American Id[iot]: Donald Trump's Popularity is the Manifestation of Our Inner Psyche
Is Trump the Mirror Image of Twisted Americana?
We Are Donald Trump.
Nobody thought Donald Trump would come this far. In 2012, he was an obnoxious blowhard who threatened to run for president as a Republican and eventually badgered president Barack Obama into releasing his long-form birth certificate. This time around, he has actually thrown his hat into the ring. And today, amazingly enough, he's actually winning. Yes, Donald Trump is the undisputed frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president.
It is a situation that confounds, entertains, and infuriates in equal proportion. Trump should not be where he is. His ability to win the masses seems completely mystical and inexplicable.
Trump has no experience in electoral politics. He is a wealthy businessman, to be sure, but he has also been bankrupt four times. As a real estate mogul, he is a big fish in an industry that is notoriously unstable. As a media mogul in the vein of reality TV, he is a star in the C-list category of celebrity. He is fundamentally flawed, full of bluster, and he is America.
If you think about it, Trump's rise makes sense. He is not a typical politician, but he is us. He represents modern pop culture in all of its twisted glory. Trump is an anti-hero, he is hookup culture, rebellion, entitlement, outrage, Americana. He is a modern-day Gordon Gekko telling us that greed is good. Unlike his fellow Republicans on the campaign trail, he is real. He keeps it real. He is reality TV personified. And his critics are fired.
Let's take a look at each of Trump's personifications in turn to understand his unprecedented popularity. First, he is the anti-hero. Unlike the wholesome, goody-two-shoes Boy Scout heroes of yesteryear, we like our modern heroes to be dark and edgy. We want Vic Mackey and Walter White, not Inspector Clouseau or Jimmy Stewart. Our pop culture heroes of decades past have become grittier since the dawn of the 1980s: James Bond, Batman, and even Superman have become far darker than their 1960s portrayals. We want today's heroes to be complicated, mysterious, and aggressive. Donald Trump is this. He is a Tim Burton/Bret Easton Ellis creation of an American politician.
Secondly, Trump is hookup culture. Other politicians are like traditional dating - lots of preening, misdirection, subtle manipulation, and noncommittal answers. The rest of the Republicans only want us to see their good side. They want to tell us what we want to hear. Trump is like Tinder. He is direct, simple, and far from wholesome. He offers us quick and simple solutions to complex problems like immigration reform. He's more than a bit dirty...and maybe we like it like that.
Third, Trump is rebellion. Similar to being hookup culture, Trump is breaking longstanding rules and norms. He is not playing by the rules of polite politicking. And we, tired of the games and petty norms and silly rituals, see his rebellion as a breath of fresh air. Like Bernie Sanders on the other side of the political aisle, Trump is something new. We love the new and we love the rebel. We love the bad boy. Donald Trump is the new kid in class who won't behave and mouths off to the teacher, and we cannot wait to see what he does next.
Trump is entitlement. He says what he wants. He demands, he does not apologize, and he speaks his mind. He behaves in ways we want to behave. Trump is the American id. When he struts and pontificates and tweets, he acts like he owns the place, like he is entitled to a throne. And, deep down, we envy that. We want that. We feel a kinship with Trump the entitled. His confidence calls to us, lures us in.
Outrage. Trump feels it and provides it in equal doses. He feels wronged, and others feel wronged by him...and nobody is quiet about it. Frankly, we love it. The Internet has allowed us to vent our outrage, anger, snark, and meanness in unprecedented volume and with unprecedented ease. Trump, through his rebellion, fuels our desire for vocal outrage. We may be outraged by him, but we are grateful that he piques our vitriol. As Eminem said, it would be so empty without him...
On that note, maybe Donald Trump and Eminem are sort of similar, too. How many albums has Eminem sold, again?
Finally, Trump is Americana and Gordon Gekko. He is an extreme version of idealized American success. He is the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Perhaps we accept all of his rule-breaking and eccentricities because his wealthy makes him an enviable leader. Subconsciously, we accept his foibles because he has found tremendous financial success. If he is rich, he must be doing something right! We are notorious for forgiving the personal failings of the rich and famous as the behavioral misfires of genius. Case in point: Steve Jobs.
Like Gordon Gekko of the Wall Street movies, Trump tells us and shows us that greed is good. He entices us to accept the darker parts of our nature, such as financial greed. He is no holier-than-thou spendthrift. We want the yachts, the planes, and the limousines. Deep down, Trump makes us feel better about our greed, and perhaps we wish to reward him for giving us this moral and ethical absolution.
We want to be like Donald Trump. We are Donald Trump. It is something to think about.