Donald Trump is not a conservative—he’s a reality TV star thoroughly in tune with the passions and dynamics of mass publicity and social media. No matter how much he denounces them, he’s still a product of victim-based identity politics.
Kim R. Holmes writes: A lot of people think Donald Trump is a throwback to an earlier time in American history. He’s seen as a nativist who wants to go back to the days of pre-multicultural America, to a time before identity politics and political correctness. But this interpretation misses something very important about the Trump phenomenon.
“Welcome to a whole new image of Donald Trump, the man perfectly at home in the postmodern culture of America.”
The Donald is very much a child of contemporary American culture, including its multicultural offshoot, identity politics. Although he rejects the leftist ideology of multiculturalism, especially the hypersensitivity of political correctness, he is operating well within its value system. He actually represents a new hybrid version of it—a mirror image, if you will, of the very culture he claims to despise.
“Trump is guilty of this deceit in spades. He can make all sorts of erroneous statements knowing full well that his supporters will come to his defense no matter how inaccurate his assertions may be. Who cares, they insist, that he exaggerates the number of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on September 11, 2001? What matters is the underlying “truth” that all Muslims supposedly hate Americans. “
Trump is a champion of identity politics, which in case we should forget, was invented by the left. He advances without apology or qualification the interests and values of his supporters. As a group, they possess the identity of people put-upon by their opponents. It may not be correct to say they are all one ethnic group, although many are indeed white; but it is true that Trump’s “tribe,” regardless of its demography, identifies with him as one of their own because of his unique political style.
“But lest we think this is only a right-wing phenomenon, remember this: the embrace of the narrative-is-truth paradigm by Trump is no different from the one used by ‘black lives matter’ activists who to this day, despite all the facts to the contrary, believe Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was guilty of murder. This metanarrative line of reasoning was invented and popularized by the postmodern left, not by conservatives.”
Like members of the politically correct left, Trump and his supporters see themselves as immune from criticism not because of the strength of their arguments, but because of the distinctive characteristics of “who they are.” They are defined by their grievances. Although their identity politics exists on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the left, they do make a claim to victimhood, the same as “black lives matter” activists do to assert their immunity from criticism.
Opinion polls show that Trump’s supporters are by no means the most conservative; indeed, they even include some self-described moderates. What unites them is not ideology but feelings of marginalization, which pertain not only to their political views but to the fact that many of Trump’s backers are not faring well economically.
Financially stressed and ostracized by the ruling liberal class, they are behaving more like an alienated class of Marxist imagination than as social agents of stability and tradition. They are indeed thinking like revolutionaries, only now their ire is aimed at their progressive masters and the institutions they control.
Authenticity or Narcissism? Facts or Narrative?
Trump also is a purveyor of the extreme narcissism of what used to be called the “me generation.” First arising in the 1970s, the mainstreaming of infantile self-centeredness has today morphed into the childish antics of political correctness on college campuses. There is precious little that cannot be justified in our culture today by referring to feelings.
[Also see Kim R. Holmes upcoming book “The Closing of the Liberal Mind: How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left“ at Amazon.com]
This attitude has been called the culture of authenticity, and there can be no doubt that Trump is a master of it. Why? People love him precisely because he’s “unfiltered” and doesn’t “lie,” which has become another word for using carefully constructed words and phrases. In this worldview, anything well-considered is thought to be false. The only “truth” is whatever emotion happens to erupt from the unconstrained Id, that source of instinctive impulses residing in the unconscious. Once the intellectual property of Sigmund Freud and other champions of sexual liberation, the “let it all hang out” authenticity of Trump is now as commonplace as an Oprah Winfrey show.
“And then there is multiculturalism’s favorite shibboleth—the infamous ‘metanarrative.’ Invented by a host of obscure philosophers of postmodernism, most of whom saw themselves as leftists, this idea is most familiar as the ideological justification for made-up rape stories and accusing white cops of crimes they did not commit. Its calling card is that a larger idea—the narrative—is somehow truer than actual facts.”
And then there is multiculturalism’s favorite shibboleth—the infamous “metanarrative.” Invented by a host of obscure philosophers of postmodernism, most of whom saw themselves as leftists, this idea is most familiar as the ideological justification for made-up rape stories and accusing white cops of crimes they did not commit. Its calling card is that a larger idea—the narrative—is somehow truer than actual facts.
Trump is guilty of this deceit in spades. He can make all sorts of erroneous statements knowing full well that his supporters will come to his defense no matter how inaccurate his assertions may be. Who cares, they insist, that he exaggerates the number of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on September 11, 2001? Read the rest of this entry »