Thursday, 22 September 2016

Trump's campaign starting to smell like victory

I

Seems as though no one wants to hear it but Donald Trump is probably going to win the US election.

People blame the media and the establishment for this outrage, saying the consequences of a Trump victory will bring the death of both. The media has failed to defend the Democrat Party, leaving too much room for the Republican Party.

The media and the permanent government, connected by the state religion of post-Christianity progressivism which dominates American social thought, is failing in real-time to direct the attention of 318 million citizens towards the ‘truth.’

But let’s flip this over and look at the redacted obverse. Trump is not a Republican. That is, after all, what the Republicans say. They don’t listen to him or want to be associated with the guy at all. This is weird, because in limited warfare (politics) only size matters. Arrive on Election Day with one fewer supporter than your enemy and you lose. Simple as that.

Here’s the thing, I agree with those Republicans. I don’t think Trump is a contemporary conservative, neither is he a Democrat. But when I listen to his policies, all I hear are progressive ideals. The maths doesn’t add up. Until that is, one asks: From which American era does he draw those policies?

II

Don't worry, the media hasn’t failed. Far from it. Donald Trump is verbalising what the mainstream media has parroted for years.

He concentrates on Islamic terrorism. Why? Because every day, the media plays footage of Islamic terror from the remotest corners of the world. The media’s job after 9/11 was to “inform” society (or rather perpetuating dread) so the government could conduct respectable war against a defined enemy. After all, we’ve always been at war with East Asia …

So now in 2016, Mr Trump flails around denouncing Muslims, telling his supporters he will block Allah’s believers “until we figure out what’s going on.” He rails against any country that “has been compromised by terrorism,” by which, of course, he means Islamic terrorism – what other media-approved terrorism is there?

He has opinions about Russian president Vladimir Putin but “doesn’t really know the guy.” At least this is consistent. Outside the foreign policy wonks, who knows anything about Mr Putin? The Russian leader is on television occasionally but not in any digestible context. Why is he important? Why is he dangerous? Most people would guess “Ukraine” but even that seems peripheral and imaginary.

The only narrative Mr Trump knows is the US war with Islam. Mr Putin isn’t Islamic, and Russia isn’t a superpower, so he isn’t a concern. There’s every reason Mr Putin can be reasoned with. After all, he wears a suit, holds elections (I know), has a parliament, works with the UN, borrows from the IMF, etc. None of this suggests Russia is an enemy. Mr Putin is simply not yet American enough.

III

Mr Trump says illegal immigration is a threat to the American way of life. Cue the hatred. But isn’t that the media’s message up until only recently? President Ronald Reagan in 1986 signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, granting amnesty to about three million illegal immigrants. What was the lesson for average citizens? The government will steal citizen’s legitimate jobs while never stopping illegal immigration.

Now Mr Trump is attacked for saying exactly the same message back to the media. Note how the link says the media is changing its tone on immigration, as in, it used to talk about illegal immigration very differently. The media doesn’t hate him for what he’s saying, they hate him because he hasn’t been born again as they have. This is what systemic disavowal looks like.

“Make America Great Again” is a media-approved, establishment-stamped idea with decades of pedigree. The 20th century demanded a new American patriotism as the US stared down the Soviet Union. Rather than allow the US to split along historic lines, undermining the project of pooling the nation’s resources, the government invented modern Americanness to cut across the divisions.

The same was true in the Soviet Union, a mixed society of racial and ethnic groups. Everyone knew what it meant to be Russian (Orthodox, Slavic, white) but being a Soviet neatly pasted over the divisions in this meaning. Soviet ideology allowed everyone to pull together as a single superstate.

Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again” line makes perfect sense in this context because he grew up under the Soviet threat.

Millennials (like me) will never understand the dread of knowing how the next false-alarm in an ICBM field could bring about Armageddon. No one would know if the launch was in anger or error. The sky would turn to fire and humanity would step into the void. I can’t feel that fear. I guess you had to be there. Mr Trump was. This is the economic and psychologic universe in which he finds himself.

IV

A Trump victory in November would be the consequence of a decades-long, media-approved messaging. He is the epitome of the kind of person the establishment wants behind and underneath it, urging on their broad-brush policies while they paint the final picture out of sight in Washington with careful, nuanced strokes.

Mr Trump is operating on 20th-century industrial-age values, which don’t quite mesh with 21st-century information-age values. Make America great? Of course, that’s how the US stays dominant. Keep a lid on immigrants? Of course, Americans must stay American and have plenty of jobs. Be cautious of Muslims? Of course, the US needs an enemy to justify its global spread of democracy.

Can you see how Mr Trump is a direct product of this America? Can you see how he reflects a nexus of progressive values and ideals from both the Cold War and the War on Terror?

The sociologist Robert Nisbet spoke of five “cultural premises” in the idea of progressivism. These nest almost perfectly with Mr Trump’s plans: value of the past, nobility of Western civilisation, worth of economic/technological growth, scientific/scholarly knowledge obtained through reason over faith and the intrinsic importance and worth of life on Earth.

Those were the progressive values drilled into Mr Trump’s brain from childhood. He wants them back – and back in exactly the way they were promised when he was growing up but he feels were taken away.

The problem, from the establishment’s perspective, is he represents the kind of American they want behind and below them, not in front and above. This is a failure of class warfare. The media treats Mr Trump as a virus because he is out of step with modern progressivism. They laugh and mock him when he can’t recite the nuanced rituals and impossible language of the 2016 progressive doctrine.

But, like millions of others, he was raised with the fundamentals. Equality, acceptance, universalism and democracy. These values are integral to the identity of Americanness. Mr Trump delivers those fundamentals in language Americans can understand.

And they approve of the message because their agreement is the difference between maintaining a life-long identity and dealing with messy existential and psychological damage of altering this identity. People will do anything to avoid change and, when their identity is threatened, they get angry.

V

It’s no wonder then the most vicious attacks against him come from millennials – they were raised on this new set of progressive tenants.

Protestants once fought Catholics over pretty much the same dynamic. American Protestantism (old) now wrestles with progressivism (new) for the next turn of the Judeo-Christian doctrinal supremacy wheel. These factions wrestle not with weapons, but with limited warfare (politics).

We are witnessing the pendulum return to the centre. But the centre creeps ever-leftward.

The centre in 1960 was the extreme left in 1920. And the centre in 2016 was the extreme left in 1970. Mr Trump was born in 1946, which means he was 24 in 1970. So why are people surprised when his 2016 policies mimic the ideas he was taught by the cool people in 1970? He knows no other way of being. And why are people surprised that millions of others agree with him? They know no other way.

Mr Trump is not the death of the progressive movement. He is a progressive through and through – but a progressive from the 1970s. His election, should it happen, will only slow the progress of progressivism, not cancel it. The internet as a technology virtually guarantees the domination of the progressive movement, not just for the US, but for the entire wired planet, for at least another century.

If you live anywhere outside the US, Mr Trump is a red herring. Do you want to know what a Trump-esque presidency in 2062 looks like? Listen to the new progressive millennials yelling on social networks.

Are you worried now?

No comments: