Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Anti-Trump Grandstander


We all have one in our pantheon of friends and family. Many of us have several. You know the type - Homo trumpus erraticus better known as the Anti-Trump Grandstander (ATG).

While appearing normal on the outside and indeed reasonable on most fronts the ATG is not always easy to spot. They carry very little of the outer baggage of SJWs, rarely wear their politics on their sleeves and more often than not disappear into the political ether appearing rather clear thinking across most axes.

That is until the subject of one Donald J. Trump comes to the fore. Then as if ignited by a trigger catalyst the ATG springs to life. Gone is the previous demeanour of controlled rationalism, enter stage left is a symphony of vents, ridicules and desperation pleas that draws uncritically from the memosphere of the Anti-Trump world.

Trump we are told is the harbinger of a Brave New World, a reactionary of the worst type, a fanatic but most importantly all that there is wrong with western civilization wrapped into one. There is no debate. He is both evil and stupid and all arguments to the contrary are ridiculous. So goes the reasoning.

Although I have much reservations about Trump (I wanted Rubio to win the nomination for all of those reasons) I take great pains to hear such an individual out, supplying the necessary counter balances as there is some pedagogic value to be obtained in understanding how emotion drives political thought. The ATG is a textbook case as they have chosen to filter all information through a confirmation strainer and therefore see no grey in a polarized world where they are clearly on the side of good. The fact that Trump supporters have a completely different interpretation is therefore of little value. Not when parameters are so clearly defined.

With Trump there is no middle ground as ATGs see it, so even giving ‘The Donald’ a fair chance makes no sense. The best that can be done is to grin and bear these next four years with the hope that Congress and indeed the Supreme Court rein in the excesses of his Administration. In short it is dystopia for now. One ATG even told me that he was thinking of moving to New Zealand, so dismal is the outlook.

Now Trump is certainly an unknown quantity when juxtaposed against the current political environment. On words alone he appears to have bucked the consensus with respect to the global focus and when one distills out the root cause of such opposition to him I suspect that his walk away from the Hegelian notion of historical direction is at the epicentre of such grievance.

Many people have invested strongly, not only financially but more importantly  emotionally, on the emergence of a global worldview. Free Trade is a belief shared by both the centre left and right across the West and the vast majority of those in the supposed ‘know’ see it as a necessary step in the march of history (an illusion if ever there was one). While opinions differ with respect to technicalities, Internationalism is viewed as a forward looking policy that will benefit humanity in the long run. To oppose it smacks of a regression to a bygone era of nationalism that ripped open the planet with global war. Trade brings peace and who in their right mind doesn’t want peace?

Trump of course on the surface enters as the antithesis of such a worldview – his buy America, anti-illegal immigration stance and apparent backtrack from Internationalism fly in the face of the vested paradigm. While much of his words have been distorted and need to be analyzed in context, at first glance they tap into the visceral and pour cold water on the emotional commitment that has underpinned a near uniformity of thought. Consequently they are attacked with a rigour of disdain as if he is cutting at the essence of what defines the individual.

This need not be the case. Trumpism is not anti-Internationalist. That ship has long since sailed on that front. What he will do though is to redefine and readjust America’s role within the broader global spectrum. The nation needs it. High U6 unemployment for much of the Obama tenure and an extremely slow recovery are indicative of problems within the larger economy that could have implications for the future. Whether his plans will prove productive are of course debatable but something has to be done.

I have mentioned this to many an ATG but most are unreceptive. While some acknowledge the argument especially when framed in the context of blue collar jobs I sense that there is another factor which makes the anxiety around Trump even louder and its much more than the coarseness of his personality and his way with words. It comes down to the issue of control.


With Trump there is a sense that control of the environmental factors that impact one’s lives will be lost especially if a status quo is disrupted. ATGs give lip service to change but in their heart are resistant to it. Despite this apparent irony there is a conservatism that runs through progressive and liberal thinking and like some of the conservatism on the right it wants to safeguard its gains. With progressives/liberals this drive may even be stronger as environmental factors are so much more powerful within this thought base.
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