Global Independent Analytics
Vladimir Golstein
Vladimir Golstein

Location: USA

Specialization: international relations, Russia

Donald Trump and the Dream of Firing the Establishment

There is a new game in town: who would be the loudest in calling Trump a fascist and will wring his or her hands over the loss of civility and moderation.

Everyone is falling over each other trying to win this game: war-mongering republicans, left-leaning comedians, TV pundits, drone-like journalists. By the latest count, there are more then two million posts on Google on the subject.

One wonders, though, what criteria do these wits use when making their courageous pronouncements? Obviously, not the same ones that my late father used, fighting Nazis in World War II. And surely not the same ones that my relatives would use, the ones buried in Kiev’s Baby Yar, executed by Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. In fact, one really begins to wonder about the Nazi-detection skills of these groups, when one realizes how they blissfully ignoredUkrainian nationalists burning people in Odessa or killing and intimidating civilians all over Ukraine. Nor did they say anything when civilian populations all over Middle East were executed or blown up to pieces, or when Kosovo thugs burned churches and killed Serbian civilians.

Why did it become so easy to portray Trump as a Nazi, and so difficult to present in the same light various extremely dubious regimes, be they the Saudis or the government of Ukraine, or extremely dubious politicians, from the Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton to Turkish Erdogan? We are clearly dealing with a cultural phenomenon, with the particular set of buttons that Trump’s presence pushes in the chattering classes, but Poroshenko and the Right Sector Leaders greeted in Canada as patriots, don’t.

What’s exactly about Donald Trump that pushes all the wrong buttons? The answer is both obvious and not.  Trump’s manners, his anti-PC rhetoric, his vulgarity – really goes against the most sacred cows of western intelligentsia, of the chattering classes, that dominate the mass-media, academia, the art scene, Hollywood, think tanks and so on. The representatives of these classes, who frequently confuse good manners for good education, and who were raised on endlessly mocking Archie Bunkers, and Ralf Kramdens of Honeymooners, and other white male hicks, can’t grant any legitimacy to these guys’ concerns or fixations.

One of the few artists, who actually tried to show Archie Bunkers from inside, -- I am referring to Clint Eastwood – is also traditionally mocked by the same groups. His amazing film, Gran Torino, despite its huge commercial success, wasn’t nominated for a single Oscar, while receiving the dismissal so well captured by Mark Harris writing in Entertainment Weekly: “I’ll take social commentary embedded in fantasy any day over fantasy pretending to be social commentary, which peddles the delusion that even the bigot next door has Something to Teach Us All about heroism and self-sacrifice. No, he doesn’t.” Judging by the quality of this comment, I can safely predict that Mark Harris is now busy denouncing Trump as a Nazi, rather than learning from Eastwood films, the film that exploresthe white man’s anger from inside for example;it also shows us that there is an inner core of dignity, and heroism, that remains hidden behind the rough politically incorrect appearance.

I believe that these people, the so-called Reagan democrats, ostracized and mocked for so long, support Donald Trump.  But what Eastwood’s film reveals, is that they don’t support him because he uses dirty names for minorities –which is the usual myopic interpretation of the Trump-the-Nazi school. No, they support him because he appeals to their sense of fair play, and dignity, and respect, and hard work, and frustrations with the cultural elites that treats them like ignorant bigots.

Eastwood’s protagonist, Walt Kowalski, a retired Korean War vet, is a person who spends his life doing the best he could working and raising his family but feels totally marginalized in the new brave world around him. Furthermore, and this is essential part, this is not about the question of losing one’s ground, or of a grumpy old man refusing to vacate the place to the young. What Kowalski sees around him is incompetence, corruption, loss of respect, crime and other urban blights that makes it painfully obvious to him that the brave new world is actually much worse than the one he grew up in. Despite its wars, and traumas, and deprivations.

Obviously, many politicians wanted to tap into Kowalski’s resentment, but none of them succeeded. When tea-party leaders or Bernie Sanders come up with their agendas, pinning it all on the “bad guys,” be theydemocratic cultural elites or greedy corporations,it is obviously not enough. It is not just the Democrats, it is not just bankers, it’s the establishment, stupid. It is the corrupt sweet talking elites who say all the right things and then laugh all the way to the bank, leaving the poor of all kinds, stripes, colors and religions to deal with mess that these elites left behind. The tea party leaders were too much of the same thing, something that Ted Cruz will never understand.Repeating Fox News clichés instead of CNN clichés, and attacking liberal cultural politics, while showing allegiance to corporations or to the obese Pentagon is hardly an improvement. 

A lot has been made of the fact that Trump acts like a child. Maybe. But that’s also his appeal. He is the child from Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who can actually say that the Emperor is naked, while any other political contender that I’ve observed still clings to some sort of imaginary shred of clothes:Oh, no, the emperor still has this, or the king has that. Well, ladies and gentleman, let’s face it. The emperor is naked. Foreign policy with all its endless wars that go on is naked. Domestic policy with its clothes made of the same fabric as the real-estate mortgage derivatives, is naked.  Social relations are rotten, and all the politically correct talk about respect seems to be just that, talk, and abandoning urban areas to anger, racial tensions, and frustrations. So all this PC talk, rather than curing the problem, seems to prolong and exacerbate it. And people like Walt Kowalski know it very well. They seem to act on the presupposition that good fences make good neighbors, that they want to know what is going on in other parts of the world before their childrenare sent there to be maimed and traumatized, and then abandoned into the hands of hopeless bureaucracies of vet administration.

What is also fascinating is how much Europe is behind this Trump-baiting. In fact, Europeans seem to be more politically correct and more clueless thanAmericans. It appears, that of all people, it is the Europeans, be they Germans or Swedes, who should understand the frustrations of their white working classes, who were totally scandalized by the recent acts of violence perpetuated by the uncontrolled émigrés. Yet, this is obviously not the case. In a recent interview on NPR, Swedish reporter, Erika Bjerstrom, bemoaned her tough plight, of failing to explain to Swedes the American fascination with Trump. She said that she tried, but when it came down to Trump talking about his body parts, she gave up. Well, what about body parts that were twisted and tortured by the thugs who attacked innocent women in Sweden? Could she not bring that example to her fellow Swedes to make Trump appeal immediately obvious?

It is not clear, whether Donald Trump will be able to create a new cloth for Emperor. But at least, he points to the problem, and clearly wants to try, rather than echoing the chorus of Emperor’s befogged admirers.

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