I almost feel sorry for writing this because I myself am completely saturated with news about Trump. And I don’t even live in the states. Yet for the past year, reading things about the US election has become as essential to my daily routine as brushing my teeth. Everyday a new scandal, a new hilariously tragic misstep, a new reason for extensive eye rolling. I don’t think, I can ever use the word tremendous again without cringing. Meanwhile we all surely missed out on politics being made in the shadows of this freak show. There have been two major Romanian elections this year and I, as a Romanian living in Switzerland, can’t tell you a single thing about them. But I sure remember five different jokes Lindsay Graham made about his own party.
As the polls are pointing more and more to Hilary Clinton winning in a landslide, people like me seem to be unclenching. The ridicule which we felt, before we had to take Trump seriously is slowly coming back. Trump is once again returning to the realm of entertainment. He can be grouped once again with Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or some other human we feed on in order to sustain our own egos. They make us feel a bit better and whole lot smarter. They also help us coping with the fact that we’re not rich and famous. But as much as seeing them as stupid feels good, I don’t think either Kim nor Paris actually are. I don’t think you can build a multimillion dollar business on stupidity alone. Or become the Republican nominee for president of the United States of America. Trump tells lies left and right and his proposed policies qualify merely as superficial opinions. But there is nothing he can’t talk about. While third party nominee Gary Johnson struggles with naming a foreign leader, Trump always seems to manage to talk his way around things. His confidence is never faltering. In any case: how he says things seems to be far more important than what he says. Several philosophers/sociologists/people who like to make headlines thus already declared that we live in a post-factual age and they might be just right. But post-factual doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in an age of lies. We rather live in a world in which the emotional evaluation of the individual is put before the traditional scientifically verified concept of truth.
As random and unprepared as Trump’s ramblings might seem, his predictions about his followers so far have been right. Back in January he said at a rally in Iowa: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” This statement sounded insane back then. But seeing the reactions of his voters to the “Grab ‚em by the pussy” video seems to prove just that. He does have a core group of followers who are not deterred by anything he says. Those people seem to have made up their mind about voting for Trump from the very beginning. But the reason why new information about Trump cannot change their minds is not their lack of intelligence, but the fact that they don’t seem to care about Trump himself all that much. What those people had waited for was not Trump, but someone like Trump: someone who is blunt and flawed and deeply human. They don’t identify with Trump the billionaire and celebrity, but with someone who is doing okay despite being fucked up. The broken white families from the south identify with a man who’s children seem alright despite their father’s many divorces. The picture perfect Obama’s might have been a pleasant break from other, scandal-stricken first families, but they offer few possibilities for identification. The inhabitants of the remote Appalachians want to see themselves in their president as much as the intellectual elite who graduated from Ivy League colleges. And yet those are two different sets of humans. Yes, an University education changes you. To those who did not get one, the people with a degree often seem unapproachable and removed from the daily life of the working class. Don’t get me wrong- of course there are people “who haven’t forgotten where they came from” and who can adapt to those around them. But Trump’s success clearly shows that this rift is real and that people do notice it. More than that: it seems to be unbearable to those at the presumed bottom. And so they flock to a man with the vocabulary of a 6th grader.
Unlike people like me, who would never admit it, but do see themselves as intellectually superior, Trump must have known this a while ago. And he used those people and their fears and their insecurities and the desperation that usually comes with poverty for his agenda. As much as I disagree with The Donald, this is the one thing he managed to do better than all of his opponents: he understood the white, impoverished working class. Clinton calling them “basket of deplorables” is symptomatic for how little we all understand this demographic. And also for how little we care to.
But like Paris and Kim, Donald isn’t a genius either. Truth be told, at this point I am not entirely sure what his goals are. Does he really want to become the next president? Or is this an elaborate scheme to sell steaks and whatever else he has his name printed on? Maybe that is for history to decide. What I do believe however is, that he does not have control over the atmosphere he created. Having had someone with authority go as far, as Trump did, has unleashed all the ugly thoughts that used to swarm the back of people’s heads. This can be seen not only in the States but in Europe too, where the Right Wing rhetoric has been taken as permission to voice one’s opinions unrestrained of political correctness- a term which has gotten an un-mistakebly bad connotation.
Trump might very well be defeated next Tuesday, but the wall he promised has already been conjured up by his words. While we all hoped for it to never materialize physically, it has been built up in people’s minds. The bricks for its construction have steadily been provided. Some by far right parties across the globe. Some were given by people who normally would have been unwilling to, but didn’t care enough to prevent it from happening. The only thing missing was a diligent worker, who would put all that material to good use. And in Donald Trump the world has truly found a master craftsman. Trump might very well be defeated next Tuesday, the question is, whether his wall can be defeated too.