WHAT IT ALL MEANS
Donald Trump is sulking in his tent, actually he’s sulking in the White House and doing as much damage as he can before he moves, or is moved out. Trump’s goal seems to be to render Joe Biden’s start in office as difficult and as ineffective as he possibly can.
At the same time Trump is making noises about running again in 2024. His goal appears to be to keep his followers loyal and active and to deny their support to any alternative Republican candidate. For the moment those alternative candidates have little choice but to play along.
The pundits who are paid to think about and write about all this have been busy. Most seem to wax hopelessly pessimistic. Trump’s hiding and plotting in the White House is the subject of endless “ain’t it awful” articles. The fact that Trump’s margin of loss is greater than almost any since the Roosevelt era fails to overcome their view of a hapless Trump turning the American Ship of State into a veritable Titanic.
Today’s pundits have made much of the inequities between the hugely well off and many of those economically left behind. This year many of those left behind helped deliver a huge vote to Donald Trump. That vote seemed to reward him for making those inequities worse. It is hardly the first time that has happened. Over and over again less well-off voters have seemed to vote against themselves. The previously mentioned election of 1828 is an obvious example (see Why They Voted For Trump, 11/15/20).
It is true that this election does faintly resemble the election of 1828 which put the angry and ill (and ill informed) Andrew Jackson in the President’s House (It wasn’t called the White House till 1901). Jackson was elected partly because of a surge of frontier voters in the new states of the South. And, even when his presidency was clearly flawed, they voted to elect him again!
The truth is that many of the voters who supported Jackson, like many who supported Trump often were people who did not care all that much about wealth (although many Jackson voters wanted government land). Had modern voters really been concerned about accumulating wealth they would hardly have wasted time attending Trump rallies.
Instead, many were thrilled to be following what appeared to be a strong, manly leader, a leader who was going to smite their enemies. In 2020 they were going to be protected once more from the horrors posed by those evil socialists and leftists.
There are broadly two groups of the dissatisfied and the less well off. One group is conservative, dominated by people who are psychologically authoritarian. They look for strong leaders who will make things right. Much comment has been made about the seeming anomaly of evangelical Christians so strongly supporting Donald Trump who, to be fair, is hardly a beacon of morality.
What people are missing is that the very religious and good hearted are also sometimes the most authoritarian (All we like sheep have gone astray . . . Where he leads me I will follow . . .). And, people hardly have to be religious to be authoritarian. For many of those, the powerful appearing Trump, with all his flaws, seemed to be the leader they had waited for.
If we think about recent rallies and demonstrations, they are usually not peopled by the conservatives who attend Trump rallies. They are instead the young, the urban, the ethnic who are sometimes far more liberal than Joe Biden and his moderate leadership would prefer. Those often do provide the “leftist” symbolism that Trump and his followers can attack. They also may represent the foot soldiers for a political future that may turn out to be more fair and more equalitarian than in the past.
This country, from the beginning, tolerated great inequities in wealth. Across the South before the Civil War there were, of course, slaves. There were also the “clay eaters”; strangely deformed clay-colored people who were forced to survive by eating clay. Others rarely tried to help them, they were just there.
Only with the progress of public education and of technology and the greater empathy it summoned, plus an increasingly responsive government, did the condition of the worst off finally begin to improve. What we are seeing now with the rising of the liberal young is really preparation for the next step forward.
That step will also help the attendees of Donald Trump’s famous rallies. Donald Trump with his obvious energy, and his big plane providing a backdrop, seemed to the provide leadership that could protect and help them. That turned out to be a false start but, as Winston Churchill used to say, “All will come right”. In 2020, it’s time for a fresh start. It will be possible for the great long slow climb to begin once more!