligent people, (yes, I know more than a few of those who voted for Trump) would vote for what is clearly against their personal interest and, in many cases, that of their fellow citizens. For many of them, it just felt good.
Donald Trump is someone who can make certain of our citizens feel at once envious and inadequate. His willingness to brag about himself, even regarding things that he had little to do with, displays an arrogance that we sometimes see in gangster movies. His willingness to dismiss his transgressions reminds one of the rationalizations of criminal activities by those who perform them. And we buy into it.
After all, who did not want Tony Montana to beat all those sons-of-bitches who invaded his mansion? Who among us has not repeated numerous times, “Say chello to my lidda fren” in order to display the same arrogance in the face of an overwhelming onslaught from our enemies? Did any of us really want Vito Corleone to die when he was gunned down in the street while buying oranges? Of course not. We cheer for every one of them, didn’t we?
Donald Trump is our fantasy gangster. Disdainful of the multitude of women who are thrown at his feet, fearless of being caught in a lie. So financially powerful as to refuse to pay those who work for him, often just before he tells them, “Go ahead and sue me. The legal costs will be more than I owe you”.
George W Bush was the cowboy, remember? The guy who “cleared brush” from the ranch he bought just before the election, at the behest of Carl Rove, and sold immediately after his term was up. Yeah, some cowboy. He was the guy they said would be good to have a beer with, even though his alcoholism ironically precluded him from drinking beer. He was one of us. (The word “us” is used rhetorically. I exclude myself from that group).
Our president is our president because those who have trouble acting on information prefer to act instinctually, viscerally, impulsively, thinking, perpetually it seems, that that little fucking ball is going to land on black for them at any moment.
They can just feel it.
I’ve spent the last few years trying to understand why there are so many intellectual differences among people who come from the same planet, live substantially similar lives, have similar DNA, genes, hopes, fears and phobias. I have yet to come up with an answer, but I’m getting closer on the hypothesis.
The thread that runs through all of our differences appears to be tethered to that thing upon which many of us would give our lives. That thing is called belief.
1. “I believe that he’s telling the truth”, said the woman who let the thief in because he claimed to need to use the phone.
2. “I believe his alibi,” said the jurors who acquitted OJ Simpson.
3. “I believe that I have found the one,” said, roughly the roughly 50% of all married couples who will get married, and then divorced.
4. “I believe that I can stop in time,” said the tailgater just before he rear-ended the guy in front of him.
5. “I believe that he loves me, “ said the teen who was about to reluctantly give up her virginity to a guy who couldn’t care less.
6. “I believe the salesman when he says that this is a very good deal on this car,” said the woman…you get the idea.
Or, here’s a variation on the above:
1. My gut instinct tells me that stock is going up.
2. I can feel it in my bones that black is coming up next.
3. Those lottery numbers are getting closer and closer to my kids birthday dates.
4. Trump can’t win the presidency. I just know it.
5. Today’s gonna be a great day. I can just feel it.
This may all seem harmless, but, as with most human endeavors, certain of us take those beliefs to extremes. Examples are:
1. I believe that these magnets, copper bands or crystals will heal my arthritis.
2. I believe that these supplements and vitamins will cure my cancer.
3. I believe that this faith healer can shrink my tumor.
4. I believe that if I pray to God I will win this boxing match or football game or I will be able to find my car keys.
5. I believe that if I follow this or that interchangeable (but incompatible) religious dogma that I will spend eternity in paradise.
This is still a work in progress, but, other than the existence of certain books of dubious provenance, what is really the difference among these various beliefs?
And so, the question becomes: If you rely upon belief of any kind, what makes you believe, based on empirical evidence, that belief is something that is actually reliable?
We all understand that anxiety associated with a Trump presidency. We also know that he was duly elected as a result of a constitutional vagary that allows the Electoral College to vote for the president based on delegates and not the popular vote. It’s been that way for 250 years and it is thoroughly legitimate, irrespective your personal feelings.
But yesterday, on this or that radio show, I heard some self-congratulatory goon state unequivocally that “the American people chose Donald Trump and his policies, and the American people want him to do what he’s doing”.
Just to clarify, as I said above, I can’t and don’t doubt his legitimacy as president, much as I would like to. But don’t let anyone tell you that the American people chose him. They did not. They chose Hillary by nearly 3 million votes, irrespective the unproven and frankly idiotic rantings by Trump about illegal votes. Everyone knows that those claims are bullshit and will never be investigated for fear that they’ll be disproven.
To sum up. Yup, Trump is the president for the next four years. But not because the American people chose him.