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Can We All Keep Ourselves From Being Crazy?

Engraving of the eighth print of A Rake’s Progress, by William Hogarth

“The conventional wisdom nowadays is that Trump will be hard to defeat in 2020.  Needless to say, in a sane society, he would lose in a landslide running against a potted plant.”

– Andrew Levine

“The Democrats can’t keep themselves from being crazy.”

– Ben Shapiro

So–to use a millennial beginning–capitalism enslaved minds before Trump arrived, and by that time, there was not enough of the American mind left to recognize that Trump, in the words of Rex Tillerson, was “a fucking moron.”

That American mind could have been educated to deny Trump the presidency and not deny us a chance of surviving on our warming planet but capitalism put us to dedicate our whole life to winning (“My whole life is about winning.” Trump) and be brutal along the way (“Be brutal, be tough.” Trump). What is surprising is that a Trump did not come along a lot sooner.

Now we are engaged in a great struggle against a deformity of mind and heart we ourselves have created and as did Lincoln in 1863 we hope “for a victory in which this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Unfortunately, we are more part of what John Locke called the twisted tree of our humanity than sane, rational, noble liberators of ourselves and the muck we have made of things. The unreliability of the public mind pursued in polls of public opinion is not something we are prone to see given our 24/7 personal immersion in what is touted as a “virus of freedom, for which there is no antidote . . .  spread by electronic networks to the four corners of the earth.” (Walter Wriston, former CEO of Citigroup, 1997).

In short, public opinion is not easily twisted out of all reasoning but rather finally honing for itself a liberated Truth on social media. It is difficult to impossible then to find a path of reasoning and logic to struggle against a deformity of mind and heart that we share with the president. The president runs the country on Twitter and responses run on Twitter, a kind of dialogue and discourse that went on amusingly first at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

While in the muck, we couldn’t see that candidate Trump was in no way in possession of his own instincts as to rationally arrange a conspiratorial deal with Putin, one that when found would be the smoking gun needed to impeach him.

Neither could we see that the criminal charges Mueller, an ex-federal prosecutor, hopefully sought by many were peripheral and incidental to the disclosure of this president as a danger to democratic, Constitutional order of things painfully and incrementally created since the Constitution was written in 1787. What we have been after and what Mueller couldn’t provide at one time and in one report was help in defending that order against this destructive  force in the Oval office who seems to be rapidly bending the instruments of democracy to his own will,  a will neither coherent, continuous or unified.

Because so much in our society shares with Trump an appetite for hyperreality rather than reality and is so deeply entrenched in spectacle, spin and celebrity and armored within the illusions of personal autonomy, we are now incapable of pulling back the curtain and exposing the Wizard as a sham.

In what Christopher Lasch called a culture of narcissism why wouldn’t a narcissist who works the image making machinery like an expert win success? Why wouldn’t a candidate who finds the surest magnetic attraction is to the worst devils of our human nature draw admirers to himself as if admirer and admired were one?

I suppose if the order of things that Trump is playing havoc with could be easily located in the regimes of Reagan or the Bushes or the Clintons or Obama, we would have a clearer sense of the danger Trump presents. None of these presidencies made clear to all that our economic system had moved us into plutarchy. However, it seems that a whole lot of mistrust, anger, frustration, anxiety and even a greater sense of feeling cheated overwhelm the thoughts of many regarding what order it is that Trump is violating.

Many have an axe to grind and Trump is here to grind it. Or, is perceived as doing so.

Perhaps further investigations will solidify a universal sense of what Trump is violating and the indictable and/or impeachable ways he is doing so. Perhaps it all can be done on Twitter or elsewhere on social media. If not there, then perhaps in The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or Fox or MSNBC?

Meanwhile, the 2020 presidential campaign seems to be a more promising battleground than defining what order of things we are all historically solidly behind and how Trump may be undermining all of this nebulousness.

We are market-bred to put aside ideas and understanding and follow the horse race; personalities and not civics, the negative and not the positive, the “crushing” attack rather than the conciliatory gesture.

While the Republican Party is unified by having given ownership to Trump, the Democratic Party is once again trying to represent four different political persuasions, namely, Liberal Third Way triage, Leftist anti-plutarchy, Diversity/Identity missionaries, and Climate Change Paul Reveres. We can expect that these four different dramatis personae on the Primary debate stage will tear into each other until they settle down and just tear into an emerging favorite of the polls. It would be crazy to stoke Trump’s fire but I doubt if the Democrats can stop themselves.

While there may be some Trump haters among Republicans, it is not in their interest to go too public, thus Trump has only been mildly reprimanded by Republicans. Besides, he has turned out to be more classically conservative than they feared.

He’s solidly behind the fossil fuel industry while at the same time impeding every way he can all efforts to regulate the industry’s poisoning of the planet. He has already appointed two Supreme Court justices that make every Conservative happy and if he gets a second term, there is a good chance he will appoint two more. That is one very good reason to vote for Trump if a Liberal court has proven too secular for your moral and religious core values.

But Trump does more that has to be liked by Conservatives and Neoliberals. Tax cuts for the wealthy for sure but also personal endorsements that Winners like himself do not rely on government handouts. He is wealthy, the president and he has got all the toys he wants, including a trophy wife. He is the perfect symbol of capitalist success. Why wouldn’t those whose politics bend to Market Rule be thrilled at having Trump as a standard bearer?

Perhaps the biggest reason the Republican Party glues itself to Trump is the fact that he brings into the tent that portion of the American population who have every reason not to vote for the party of Market Rule, of Winner take all and Loser disappear politics.

During the 2016 Republican Primary, no challenger was capable of drawing a loyal 35-45% of these voters to them in the Revival tent manner of Trump. Those who Hillary called “Deplorables” have been moving closer and closer to a kind of sans culottes revolt, a revolt that Trump took into his own personality, expressing it and thus giving much relief and satisfaction to his followers.

He seems to intuitively know that he is reckless, willful, obstreperous, unruly, destructive and everything defiant of inherited presidential norms on behalf of his followers, an avatar to the many whom both parties had left hanging for decades. In short, if they were in his shoes, they would be doing exactly what he is doing. Trump does not let too much daylight get in between that relationship.

There’s a kind of rhetorical advantage Trump has when you consider that his rallying cries against socialism, which bring up the bugbears of wealth redistribution, government control of free enterprise, and the Deep State’s fascist control of your personal life, all of which resonate in an echo chamber that has been under construction in the American mass psyche for a very long time. And once again, the way he exhibits his own dark antipathies, his own paranoiac fears and instinctual vengeance, his own inhumanity and brutality incites a “Yes!” that sadly is beyond debate.

There is much for the dividend recipients, regardless of what party they say they vote for, to get from a second Trump presidency. They do not have such great expectations with the presidency of any of the Democratic candidates. There is also much to enjoy in the day to day iconoclastic antics of President Trump by those who feel cheated by the normal run of politics, the chastising media, and the smug, politically correct Coastals.

Democrats do not have as fast a connection to those whose vote they seek. They cannot make profit to shareholders and Let Markets Rule! their mantra, although any review of Democratic leadership shows us that affiliations to Market Rule are strong, though not broadcast as with Republicans. In the absence of “Show Me the Money!” we are offered ideas, a lot of them and because no idea can take command in the Democratic Party platform, every single idea is a bit anxious to be heard, a bit desperate, a bit crazed.

Can the Democrats keep themselves from being crazy? Ben Shapiro asks, and perhaps one reason they cannot is because they cannot find the one path to reach voters that Republicans have found, the path to the gold, the path of the American Dream. It is basically all that Liberals have: pretend to offer more noble, more enlightening fare. Another reason is that it’s a party with multiple personalities, four that I have described previously. They are having a hard time organizing from that noise.

A crazed idea is to make hating Trump your platform, your ruling passion.

Putting Trump in the role of Devil is risky business because he already for so many is the one who is fighting the Devil for them. He is fighting the Deep State, that Clinton/Obama cabal, the Coastal Elite who want to take away your guns, tie your tongue, and let the Bank take away your home. He is fighting to regain your memory and your dream, that is a memory of once being without economic anxieties, and a dream of Trump-like material success.

There is probably little a Democratic candidate can do to erode Trump’s 35-45% avid followers but there are certainly ways that such a candidate can frighten off some 20% who find Trump crude, rude and dangerous to know but love their stock returns more than they hate Trump.

If you threaten the entire American private health care industry — hospitals, doctors, Big Pharma, insurance companies — with extinction, as Bernie and Warren do, then that’s a crazed platform, although the EU has managed to do so without much collateral damage.

If you threaten the entire fossil fuel industry with extinction in order to mitigate global warming to a level in which humans might survive, then that’s a crazed platform, although quite sane and rational when you consider it is what we must do for our own survival.

It is also crazed to think that putting forward a “diversity” candidate is itself a platform of universal appeal.

England felt it was about time to have a woman prime minister and so they had Margaret Thatcher, Reagan’s trickle down counterpart. A Democratic victory in 2016 would have given the U.S. its first female president, one that would surely have driven some Trump of the future to draw more than 50% of voters.

Point blank, if Hillary had won in 2016 and Trump was challenging her in 2020, he would walk into the office. Obama was bi-racial but that diversity didn’t do much for workers’ unions, people of color, victims of the Wall Street looting of 2007, and bringing those looters to justice.

However crazed the opinion that any kind of diversity is a winning ticket may be, Democrats seem glued to the illusion. Sherrod Brown, a middle aged white man and Senator from Ohio could surely have won both coasts and the Rust Belt Trump won in 2016. He is a working man candidate with a gravelly voice and a rumpled don’t fool with me demeanor. I doubt if Trump could have managed to ridicule him off a debate state.

But Brown didn’t enter the race because he thought his cisgender, over 50 white face sunk him at the starting gate. The Democrats have already signaled that only someone marginalized and not representative of mainstream America will do in 2020. That’s a crazed belief that will probably bring Trump back in 2020.

And finally is it crazy or merely fantastical to think that in the many months before the November 3rd, 2020 election that President Donald J. Trump will unravel and derange something or himself in a way that would allow all of us to see that he is, to repeat Rex Tillerson’s words, “a fucking moron”?

Is it also fanciful to think that Democrats can keep themselves from being crazy and evaluate their candidate not from East coast or West coast but from the heartland?

We need also to realize that in condemning Trump in the way Democrats want him condemned, everyone who leans on him to save them, to speak for them, to do the destruction they crave, crush the ones who have cheated them — they will all have to condemn themselves.

It’s surely crazy to expect that.

 

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Joseph Natoli has published books and articles, on and off line, on literature and literary theory, philosophy, postmodernity, politics, education, psychology, cultural studies, popular culture, including film, TV, music, sports, and food and farming. His most recent book is Travels of a New Gulliver.

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