Sunday, March 06, 2016

welcome, President Clinton

Hello, Darkness, my old friend.

On my Twitter feed, it's becoming more and more obvious that the Republican/conservative side of the aisle is fracturing in a major way thanks to Donald Trump's self-identification as a Republican. The hashtagged "#NeverTrump" movement has taken off, and many of the conservatives that I follow on Twitter are now part of that movement. Prominent voices who either contribute to Instapundit or are quoted by that blog are loudly declaring their opposition to Trump, and the National Review Online, a conservative bastion if ever there was one, has come out very clearly against Trump (see, for example, Jonah Goldberg's recent article here). All these people perceive the danger of allowing Donald Trump to become the face and voice of the Republican party (see David Brooks here, but keep in mind that a lot of conservatives no longer view Brooks as a true conservative). Trump, according to the #NeverTrump crowd, has a long history of liberal attitudes and actions. As Jonah Goldberg points out, Trump exhibits little to no knowledge of right-leaning policies and principles, and his positions are constantly shifting—a trait more readily characterized as opportunism than as pragmatism.

Yet without a doubt, Trump resonates with many folks on the right: people who have felt disempowered, people who believe the media run roughshod over conservatives, people who think we're being inundated with illegal aliens, etc. Many pro-Trump commenters on Instapundit think that the anti-Trump crowd is delusional: anti-Trumpers simply don't get what the common man wants. The anti-Trump crowd feels the same way about the Trumpistas (or as they're derisively known, the Trumpkins, which sounds vaguely like a creature from George RR Martin's fantasy universe), citing polls that show Hillary Clinton handily beating Trump in a hypothetical (soon to be not-so-hypothetical) matchup.

The anti-Trump wing of the Right seems to think that it would be better to have Hillary as president than for conservatives to sacrifice all their core principles at the altar of Trump. There is, of course, no guarantee that the Right can reassemble itself, T-1000-like, during the likely eight years of Queen Hillary's reign: the Right has already had eight years under Obama to return to its pre-Dubya ideological lockstep, but now it's more fractured than ever, to the point where people are talking about the wholesale destruction of conservatism.

It's almost enough for me to want to pass this question along to Charles, to ask whether Donald Trump qualifies as some sort of monstrous trickster: like the classic trickster, Trump sows chaos, confusion, and unpredictability, as seen by how people on both sides of the issue argue so fiercely for the rightness of their own predictions (keeping in mind that ferocity is often a cover for insecurity: as Robert Pirsig pointed out long ago in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, no one is screaming that the sun will rise tomorrow). Trump incarnates adharma, disorder. Like the Joker talking about his past in Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" (which partly inspired the Joker we see in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight"), Donald Trump's views on any particular subject seem to be multiple-choice: at any given hour, he might adopt Position A, Position B, or Position C. Trump is aware of the confusion that surrounds him, and he revels in it because it all comes down to attention, which is the nectar he sucks so avidly. I don't know whether classical trickers are attention whores, but Trump does seem to fit at least one aspect of the trickster profile.

All of this rightie confusion adds up to a smooth run for Hillary Clinton. Given that she won't be indicted for her national-security-related malfeasance, and given how she's handily beating Bernie Sanders in the race for delegates, I don't think she's going to have much of a problem becoming our next president. She might have to endure Trump's attacks during their debates: he's going to bring up her husband's sexual misconduct and her role in destroying the women who went after Bill. But I suspect that Hillary is a savvier debater than Trump is, and the public will respond to her more positively than they will to Trump, despite Hillary's own image problems and the low assessment of her honesty. (Not that Trump's honesty has been unquestioned: again, if my Twitter feed is any indication, there are persistent live updates impugning Trump's latest claims regarding any number of issues.)

I just find myself idly wondering whether Hillary, who is 68, will survive to the end of her second term as president. Ronald Reagan was 69 years and 49 weeks old when he was inaugurated—almost 70. He survived two terms, but by the end of his service, the jokes were piling on thick about his being an old dodderer. Hillary is already prone to fabrication and confabulation, already partially divorced from reality; what will her memory be like by the time she's 77 years old? "Then there was the time I rode my dragon out of Meereen..."



Charles said...

Trump does indeed seem to fit the profile of the trickster in many ways, but there are a couple of key ways that I think he differs as well.

1) His inferiority complex. I'm not the only person to think this, of course, but it seems pretty obvious that Trump's constant bluster and claims that every people group he comes into contact with loves him stem from massive insecurity and inferiority issues. Trump may blather on about winning all the time, but deep down he is terrified of losing. This is very unlike the trickster, who simply assumes that he will always win--and, if he doesn't, simply brushes himself off and goes at it again. The trickster also can't be insulted or have his ego bruised; Trump has proven to have a very fragile ego.

2) His quest for power. The sowing of chaos and disorder is fundamentally at odds with the desire for central, established power--the trickster's entire raison d'etre is to attack and tear down such power, not claim it for himself. The trickster operates in the margins, and if he ever enters the center it is to attack the structures of power in guerrilla fashion. Even if Trump were not seriously seeking to become president, his goal all along was to accrue more power.

That being said, the trickster is an archetype, while Trump is a real person. Real people who better fit the trickster archetype are generally classified as insane in normal society.

Kevin Kim said...

Good points. Very educational. Thanks.