Businessman, opportunist, con man, genius, trickster, voice of reason, unafraid to tell it like it is, misogynist, unbeholden, skilled economist, wildly successful, fraud, liar, boor, friend of Putin, defender of freedom, whatever label is attached to Trump is exactly what he is, and isn’t. Shape shifting has always been the hallmark of a good politician but few have mastered the craft as well as Trump. His skills are such that they have driven off the competition, including the Bush political dynasty, all except for that stubborn Ohio governor, John Kasich, and “Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” who may be a worse Trump, himself, than Trump. One or two denigrating words, in many cases, were all it took to winnow a cowardly field.
This cannot be any sort of thorough look at Trump, but the topic of women is a good vantage point from which to look. He has been accused of loathing women, but how is it possible for a man who owns beauty pageants, cavorted in an extended youth with models, and has married three times, to hate the female of the species? It isn’t, but Trump’s deprecating rhetoric about women has a certain appeal to insecure males worried about closure of the gender pay gap and the resultant, but erroneous, perception of lost power.
The slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is genius copyfrighting. Aristotle would marvel at the fallacies inherent in Trump’s slogan. (I’m great and you can be, too, if you follow my lead.) The phrase translates; above all else, to a financial coda because an America that lacks greatness means each individual has less worth. If we are great, however, there will be chickens in every pot. (It worked for Herbert Hoover!) The message goes external, too. If our enemies don’t fear our greatness they will impose their wills upon us, to our detriment, and the nation will suffer untold indignities and, by extension, more poverty from things like unfair trade pacts, globalization, the U.N., and those plain ole’ bad deals we were forced into by foreigners who manipulated our weak, spineless, stupid leaders who were afraid to stand tall in the saddle. But, who among us can argue that greatness isn’t good, because greatness is, undeniably, great. Everyone buys that. It sells hats, too.
Wall building is another triggering device. We build them all the time, around our own houses, our beliefs, and our values. As impracticable as the notion of fencing off America’s southernmost border with Mexico might be, except when viewed as a latter day Works Project Administration program, the notion of building a giant barrier plays to the same impulse that drives us to draw the shades at night, the better to keep the darkness out. Besides, the prospect of a wall doesn’t much trouble people already inside the compound who like the Maginot Line-like security such a fortification would bring. Then, there’s China; it has a wall of its own, a great one, but ours will be bigger, better, more beautiful because we deserve the best!
The Republican’s main bogeyman this election, however, isn’t Mexicans; it’s Muslims. They make up all of 1.71% of the American population, something even Ted Cruz didn’t know until recently. Their small numbers make them an easy target for almost anyone. Trump, shrewdly, has echoed Paul Revere’s cry, modifying it only slightly to, “The Muslims are coming.” However immaterial it is that Muslims don’t live together in colonies, or indigenous groups, we best watch them, and all others seeking refuge here from, sometimes, certain death, especially, if Christian. They are different and that’s bad because different isn’t great. It isn’t even good. It’s strange, so they must be watched like the crazy bums downtown.
When a Muslim, senselessly and tragically, gunned down co-workers at a party in San Bernardino, statistically, he killed less than half the people who die from gun violence in America on any given day, that is around eighty people. We can’t quarantine guns, however, because that literally, would be impossible, if not supremely offensive to massive numbers of Americans. Muslims, however, are a different a story. In the present environment, would a call for internment camps be any more surprising than statements by certain candidates that Muslims should be required to carry special forms of identification? While while they’re at it, why not melt down the Statue of Liberty for keep out signs?
The point is that it doesn’t really mater what Donald Trump says. Everyone who is offended by something he utters will be pleased with another in a carrot and stick way. After decades of wanting to believe in something, (besides God), like government, it’s easy to overlook the bitter parts of Trump’s oracle if there’s sugar, somewhere, inside the predictions.
As a people, we are addicted to noise, spectacle, and adrenaline, and when Donald teases us with his street-wise vocabulary, that outsized personality, and permission to hit our enemies in the face, he is our paterfamilias, a Nietzschean superman, and an Ayn Rand hero all rolled up into one. There is something about his message, however small it may be, that fulfills a need in everyone, whether they admit it, or not. Some crave Trump for sport, even comedy; others value him for his messianic overtones and these perceptions do not, necessarily, track party lines.
Thomas Aquinas penned the Latin phrase, “visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,” that is, “seeing, touching, tasting are in you deceived,” as a device to illustrate that men believe truth as they see it, unless otherwise enlightened. For Aquinas, predictably, that enlightenment comes from God. Secularly, J.K. Rowlings described the phenomenon Trump better when she wrote, in Harry Potter, “Anything is possible if you have enough nerve.” Magicians, however, put it best in their own language, “Now you see it, now you
Mike Malak is a writer, attorney and photographer