Who knew it would be Ted Nugent helping me out in my quest, as someone who is not a Trump supporter, to explain the Trump phenomenon* to America?
Nugent is careful to state up-front that he has made no endorsement of anyone, and that he admires Ted Cruz as well as Trump. Although I can’t say I admire Trump – at least not as a potential candidate for president – and don’t envision ever endorsing or voting for him, Nugent’s perspective is still usefully similar to mine.
And in a Facebook post from 29 March, he ticks off a telling list of points that (to him) are in Trump’s favor.
(H/t: Western Journalism)
Some people will say that having this laundry list of opponents means Trump is a tool of the devil, and his supporters probably need a mass exorcism. Others, more circumspect, may have that thought privately but not give voice to it.
What I perceive is that until Trump’s detractors acknowledge the ways in which our cultural status quo unfairly disadvantages the people who support him, the Trump phenomenon is going to keep dogging those detractors.
A ludicrous but telling illustration
The main reason the extremely minor event with Michelle Fields and Corey Lewandowski has been blown so far out of proportion is that it’s such a perfect illustration of how that disadvantage works.
Look, I think Trump and Lewandowski reacted callously – with a lack of basic courtesy – to Fields’s complaint. But that doesn’t mean Fields’s complaint has the kind of merit her champions in the media suggest. To look at the video of what happened and wax indignant over assault, battery, or violence against Fields is to engage in the rankest special pleading – or to be afflicted with psychosis.
I’ve been a little surprised that so many commentators are writing as if we can’t all see from the video that nothing noteworthy happened. If there was “unwanted touching” – all misdemeanor battery has to be – it looks to me like several dozen people in the immediate area could have made that complaint (including Trump and Lewandowski).
Whether Lewandowski taking Fields by the arm and moving her aside rose to the level of misdemeanor battery, we’ll have to trust the Florida court to decide. But that decision will actually be irrelevant to the moral judgment of anyone with working eyeballs and common sense.
This very unimportant event is emblematic of several big things that are wrong with our sociocultural arrangements today. It’s ambiguous, as many human situations are. Sensible people would see it and think (a) nothing needs to be done about it, and (b) if anyone’s nose is out of joint, a simple display of sympathy and extra courtesy (i.e., from one or all of Lewandowski, Trump, and the Trump campaign organization) would be in order. But instead of being settled that way, it has metastasized into a formal complaint, involving the police, and has now reached the status of a political football. That’s how we do things these days.
Now, Trump probably could have headed that off at the pass with a little cost-free sympathy and courtesy three weeks ago. I would agree with anyone who said it was jerkish not to do that, as well as tactically shortsighted and unleaderly.
The underlying issues
But this is where the simmering cauldron of justifiable anger at today’s enforced cultural bias is kicking in. Very honestly, from the video evidence, I don’t see that Ms. Fields has much of a basis for complaint. That doesn’t mean anyone should be impolite to her. But should her complaint, regardless of its merit, override all other considerations in this event, such that the whole apparatus of government, media, and cultural enforcement turns against Mr. Lewandowski and hounds him and his employer into some form of submission? Should government, culture, society really operate that way?
Trump supporters see many years now of the thinly-based complaints of some groups getting them favorable treatment, while the concerns of Trump supporters are not just dismissed but often ruthlessly silenced. And you know what? The Trump supporters are right: they have been subjected to systematic bias, bias that’s eating out their substance and harming their way of life.
It’s no accident that Europeans appalled at how migrants are turning their streets into jungles are starting to cheer for Trump. They’re cheering for the same reason Americans are: because Trump doesn’t play by the rules of cultural bias enforcement that incessantly maneuver Trump supporters into positions of disadvantage – whether it’s watching favored people burn your flag with impunity while you would be arrested for burning any emblem of theirs, or watching favored people stream across the border so they can vote against your interests, or watching favored cry-bullies not only intimidate others into silence, but get them kicked out of their jobs and destroy their lives with lawsuits.
I don’t know why there are conservatives who don’t seem to get this. Yes, good character and integrity are things you should just have, and should display regardless of reward or feedback. Let me just say that I would have handled the Michelle Fields incident differently (not, for starters, through jerk-wad tweets). But the pile-on over the incident frames perfectly the very real problem Trump’s fans are concerned about.
Time and again, their genuine interests – things that really affect their lives, their rights, their hopes, their economic viability – are successfully attacked by the bias-enforcement apparatus, in a paroxysm of righteous indignation. That’s pretty darn similar to what’s happening right now: the bias-enforcement apparatus is circling the wagons around Michelle Fields. Its behavior is arguably analogous to its behavior when it circles the wagons against “Islamophobia” or “racism.”
Trump’s general atmosphere of jerk-ism has freed conservatives to pile on in the same way the left-wing media do. His political opponents also see a need to take him down so that he won’t get the Republican nomination. Between the two circumstances, conservatives are giving him no benefit of the doubt – which, incidentally, I find unusual.
But more than unusual, what it is is biased. It’s biased in a partisan, fighting, take-no-prisoners way: a way that’s determined to gain a material victory. It looks like an exercise in using some bogus political-correctness complaint (in this case, call it ultra-special sensitivity for a woman in a campaign crowd) to undermine what a lot of people perceive to be their legitimate interests. As usual, Trump supporters might say, it’s their interests on the wrong side of the political-correctness paroxysm.
This, I think, is why some of them have resorted to really ugly social-media attacks on Michelle Fields. She surely does not deserve that, and I assume we can all unite to denounce the attacks and call for them to stop.
But it is very wrong to simply see the Trump supporters (the great majority of whom are not mounting these attacks, BTW) as a lot of startlingly angry people with bad manners. What’s going on is bigger than Trump, and bigger than his supporters. It’s so big, most people don’t see that it’s the ocean we’ve been swimming in for decades now.
A society on politics
Remember the old anti-drug commercial with the egg cracked onto the skillet, and the slogan “This is your brain on drugs”? Well, this time in front of us – this 2016 primary campaign – is our society on politics. It’s what happens when we take away God, the family, personal integrity, and moral accountability, and try to resolve everything in human life through politics and government.
This is how politics resolves things: by favoring some people and disfavoring others. Government can never do much better than that, because no matter what kind of government you have, its ruling principle is politics. (This is why the need to limit the scope of government is such a wise and brilliant insight.)
Trump supporters are people who’ve had reason to see themselves, for quite some time now, as getting the short end of the political stick. Instead of hearing them, too many conservatives are defaulting to the same thing the media, Democrats, and the GOP leadership do: lecturing them on what selfish, unsightly yobs they are.
I’m here in this hour to tell you: you will not win this battle by being judgmental and dismissive about these people. Some of them may have some very foolish ideas. But many of them don’t, and the important thing they have in common is the important thing that makes them unlike their detractors: they aren’t looking for a leader to keep a government-enforced gravy train going on their behalf. There may be a number of them who don’t understand clearly what a level playing field would really be. But unlike their detractors, they do actually want one.
That they don’t flock to more mainstream politicians is an indictment not of them, but of our politics, and our social degeneration into “all politics, all the time,” in the America of 2016. The reason they feel like they’re fighting a war through politics is that politics has been used to fight a war against them for the last 40, 50, 80 years or more.
And that’s how both major political parties, Black Lives Matter, China, George Soros, and the Pope all ended up being ranged on the same side, in Ted Nugent’s insightful post. It’s as if they’re all too small to transcend the politics-uber-alles trap we’ve got ourselves in. No one can see past the bias-based mechanism of big-government politics – no one can talk beyond it – to frame big things like human hope and a human future without reference to some biased arrangement of government.
And in the grand equation that results, Trump supporters keep finding themselves as the variable to be manipulated later. I urge you most earnestly: don’t despise them. This moment is a test of America, her leaders, and those who would say, as Jesus put it in his day, “We see”: those who think they know what’s right and see what’s true at a given time.
Make the effort: filter out the Trumpian noise and listen for the legitimate concerns of the people. You wouldn’t be able to hear it without Trump; but if you will hear it, we can eventually dispense with his services.
Until you do, he’s going to be around. The lesson has to be learned. No polity can harass, overburden, and discourage a great portion of its people indefinitely and survive.
But politics, per se, won’t fix either the Trump supporters’ perceptions or those of their detractors. Politics can’t fix this problem. That’s why nothing makes sense this year, and we can’t settle on a single political figure who represents the right choice for most of the voters. It’s because we’ve reached the end of the road politics can take us down. Look around you; this is it. The Pope, seen as being on the same side as the Democratic Party, George Soros, and the Koch brothers? This is your society on politics.