After Trump’s call last year to ban all Muslims to the U.S. barely dented his popularity, Mathew Mackie discovered that riding “The Fear,” he will be hard to stop.
As soon as his latest Trumpism found its way onto my timeline, I stopped laughing. Post San Bernadino, Trump called for a complete immigratory ban of all Muslims traveling to America.
Beyond that acidic statement, he remains the leading Republican candidate. How can someone so extreme, be so popular?
I expected the voting public to laugh it off by now, shake the fog off of the night before, glance over to see a sleeping Trump wearing their T-shirt and think, I voted for that? Followed by a swift disqualification, clothes in his hands, asking for them to call him as the door slammed, chopping off his sentence and his hopes for a second date in the White House.
But, Trump remains rigid. So what is his appeal?
As I looked into the CNN report outside a Trump convention, I saw it.
The Fear being a Trump supporter. Eyes wracked with it, rose-tinted glasses perched halfway up his forehead (which if it was deliberate, is a marvelous metaphor), body stuck in atrophy, rigidly claiming, “I don’t want ’em here,” before glancing elsewhere, adding, “… to bring bombs? ISIS? They need to go.”
Those people who would be potentially entering his country, those he wanted to ban, need to leave. Now we can laugh it off because we know this not to be true, but in the home of that South Carolinian, it’s fact.
As the CNN reporter shifted through the crowd (and while they were guilty of needling Trump supporters for an answer before marginalizing them), another brand of The Fear was apparent. The Fear of planting your flag. A fact evidenced by the man who wanted to give an answer, but felt he couldn’t. Presumably, he was scared to be outed on a nationwide broadcast as a Trumpite.
While The Fear binds his flock, in the solitude of voting day, that fear will be loosed. Silent voices will speak volumes, all feeding the guttural drumbeat of, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” … as Don comes marching in.
It could work, because it’s worked before.
And for this, I point to the election of Richard Nixon. It’s interesting to note the parallels between 1968 Nixon and 2015 Trump. Both candidates inherited an ongoing foreign conflict with no real winnable solution (Vietnam vs. The Middle East). Vast threats existed on home soil (Civil Rights riots/student demonstrations vs. ISIS/mass murder/gun violence), Communism vs. Fundamentalism. The wide racial divide. Massive sweeping change threatened from the political opposite.
All of this made Conservative America very nervous, and Nixon’s “law and order” message earned him the presidency.
Nixon’s, “America is in trouble today not because her people have failed but because her leaders have failed,” is similar to Trump’s mantra of, “Make America Great Again!”
So, if Trump is running plays from Nixon’s binder, does it make him Nixon 2? Not exactly. Trump has something Nixon never had: a positive identity. Nixon famously loved a scrap, forever the plucky underdog, a man who preferred a knife between his teeth above all else.
Donald J. Trump has him bested in this regard, as the man is inexorably linked to the national idealism.
As George C. Scott espoused in the movie Patton (a favorite movie of Nixon’s), “Americans love a winner,” and Trump is absolutely that. Which, I feel on some baser uncontrollable level, grabs a warm and gooey spot. A self-made man. The manifestation of the American dream. A focus on what could be, instead of what is. That same bright dark spot of the American Psyche that loosed Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
I recently spoke to an American friend of mine, who’s as moderate as the constitution allows, and in the time since we laughed off Trump three months ago, he has turned deeply cynical. His ideas on gun control are the right ones, but they don’t seem to fit the environment, they have a fictional quality, it’s a lofty dream. But not a plan.
On the other hand, Trump has a plan. Trump deals in straight power concepts. Problem with Muslims? Ban ’em. Usage of a method of torture which is banned to get results? Do it.
Trump is seen as doing something, if not to succumb to two very American conditions—the fear of weakness, and the fear of doing nothing.
Trump is arguably the most American American to run for the top seat, which to some makes him, not a man, but a symbol. And for those tired or lost in the rough-sea, political rhetoric, Trump is something to vote for that can’t be twisted.
You vote for Trump, you vote for America. Or, as Reagan put it, “… the ‘shining city upon a hill’.”