I’ve got some other stuff in the queue, but in the light of Monsieur Trump’s win, I thought it might be worth addressing a couple of points. Basically everybody’s reeling around in shock right now, because they can’t believe that Trump actually won. I can’t believe it either. However, I think the biggest mistake we can make is to assume that Trump supporters are quote-unquote ‘just stupid’. That sort of thinking is what got us into this mess in the first place. I don’t know much about politics, but I do know a little bit about Hitler, and I figured that by talking a bit about Hitler, we might understand what’s happened here a little better.
There’s a few obvious caveats before we get into any of this. Firstly, any discussion of Hitler is likely to go the way of what I’m calling ‘Fucking Stupid Left-ist Hyperbole’. Trump is not Hitler. There might be a couple of points of comparison, but Fucking Stupid Left-ist Hyperbole is the anti-Christ today, so shelve that motherfucker and let’s stay focused. Secondly, I’m not suggesting that what I’ve got to say is the only reason why Trump got elected. There’s heaps of reasons. Some of those reasons include racism, sexism, fear, fear, fear, and fear. Those are all bad things, I agree, and we’d be better off if those things weren’t motivating factors. That said, given that premise, the worst possible thing for us to do would be to engage in Fucking Stupid Left-ist Hyperbole and ridicule Trump’s supporters. All that does is widen the gap between us and them. Given that the image of the left is of cultured, thoughtful, humane motherfuckers, I’m not sure why we’re descending into vitriol and anger. Hillary lost the election. My thesis is that there’s a reason for that beyond ‘hurr durr Trump supporters are stupid/racist/sexist/afraid.’ It involves talking about Hitler. Let’s go.
When I was writing about The Origins of Totalitarianism, we noted that one of the major factors leading to the rise of Hitler was that people didn’t feel like the government was looking out for them. Arendt locates the reason for that in the multiple-party system of continental Europe. In America, there’s a simpler reason: a whole bunch of people have just been straight-up neglected by central government. We often talk about cultural imperialism in terms of how American culture permeates everywhere else. We’ve got like Halloween and shit that we have to put up with. What we possibly consider less is the effect of American cultural imperialism within America. Shit gets made in Hollywood, right, which is in California (they voted blue). All the fun happy movies about how life is great and wonderful and humanity is great and wonderful are set in New York (blue), Chicago (blue), Miami (blue), LA (blue). The only films that get set in places like Texas are things like No Country for Old Men, and that’s all about how Texas is depressing and lifeless and shit. So on the one hand, yes, the global film industry revolves around America – but more importantly, within America, the film industry actually revolves around a very specific set of places, and a bunch of other places in the middle get a real rough time. I’m being crude and general, but we’re going for broad brush-strokes here.
So the cultural output is centralised around these particular spaces, and most of the rest of the country is relatively unimportant. Let’s switch to minorities and the vulnerable: we’re living in a post-colonial era, supposedly, which means that we’re paying close attention to the way not-white people are treated. We’re concerned about hearing from not-white people, and we’re concerned about promoting their voices and raising their life expectancy (because it’s shit) and keeping them out of jail (because that’s shit) and making sure they get treated like normal human beings (because – wait, no, that’s a good thing). These priorities are all good and important, but in the rush to privilege non-white voices (which is good and necessary and important), the already marginalised groups within white society became even more marginalised. I noted recently somebody muttering that rural white people were the only people you could make jokes about without somebody getting offended – and maybe there’s some serious truth to that.
So you can see how we’re getting to the point where there are a group of white voices that are marginalised by their peers. We already knew that the imperial structure didn’t privilege all white people equally – look at the class system in England, let alone the second-rate-citizen thing attached to Ireland and Scotland. I don’t have the background knowledge to explain the ways in which the rural States have also been neglected politically, but I’m going to make a whopping leap and assume that’s a thing that happened.
This is where we get back to the Hitler thing. When people are mad at a system that isn’t working for them, they look at options beyond the system. That’s what happened with Hitler – people loved him and the Commies in the 1932 election, because the system was broken and everyone was starving. People also hated the Jews, because the Jews were rich and part of the cultural elite. After all, they’d been financing monarchies for yonks. There’s more to it than that, but we’re trying to focus on Trump.
Okay: so here’s the take-away points.
- The cultural centres are responsible for marginalising the other parts of America, resulting in frustration, disenfranchisement, distrust of the system, and ultimately Donald Trump. This problem starts with the left, the liberals, and the cultural elite.
- Not all Trump supporters are victims. Obviously there’s a bunch of card-carrying Klan members etc, and they are all generally terrible.
- Donald Trump is also still a terrible person, and genuinely innocent people will end up/have already ended up getting fucked because of his actions.
- The solution does not lie in mocking, alienating, misunderstanding, rejecting, insulting, blaming, or otherwise marginalising the white folks who came out to bat for Trump. In many ways, they are victims, and the more they are marginalised by intellectual people, the worse the problem gets. You. I am talking to you. If you are an intelligent person, and you have any of these attitudes, you’re making everything worse. Stop it. Go and hug a fucking hillbilly, you self-destructive shithead.
There’s a heap more to be said here – I know I haven’t done any of it justice. These are mostly broad brushstrokes, and if I had time or space, I’d keep going. This shit is fucking complicated, and there’s no clear answers. For example, we could complicate the picture by talking about how feminism and women’s rights are often more prevalent ideologies in urban centres. The fact that a woman was running against Trump actually exacerbated the cultural division that Trump was tapping into. Insofar as Hillary was a symbol of women’s rights (good thing), she was also a symbol of the urban centres (okay) and the marginalisation they’d caused the rural whites (bad). So on the one hand, it would have been wonderfully progressive and great for women’s rights if Hillary had won. On the other hand, if a man had been running in her place, Trump would’ve had a harder time – partly because of misogyny, which is bad, but also because of this cultural marginalisation which is largely our fault.