Liberals hope to remove Trump from office and believe his base will abandon him. But it won’t be simple or quick. Trump’s followers revere him and won’t be easily dissuaded. During the campaign, Trump said he was so popular he could shoot people on 5th Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t waver. That’s still true. As usual Trump was way ahead of his detractors: he intuitively recognized he was worshipped as a great American hero.
Won’t exposing his shady business practices erode Trump’s support? Not necessarily. His relentless drive for riches is part of his appeal. His critics don’t grasp that for millions of supporters, Trump is a great American hero precisely because he’s rich.
Recall a few things about the US.
The most insistently worshipped American heroes are the Founding Fathers. But their chief work is poorly understood. They founded not merely a republic. They founded a commercial republic.
Capitalism reigns supreme. America’s values are capitalist values. The highest value is money. Money is prized above life itself. Consider the oil companies’ contempt for life on Earth in their mad rush for profits. Like Trump who supports them, the oil profiteers are congruent with America’s commercial traditions.
The Founders created a Constitution to ensure democracy could not interfere with wealth. This is the legacy that we confront today (and the basis of Trump’s popularity).
The US political system is arranged to assure that we remain passive – political spectators. And spectators need heroes. We the people are supposed to choose a savior every four years who will rescue us from our miserable conditions. This is why they all run on “hope.” Call it the mendacity of hope.
Trump ran on the promise that he would return jobs to America and “make America great again.” He looked straight into the camera and said, “Only I can do it for you.“ He auditioned for the part of America’s great hero and won the role according to the antidemocratic rules of the game.
Heroes are as American as violence and apple pie. Most Americans have no real power under the capitalist plutocracy that runs our lives and commands our deaths. Yet official mythology says that all Americans have power because this is a democracy where all people have equal rights and the government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
The yawning gap between the mythology and the reality creates a need and a market for heroes. Heroes are larger than life individuals who right the wrongs. Heroes make things come out as they should, with the common man’s rights preserved for him.
People should have their victories won for them, not by them. A core principle of the system is to keep the people passive, “to prevent insurrection,” as James Madison wrote.
The US has been saturated with heroes since its inception, but especially since the birth of the modern media. As early as 1932, the Lone Ranger in his white hat and black mask, rode across the Plains on the radio, and on his white horse, to protect the ordinary (white) settler family from evil-doers. In 1939, Superman joined him to fight for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”
Many superheroes have joined since then. Kids dress up every Halloween as superheroes, proving the continued fascination with these icons of impotence. As politics merges with entertainment, the political leader becomes a superhero.
Trump’s critics cannot understand how fervently Trump’s base remains attached to him. He is their hero, both by the example of his personal accumulation of riches (people dream they will be rich one day) and as a hero who will right the wrongs that beset them.
Trump’s avarice is legendary and all-consuming. He has never prized integrity above wealth. Before the White House, he routinely stiffed workers on his construction projects and in his hotels and casinos. Now, occupying the highest office in the land, concerns for integrity will not interfere with his personal accumulation. His followers are impressed with this; they will not be swayed by liberal arguments about Trump’s “lack of integrity. “
When the liberal point of view is rejected by the Trump supporter, the liberal typically resorts to name-calling. S/he accuses Trump’s people of stupidity, even of insanity for not seeing the liberal’s superior logic. Let’s not forget Hillary and her “basket of deplorables.”
What the liberal doesn’t see is that Trump’s cohorts stand firmly on the ground of US mercantile values and the system of hero worship that has grown out of that.
Powerless people hunger for heroes. Only changing the conditions that require heroes will free us from the American hero’s grip. Only discussing it in these terms will allow communication between the two sides.