20 Apr 2011

The Donald and 2012

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Donald Trump is manifestly not all that bright. Educationally, he makes Sarah Palin look like Erasmus, and he has truly execrable taste: running to the Mafioso Miami school of interior design and that signature combover hairdo. But he has lately been doing great in Republican polls, while amusing a lot of the country by taking potshots at the mystery of Barack Obama’s unwillingness to release his long-form birth certificate.

David Brooks describes why Donald Trump strikes a deep cultural chord.

[T]here has always been a fan base for the abrasive rich man. There has always been a market for books by people like George Steinbrenner, Ross Perot, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Knight, Howard Stern and George Soros. There has always been a large clump of voters who believe that America could reverse its decline if only a straight-talking, obnoxious blowhard would take control. …

He is riding something else: The strongest and most subversive ideology in America today. Donald Trump is the living, walking personification of the Gospel of Success.

It is obligatory these days in a polite society to have a complicated attitude toward success. If you attend a prestigious college or professional school, you are supposed to struggle tirelessly for success while denying that you have much interest in it. If you do achieve it, you are expected to shroud your wealth in locally grown produce, understated luxury cars and nubby fabrics.

Trump, on the other hand, is utterly oblivious to such conventions. When it comes to success, as in so many other things, he is the perpetual boy. He is the enthusiastic adventurer thrilled to have acquired a gleaming new bike, and doubly thrilled to be showing it off.

He labors under the belief — unacceptable in polite society — that two is better than one and that four is better than two. If he can afford a car, a flashy one is better than a boring one. In private jets, lavish is better than dull. In skyscrapers, brass is better than brick, and gold is better than brass.

This boyish enthusiasm for glory has propelled him to enormous accomplishment. He has literally changed the landscape of New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and many places in between. He has survived a ruinous crash and come back stronger than ever.

Moreover, he shares this unambivalent attitude toward success with millions around the country. Though he cannot possibly need the money, he spends his days proselytizing the Gospel of Success through Trump University, his motivational speeches, his TV shows and relentlessly flowing books.

A child of wealth, he is more at home with the immigrants and the lower-middle-class strivers, who share his straightforward belief in the Gospel of Success, than he is among members of the haute bourgeoisie, who are above it. Like many swashbuckler capitalists, he is essentially anti-elitist.

Now, I don’t mean to say that Donald Trump is going to be president or get close. There is, for example, his hyper-hyperbolism and opportunism standing in the way. …

But I do insist that Trump is no joke. He emerges from deep currents in our culture, and he is tapping into powerful sections of the national fantasy life.

In my own hyper-elitist way, I am every bit as anti-elitist (when our so-called elite is in question) as Donald Trump, and I have been enjoying the spectacle of Trump giving Obama a hard time.

I’d be delighted to have the GOP National Committee agree to give Donald Trump a special bit of air time late on election evening of November in 2012 to point his index finger, and on behalf of America, say “Barack Obama, you’re fired!”

But Donald Trump falls decidedly into Glenn Reynolds’ syphylitic camel category of candidates. We just have to hope hope that The Donald is sufficiently patriotic to get out of the way of a more serious Republican contender and does not decide to play the role of a Perot.

One Feedback on "The Donald and 2012"

Julie Kinnear

How is it possible that such a trivial issue as Obama’s birth certificate takes priority over the most daunting problems that the US faces in the area of economy or national security? I can’t understand this.


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