The Omnivore listened to a podcast with J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, a book about his reflections on growing up in poor white, hillbilly America. The interview was fascinating--but his discussion of the Trump phenomena was truly insightful: he described Trump as a drug--a "needle in the vein" that made people feel better.
Coming from him, where he had lived explicitly with towns destroyed by literal addiction (heroin, opiates), this was especially powerful. He described conversations with his Trump-voting father (he is a conservative and has zero love for Hillary Clinton--but he cannot stand Trump).
In those conversations, he would tell his father that Trump couldn't do the things he was promising--could not fix the problems his father's community was having. His father agreed--but didn't care. At least Trump was talking about them. At least Trump, although he claims to be a billionaire, sounds like a Queens tough guy. He projects as "one of the common people" in ways Hillary--born into far more poverty than Trump--does not.
About the same time, The Omnivore was talking with a relative on Facebook about Trump. The Omnivore was taking him to task for posting fake news (various bogus celebrity endorsements of Trump, for example) and was asking why he kept promoting things that were clearly false (along with matters of opinion, heavily slanted news, and, periodically, actually real anti-Hillary facts).
A Second Interaction
His cousin told The Omnivore that it "gave him comfort" to post those things. He understood that Trump was unlikely to be elected and that even if he was, he couldn't do all the things he said--but he felt so hopeless about the political future that posting those things was a kind of self-care.
The Omnivore doesn't really have any problem with that (some of those things are offensive--such as the white supremacist rhetoric--but that's why you have block and ignore functions). When he heard Vance talking more explicitly about Trump as a feel-good drug a couple of days later, it really hit home.
Gonna Have To Face It, You're Addicted To TrumpIt has been noted through various mega-studies that Trump voters are not so much worse off as pessimistic. They tend to do a bit better than their peers in their neighborhoods (although: another predictor is this--the more diverse your neighborhood, the more likely you are to vote Trump) but they are anxious for the future and their children.
If Trump is a drug, what kind of drug is he?
The Mellow Kind?For The Omnivore's cousin, there is a case to be made that Trump is the mellow kind of drug. The Omnivore's cousin is a Latino--a minority (although, living in South Florida, he's not that much of a minority). He's also quite well employed and highly educated: whatever problems he's having, the loss of manufacturing jobs aren't ruining his life.
So maybe for him Trump isn't a thumb in the eye of minorities--maybe he just sounds like the kind of hope one feels buying a lottery ticket? Sure, he might not pan out--but at least he's license to dream.
The PCP Kind.
Unfortunately, The Omnivore doesn't think this holds up. Trump's appeal, it appears, is implicitly aggressive. The same way that Trump paints himself as a counter-puncher, but opened his campaign with some frankly shocking words about Mexicans, to The Omnivore it seems that Trump inhabits a position on the Alt-Right (which is just a politically correct term for 'white supremacist') that provides enough "air cover" to give people who want to lash out their venue.
The things that The Omnivore's cousin was posting were not about how Great America Will Be Again--they were about how bad it is now. The culprits were usually black people, Hillary, or Obama (a second black person). The tone of these was, indeed, aggressive.
The Omnivore has noted that the conservative movement, such as it is, has degenerated into a con-game where outrage is used to raise money and that money is used to raise more money. It now looks from Trump's financial filings like he may be following in Carson's footprints along the same path. The Omnivore doesn't think the trail leads anywhere healthy.
Some Final Thoughts
Breitbart, the home of the guy now running Trump's campaign, is super-aggressive. It's what Fox News used to be. It's raw, it's angry. It isn't dumb. It isn't so deep in conspiracy theory that it can't hold a position as an actual news outlet--but it is very, very slanted and very, very angry.
After 2012, disgruntled Republicans, coming off a bitter (and unexpected) second loss, talked of Letting It Burn--that would be letting America burn--as the consequence of a second Obama election. No longer would they heroically try to save America--it was past that. It turned out that what they burned first was the Republican party and, looking, for now at least, like they will fail to win a general election (which is not unsurprising with The Human Torch as your candidate) they will do what they can to burn the electoral process itself.