Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Who Is Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is almost certainly going to be the 2016 Republican nominee for President Of The United States. I am loath to say this in August 2015 not because so much can change in a year, but because in a perfect world the campaign cycle would be short enough we wouldn't even be talking about such things at this point in time. But the world we live in is horribly flawed, and this is why I believe whole-heartedly that Donald Trump has wide-ranging appeal.

I do not believe, as many claim, that the fact that Donald Trump says offensive things will alienate religious Republicans. I think that the single-issue voting bloc swayed by abortion will go with whoever the party nominates; furthermore, I think these people hate Hillary Clinton with a passion. More importantly, I think it is in swing states, where there are larger populations of people, where Trump most appeals.

I have heard it said (by Jeet Heer, in this essay) that the Republican base is small business owners. One thing that is interesting about Trump is that he's not a particularly good businessman. He's declared bankruptcy multiple times, I saw a thing this morning saying he would've made more money if he'd invested in index funds. I don't think small business owners will see these sorts of things and think "Wow, what an idiot," but that it will continue to bolster the excuses they make for themselves, where they blame their own struggles on taxes, unions, affirmative action, etc.

I don't mean to act like small business owners don't have a hard time. One of the reasons things are particularly hard is because of how outsourcing and the internet have essentially devalued everything, particularly people's labor and what people are willing to pay for a product.

I spend a lot of time thinking about Amazon: How they have never turned a profit, but are still considered a valuable company, because the strength of their brand name is such that their stock price continually goes up, and they essentially have an unlimited line of credit. I look at this and think "I'm a smart person, but this doesn't make any sense to me," although on some level, it does make sense: It's just not something I would ever do. I am too much of a spendthrift to believe in living on credit. Still, I wonder how much of book companies' resentment of Amazon comes from a wish that they themselves could publish work that doesn't make a profit, and live exclusively on the value that gets attached to their brandname by being associated with valuable art, but they can't, because they deal in something as resolutely unsexy and nineteenth century as printed matter. But Amazon is a successful company, in a surface-over-substance way, because that's the era we live in. I am convinced that Netflix's current drive to produce original content will not be profitable either, but it will work for them, in the same way that Amazon works, perpetuating itself on what is essentially a lie.

Trump, for all his failures, remains a recognizable brand. As a political candidate, when I think of the people who support him, I think of the "recognizable brand" of white men, specifically those who are able to coast on good will or expectation that they will someday do something worthwhile, who lack the introspection to examine themselves and turn their life around. The people Trump appeals to are those people who are him, and they are legion. Donald Trump is every drug-addicted dirtbag to have lived off the largesse of his girlfriend. He is anyone whose parents have paid lawyers to get him out of DUI charges. He is the sort of person who can get a job based on some nebulous idea of charm, the ability to flatter those in positions of power by how much they remind them of themselves. I say "white men," but who Trump is crosses demographic lines. Hillary Clinton is not that far from Donald Trump, honestly.

The core of conservatism, I am convinced, is not religious at all, but instead a deep and fundamental nihilism. It is most evident when looking at climate change denial. Ecosystems are dying, but the wheels keep spinning. Ideally, the exchange of money would function as a system of give-and-take, and this would maintain some degree of equity. Donald Trump is a dude with unlimited credit, paying for a party. Very few people have the moral fortitude to turn him down.

At least, within this country: One of the very many reasons this sort of dude should not be in charge of a country is because other countries will not see the appeal in continuing to lend their credit to someone so thoroughly incompetent. What works within America's broken system of appeal will not translate at all to a global stage. The question for Trump, with regards to the presidency, is how long you can continue to be promoted for your failures, what is the ceiling, and how many people will he take with him when he falls?