Donald Trump And The Paralytic Gaze

Donald Trump Alex Sheremet Paralytic Gaze

Image via BGR.

It may have taken quite a while, but the Republican Party has finally been booed off stage…or at least close to it. There is, after all, one last Act before the curtain, even as most actors have effectively been reduced to audience. Let us observe:

A mediocre businessman who, like most politicians, does not much believe in his Party’s stated goals, has, unlike most politicians, ditched the serious stuff for a burlesque on the Republicans themselves. Day, night, for practically a year now, Donald Trump has run the sweep of Republican history: from the right-wing populism of small towns, to the surprising social liberalism that was once immaterial to ‘real’ issues, to racism, evangelism, alt-right, and the affinity for switching sides and picking and choosing one’s politics as from a koldtbord. The GOP has worn all of these identities at some point, for the GOP — like any conservative entity — is by its nature volatile. It must adapt to change, but rarely engenders it; must, despite its values, accommodate the new mainstream, if only to hold on to other values still. I suppose, then, that the Republicans once knew the value of being flexible, of being able to renege on minor things without suffering a blow to their identity. The issue now is that Trump, in his pantomime of things past, understands the value of being flexible, as well, even as both parties scratch their heads at him, forgetting that the only reason he was allowed on stage is because they, at some point, decided to take a seat.

To be sure, Donald Trump’s complaints are many: illegal immigration, Islam, America’s growing debt, the observation that as our day-to-day reality has hardened, all people — including poor people who tend to vote against their own interests — have hardened, as well, into a kind of stasis. Liberals can’t stand him, but fail to admit how much political correctness has encouraged Trump: how much in poor, dumb, white people’s denunciations of clear ills, they had searched for the inevitable target, and being poor, dumb, and white, believed they had found it in Others (black, religious, irreligious, foreign) rather than in the PC ideas that have so tokenized them as beneficiaries. Conservatives are shocked by his rise, writing silly articles that, for all their technical rightness, miss the entire reason why he has become popular in the first place. Indeed, it has taken a fraud to expose the fraud of the Republican Party, which ignorantly continues the paeans to decades of failure that’s most responsible for his ascent. And while the GOP hopes for a fall, a blunder, some weakness, anything, they fail to see that Trump’s inevitable demise will take them, too. Unless, of course, they grow, adapt; unless they see that the choice is either more pandering or a shift back to a Center that, no matter the dilution, creates an average from which some good ideas can emerge.

The issue, then, is two-pronged, although the Republican side of the equation is far easier to see. The GOP, after all, represents decades of failed policies: tax cuts for the rich that almost single-handedly created America’s debt ‘problem,’ the gutting of unions, a refusal to address health care reform and the subsequent attempt to undo them once the reforms were in place, the dramatic expansion of government — as under Reagan — into places it does not belong, two disastrous wars, the swelling of prisons due to idiotic laws, and a handful of economic crises exacerbated by a hands-on policy towards everything BUT governance. In short, one merely needs to look at the country from the 1980s on, when the worst of these policies were put in place, to see that this is not some economic fluke but a clear response to universally decried solutions.

Yet despite all evidence, a part of America is convinced that the policies had not been taken far enough, and, worse, that the policies had actually been disrupted: by Democrats, usually, but others have been blamed as well. And if responsibility for the GOP’s failures is so easily fobbed, it is not so hard to extend the blame elsewhere, as Trump has done with immigrants and religious groups. The bottom line is that failure is failure, and failure can be practiced, weighed, detected by even the stupidest voter. Trump offers no specific details here except that, when this Other is discharged — now magnified a bit past what Republicans are comfortable with — things will finally be as they once were.

The liberals’ fault in all this, while important, is also far more subtle, and pernicious. Their first failure was an inability to groom a strong progressive to counteract the forces of the 1980s.  Reagan’s miasma went deep, but his popularity, instead of being exposed for what it was (people still believe, for instance, that Reagan was ‘responsible’ for the fall of the USSR), was merely given into: feared, even. The Democrats began to waver on their own values, with the more liberal lines reserved for less political outlets such as media and Academia, whose disconnect from the real world bred resentment. Political Correctness, then, was the second failure, for it inverted normal, universally understood truths and behaviors into evils, all the while attacking white men (and women!) for a “privilege” that is on the one hand undeniable, and absolutely meaningless on the other, given that the day-to-day reality for most is STILL one of fear, uncertainty, and drudgery. That blacks have it worse is immaterial to the unemployed dropout whose uninsured mother is dying of cheeseburgers, especially since both problems have the same root the Democrats were too weak to address. And now their words were to be policed, as well; their thoughts, and resentments, their silly inclination to go out and shoot a gun: not even THAT was to be theirs much longer, while Others were ‘allowed’ to be a little more self-expressive, a touch offensive, even, without consequence, as losers watched yet other losers — who they now thought had it ‘better’ — supposedly reap rewards that were once theirs. In short, liberals could be blamed for releasing these psychical forces into the wild, and the Republicans could be blamed for fanning them with lite versions of Trump’s populist rhetoric. The difference is that, with policies being so bad, on BOTH sides, Trump could feign some grand corrective and the narrative would still look good. After all, like Huck Finn’s Pappy, you were raised to loathe the gov’ment. So, what is your first reaction to a politician whose very style of non-sequitur suggests the anarchy so craved?

As far as I can tell, no camp has yet to take even a little responsibility for 2016’s theatrics. The GOP complains that Donald Trump is not a true ideologue while the Liberals take easy shots at how bad his racist platform really is. And while both camps hide behind these positions because they are so obvious, they also conveniently ignore why this niche had opened in the first place. The Gracchi Brothers, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Italy’s Lega Nord, the various tyrants — enlightened, unenlightened — which seem to define most societies in transition: they ‘win’ because they’re able to shape the energy of those who did not know there was anything to shape in the first place. Yet once it is articulated, en-worded, something interesting happens, for feelings are called in that were not quite there — facts, too. In, out, they well up from the aether, quantify, then fizzle out along with their articulation, leaving the world aghast at how they were so taken with a charlatan. Then the lesson is promptly forgotten. The lesson in fact sounds absurd. And it will be so now, save that, next time, the spiral will have moved, the charlatan will be less obvious, less volatile, but still miming world history on stage for an audience that has never seen it before.

13 Comments Donald Trump And The Paralytic Gaze

  1. Keith

    Good article, and about how I feel. Liberals wield the concept of privilege like a cudgel, yet they fail to understand that for the vast majority of white people, it’s not psychoemotionally significant in their lives, despite the fact that it can be statistically demonstrated. There is a time bomb, I think, in the modern left’s embrace of postmodern ideas, in the favoring of poststructuralism and social constructivism. There is still work to be done in combating the various -isms, but eventually, a tolerable stasis will be reached, and the language and thought policing purported to be the inevitable tools of a necessary realignment will engender their own downfall.

    1. Avatar photoAlex Sheremet

      I think, overall, economic good will outpace such time-bombs, until either racism is done away with, first, or some rough sort of equality gets established. It’ll be the sort of thing that people scratch their heads at, in the same way we might look at pseudoscientific jargon of the 1800s.

  2. Keith

    I’m sure we will EVENTUALLY reach a point of stasis, but I don’t know that it’ll be within our lifetimes. Hell, there are still people who police white people for wearing fucking dreadlocks and chastise them for their “insensitivity” if they are unmoved by the pleas contra “cultural appropriation”.

    1. Steven jones

      The progressive ideology is a self-perpetuating ideology. there is no Promised Land, There is no perfect Society, things must always be uplifted overturned new enemies must always be found, there is no stasis to be had with progressivism. The very goal is to make everything meaningless and society unworkable, so that a next stage can begin. As it is a totalitarian ideology this system of thoughts end result is communism and inevitably so. This is glaringly apparent even at the earliest stages. Ie. The BLM Mantra is directly out of The Communist Manifesto. Seek, “it is our duty to fight, it is our duty to win, we have nothing to lose but their chains.” Thats as crystal clear as it could possibly be to anyone with a critical mind.

  3. Steven jones

    ” they fail to see that Trump’s inevitable demise will take them, too. ”
    how and why are you so certain that Donald Trump will lose this election? By every metric iv seen hes leading the race buy a full length.

  4. Avatar photoAlex Sheremet

    Hi Steven,

    “…how and why are you so certain that Donald Trump will lose this election? By every metric iv seen hes leading the race buy a full length…”

    First, to get the latter part of your comment out of the way: that’s simply not true. An aggregate of a few dozen polls as of 7/22 shows Clinton about 3 points in the lead:

    Had Bernie been the nominee, this would be about a 10-15 point lead for Bernie, indicating that people (despite your claim) are not tired of progressivism, but of the establishment itself:

    As for losing the election, the comment, and this article, is not really about the election itself but the long-term impact of his candidacy on politics, as well as the political realities that allowed Trump to run in the first place. So, I don’t deny the possibility that Trump could win. However, if he does win, the effect would be as if Bush were elected to multiple terms: complete disillusion with the GOP, followed by an internal change WAY bigger than the one that occurred from 2001 – 2008, where Centrist candidates like McCain and- even more tellingly!- the closet-progressive Mitt Romney were nominees. Like it or not, decades of Republican failures (as well as Democratic ones) have changed the political climate, where folks are grasping at straws looking for anti-establishment candidates. They found on in Bernie, who would have been elected by a wide margin. He’s not the nominee, so the default choice is Trump. It doesn’t matter that it’s stupid, illogical, wrong, etc. This is how crowds THINK. And Trump, if nothing else, plays upon crowds.

    1. Keith

      I disagree Bernie’s lead would be bigger. He was one of the most unvetted candidates ever to get as far in a primary as he did, and he was basically polling as a generic D. The RNC cannot sell Donald Trump, but four months of ads showing Bernie cozying up to failed Communist states, trumpeting the often ridiculous tax increases even many regular folk would have seen under him, pointing to wait times in single-payer health care systems, getting Russian expats to talk about the “horrors” of socialism, etc. would have tanked the mythic lead in general election polling he had on Hillary, especially given his already tepid relationship with the Dems’ base of minority voters, who saw him as just another old white guy making fanciful promises he’ll never be able to keep. I don’t know that he would have lost to Trump, because Trump is truly a treasure trove of opposition research, but whereas I think Trump could have out-machoed Bernie in debates, trashed him as a fringe nutcase, and basically soured the country on him far easier than he’ll be able to do with Hillary, who is such a known quantity there’s not much you can do to her either way, not to mention she’s a fucking vicious, unscrupulous debater and will walk all over Trump in that context. Her floor is above his ceiling, barring another scandal, but Bernie’s floor would have been unknown.

    2. Avatar photoAlex Sheremet

      We’ve already discussed this, and I disagree. Sanders was definitely vulnerable due to being a Leftist in ways that Hillary isn’t, but Hillary has Trump’s identical problem, albeit from the other side of the fence: they are some of the most DESPISED candidates of the last few decades. At the same time, their strengths come from opposite ends, where Hillary could appeal to the status quo (‘come on, we’re DEMOCRATS- remember us??’) and hammer Trump for the things they hate about him, whereas Trump appeals to a weird, nascent, anti-authoritarian authoritarianism that in a fucked up way captures a slice of those who could easily be swayed to either be Progressives (for Sanders) or alt-right types (which often use the same arguments as classical Progressives, albeit in a far less disciplined, consistent way).

      Just think about the fact that there are so many folks uncomfortable with Trump’s racism, xenophobia, lies, etc., but will vote Trump anyway because they’ve been deluded into thinking he is anti-establishment. Like it or not, this kind of shit has not really abated over the last few months, while Clinton’s numbers have tanked because she doesn’t have that one credential Trump has. Given how undisciplined both Bernie and Trump supporters have been, I *really* don’t think ads re: cozying up to failed states, tax increases, etc., would have mattered, given the fact that Trump nigh-treasonously soliciting money from foreign govn’ts has done nothing, Trump lying, literally, in almost everything he says, and obviously so, has done nothing, Trump’s very public bankruptcies have done nothing to tarnish his image of ‘success’, Trump’s numerous lawsuits, sex scandals, ribald comments, explicit remarks that if elected he would not really govern but be a figurehead, etc., have done NOTHING vis-a-vis Clinton….and all for one reason: he is, supposedly, anti-establishment, whereas Clinton is not. This is why the numbers were (and are) different with Sanders, who also lacks the far more explosive scandals that, rightly or wrongly, are associated with Clinton.

      Nor am I going what’s actually ‘true’ in an absolute sense. I am trying to imagine the whims of a mob, and how they’d turn this or that way given different circumstances. At this point, they are unwilling to turn on Trump past what they’ve already done, but have turned on Clinton, who can’t contain the e-mail scandal no matter what. This is not the fake Benghazi shit, but something that, had it been anyone but Clinton, would have resulted in an indictment, which the public recognizes. And while Trump’s entire life story is INFINITELY worse than the worst of Hillary’s actions, the problem is that the mob, in being a mob, is refusing to interpret it that way. Yes, she has a healthy lead over Trump now and my guess is that it will increase due to her VP pick and the debates, in which Trump will get hammered, but I think you are underestimating how undisciplined this mob is, and how frequently it seems to go from Trump-Sanders, Sanders-Trump, simply because so many people’s default mental states are CHAOS.

    3. Steven jones

      ” long-term impact of his candidacy on politics, as well as the political realities that allowed Trump to run in the first place. ”

      you may or may not know this but Trump has been flirting with the idea of running for president for many decades. he says and I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt that : he would rather not do it. But he sees no other option.
      He saw people’s disenfranchisement and anger at the establishment any capitalized on it like a good businessman would. Is he a evil man for showing some ambition? Next.
      I don’t have the balls like you do to call Trump supporters cowards, I really don’t. because his supporters consist of military men, police officers, doctors lawyers it runs the entire Spectrum. Sure some racists like him but they are a fraction of the vote. You can cheery pick a few bad apples but i can do the same to the left and no real point has been made.
      what you’re looking at is the will of the people, not some Dynamic shift in values or thought processes. Its called democracy. When the times change, ideas change and people with them.

    4. Avatar photoAlex Sheremet

      That he might have been planning a presidential run for decades has little to do with what I said: there are political realities, today, that allow him to not only run but also succeed, if only partially. You are glossing over the core of my (and others’) criticism of the man for what reason, exactly? You correctly state that there is a very REAL problem of disenfranchisement, corruption, etc., but that does not logically mean that ANY candidate that says they’re “against all that” are also a GOOD candidate that actually mean what they say. I mean, almost by definition, a politician’s task is to lie, and Trump is no different. Hell, Alex Jones says he’s against the military-industrial complex, which I agree is a *huge* American problem. Does that mean you’d vote for that crazy fuck? I wouldn’t, because to me, it’s not enough that I reach a similar conclusion with another person. The reasoning that leads to this conclusion is even more important, because reasons NEED to be replicated, over and over again, as new phenomena crop up in life.

      I also cringe when people say Trump is “anti-establishment”. He isn’t. He is merely anti THIS particular establishment…meaning, he will replace one shitty establishment with something that is arguably just as bad, if not (and I am being charitable, here) way, way worse. I mean, did you see how Trump illegally solicited money for his campaign from foreign governments? So, let’s see, replacing a bipartisan system of domestic corruption where politicians are beholden to local interests, for a multi-partisan system of corruption where politicians are beholden to foreign heads of state, is somehow BETTER? No- it is shit merely of another flavor, and I am shocked this news story did not go mainstream because, if investigated, and true, it would bar Trump from public office FOREVER.

      Yet all that assumes that he even wants to do the shit he says he does, ‘cuz as you know, I don’t buy it. And who gives a shit who his supporters are? There are idiots everywhere, and, yes, that includes military men, police officers, doctors, lawyers, whoever, since political affiliations have no correlation with intelligence, success, or anything else that’s relevant to this discussion. I can find seemingly ‘smart, good citizens’ to support ANY old thing, from slavery in the 1800s, to Mao’s Five Year Plans, to the persecution of mystery cults in the Roman Empire in the reign of Augustus.

      Again- so what?? Try looking at the individual positions, themselves, and the people behind them, rather than what you THINK these positions are, or what other people tell you they are. Because, right now, I can easily peg you as a very specific political type, and can box you in as one of the millions of nameless Trump supporters, who, in a few decades’ time, will find something else equally ludicrous to support, then decades after that, as well. By contrast, I will fit NO box, nor any simplified, ‘cutesy’ ideology…especially not with the sorry excuses for presidential candidates that we have in 2016. And, yes, this is aimed at both Hillary and Trump. I won’t have anything to do with this shameful, idiotic, piece of shit election that the rest of the world is simply LAUGHING about.

  5. Avatar photoAlex Sheremet


    The progressive ideology is a self-perpetuating ideology. there is no Promised Land, There is no perfect Society, things must always be uplifted overturned new enemies must always be found, there is no stasis to be had with progressivism. The very goal is to make everything meaningless and society unworkable, so that a next stage can begin. As it is a totalitarian ideology this system of thoughts end result is communism and inevitably so. This is glaringly apparent even at the earliest stages. Ie. The BLM Mantra is directly out of The Communist Manifesto. Seek, “it is our duty to fight, it is our duty to win, we have nothing to lose but their chains.” Thats as crystal clear as it could possibly be to anyone with a critical mind.

    And yet the very nature of history proves this wrong. The world’s (mostly) done away with slavery, has been dismantling religion for centuries, established liberal democracies, socialized a great portion of wealth, and reduced violence by about a thousand-fold. America, today, is a MUCH better place to live than it was 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and especially 200-300 years ago. And, sure, as bad as Communism was, even the WORST communist state (a contradiction in terms) is way better, proportionally, than most tribal societies and early neolithic groups- the norm for 95% of our existence, until very recently.

    Like it or not, history (much like the universe, itself) is not entropic at all, but always climbing in complexity. This is important to realize. This is why we’ve reduced crime and improved the lives of so many people. This is why the best art of the 20th century is almost infinitely better than the best art 2,000 years ago. This is why non-issues like gay marriage, cursing on the radio, etc., are pointless to argue about, because as soon as you look away, history’s moved WAY the fuck on.

  6. Pingback: Against Hillary: Notes On The Future Of 2016 | IDEAS ON IDEAS

  7. Pingback: Why Hillary Clinton Lost: An Addendum To 2020 | IDEAS ON IDEAS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *