Sunday, July 5, 2015

Trump support: angry populism as therapeutic entertainment?

With the news a few days ago that NASCAR is cutting ties with Donald Trump, and therefore will not have the Trump National Doral Miami resort host its end-of-season awards ceremony, I would hope for their own sake that supporters of the Republican Party are realizing that it takes more than expressions of populist anger to connect with otherwise undecided voters.

Granted, Trump's stone age rhetoric regarding illegal immigrants plays well with the "Guns n' God" rump of the GOP. A cursory read of the comments sections of Breitbart.com or WND.com, for example, reveal an angry horde of Archie Bunkers prostrating themselves before The Donald as if He is Lord and Savior of the Republican Party's future. This wave of support is based not on any sound policies but merely a perceived sense of Donald Christ "telling it like it is". The level of thought in said forums seems to be that they favor Trump because they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore!

Problem is, Trump has offered very little in the way of a platform, other than calling out Mexican "rapists" and recommending a wall being built along the U.S./Mexican border. A June 16 New York Times article provided a rundown of all the ways in which Trump is either vague or self-contradicting. I guess for His followers, ramped-up nativism is enough, and from the rabid comments posted in the above-noted forums, they will hear no arguments to the contrary.

All this makes me wonder why some people become engaged with politics or throw their support so fervently behind a given candidate on such grounds.

Not that it's really any of my business, but are they politically active (either directly or via online commentary) out of a sincere desire to improve life for their children, their community and the nation in general, or is it a form of therapeutic entertainment in which they get to gnash their teeth in the name of hating liberals? How much depth can there be to one's loyalty to a party or candidate if it is predicated on the extent to which it allows them to loosen the release valve on their anger?

To satisfy my own curiosity, I waded into some of the discussions on Breitbart.com with what I thought were some reasonable questions - all it did was unleash a steady tide of vitriol masking itself as 'patriotism', whatever that word actually means. (I would have given the WND.com forums my two cents if I hadn't gotten myself banned last week, which I think was due to my suggestion that a collateral blessing of the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage was that God could legally wed His boyfriend in any state He chooses. Apparently the moderators couldn't see through the surface layer of anti-comedy to the core of non-sacriligious logic within.)

What Trump is tapping into is a simple desire for a culture war (against Mexicans, liberals, gays, etc.), as opposed to any notion of improving the economy, the overall quality of life, and the institution of democracy itself.

Surely most GOP supporters realize that an attention-seeking blowhard like Trump will not lead their party to the White House. Similar to a polarizing element like the Tea Party, Trump may inspire admiration among the Republican's hardened rightward crust but will do nothing but further marginalize a party already seen as outmoded and irrelevant to a younger generation.

Whether Trump and his supporters like it or not, there is a new America out there, and if they insist on living in some mythical version of the old one, they'll consign themselves to sitting out the next term of office.