Monday, September 14, 2015

Contrarians for Trump

Broadly, the ascendance of Trump seems to express some alarmingly fascist psychological tendencies, as noted previously. But this isn't an exclusive explanation for his popularity, and browsing through #tcot Twitter lately I've noticed another dynamic that seems fairly compelling.

The #tcot debate over Trump seems to have consolidated into two factions. One sees him as belligerent, bombastic, and vulgar - and therefore unelectable. The other, meanwhile, sees him as belligerent, bombastic and vulgar - and therefore, paradoxically, the GOP's only hope. The latter group offers all kinds of rationalizations for this, but the common denominator has little to do with Trump at all.

The common denominator is that all of Trump #tcot's backers are exceedingly and loudly impressed by the savvy and insight they've demonstrated with their pick. Trump's opponents Just Don't Get It; they're stuck playing simplistic, earnest politics-as-usual while he mops the floor with them. They continue to offer all kinds of procedural and normative critiques of Trump's past, his campaign style, and his relationship to the GOP, but the Trump campaign can't be bothered to rebut these critiques - it simply transcends them. Trump understands that the ends justify the means and that in the end all that matters in politics is winning. His supporters get this too, which is why they deride complaints about how rude and cynical Trump is as hopelessly naive.

It seems clear to me that while a lot of people are attracted to Trump as a form of catharsis, there's a significant horde of #tcot wise guys who think they've cracked the code of electoral politics and are extremely proud of the bit of knowledge they've discovered. They enjoy the opportunity to make a show of this and to put in their place misguided dummies who still play by the old rules. They inevitably couch their debates in terms of the naivete of their opponents and the brilliant ruthlessness of their own realpolitik.

This element, of course, is present in every campaign and every election; the guys voting for Trump this year were voting for Ron Paul last time because they saw through the lies of the Establishment; if they were Democrats, they would be the sort of Democrats who insist that every mistake Obama makes is actually a brilliant move in a complex game of 11-dimensional chess. In the case of Trump, they simply seem dumber than usual, and unusually proud of it.