Trump and failed expectations…
- In a democracy, a citizen has the right to imagine and achieve his/her own
- The disenchantment of the white working-class man is probably justifiable, but
- For Tocqueville, democracy was a social order characterized by equality of
- conditions, not necessarily material
There are almost three weeks left before Americans go to the polls to elect the next president of the United States. Although Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls, a majority of Americans do not trust her.
Trump, on the other hand, is chastised for vulgarizing, cheapening, and homogenizing American political and social values and practices. He is projecting the optimal forum for subverting cultural norms and challenging social and political conventions. The Republican presidential nominee fetishizes and anesthetizes racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes. He commodifies and mocks personal tragedies and challenges the so-called mediocrity of every American not espousing Trumpism.
The real estate mogul discredits all elements of American values that do not support his program of decontaminating and regenerating our decadent society. Is Trump’s presidential campaign spent and unsalvageable?
Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of Democracy in America (1835), wrote: “As the election (presidential) draws near, intrigues intensify, and agitation increases and spreads.” Although he was hocked by some of the prevailing political practices in the 1830s America, he also believed that education and “enlightenment” would eventually improve the quality of its leaders and its citizens’ voting patterns and choices.
Almost two centuries later, none of the so-called electoral improvements has been achieved and, unfortunately, we are experiencing the evolution of a tragicomedy or a farce.
For Tocqueville, democracy was a social order characterized by equality of conditions, not necessarily material but more aspirational and not circumscribed by birth. Birth should not predict a person’s future economic status.
Although Tocqueville believed that social mobility in the United States was possible, he probably overestimated the existence of this ill-conceived notion and ill-designed practice.
Unfortunately, many Americans still pray before the altar of social mobility which is strongly correlated to the delusion of the American Dream.
In a democracy, a citizen has the right to imagine and achieve his/her own future. However, Tocqueville also said that true freedom should also lead to collective action in order to accomplish a common purpose.
Often that’s what’s sorely lacking in the United States, a gradual transformation, a sort of progress toward a common goal, this reshaping of the social landscape as thoroughly as possible.
Although the last 50 years have seen major upheavals resulting in a greater equality of conditions, for many people it’s still an idea, a principle that has yet to be successfully translated into the socioeconomic and political realms.
American society is built on putative equality. It’s a society in which many groups still face deep-seated prejudice and socioeconomic disadvantages. For example, although an African-American has been elected president, not a single African-American female runs a Fortune 500 corporation.
Paradoxically, this year’s election is the culmination of the past half-century of social and political fermentation against the partially successful civil rights movement and legislations and other major upheavals.
The disenchantment of the white working-class man is probably justifiable, but misguided, since, more than anything else, it should be directed at the “industrial aristocracy,” as Tocqueville would say.
What is disturbing about the Trumpist movement is the virulence of the passions that fuel it. Although political polarization has been bedeviling Washington for a while now, what is currently occurring is deeply shocking and beyond pure political grandstanding.
There is no doubt that Trump is enabling his supporters with his toxic words and questionable actions. However, it is his followers who are showing contempt and belligerence.
It was at the Republican National Convention that Trump’s followers were wearing “Kill the Bitch!” T-shirt and shouting “Lock her up!” referring to Hillary Clinton. They respond not to his policy proposals, which are incoherent and nonsensical, but to his vitriolic words, harsh rhetoric, and disdainful attitude.
As some sociologists have noted, Trump’s followers are experiencing sociological frustrations, not necessarily socioeconomic stagnation. Their lienation is understandable since the equality of conditions has shifted.
Most cheering the Republican presidential nominee would probably acknowledge that Trumpism is less a panacea, and more a validation of their existence. Consequently, Trump continues to unleash his thoughts without fear, rejection, or judgment.
Some Republicans are excoriating Trump’s followers for their unwillingness to break with their party’s presidential candidate. This poses something of a conundrum for the party of President Lincoln.
Many Americans see the economic and political systems as rigged because both political parties are serving the oligarchy, yes, we do have one in the United States, and income/wealth inequality is still rising. Also Trumpism is deriving much of its momentum and legitimacy from the partially unsuccessful policies of the neoliberal left.
Millions of Americans want to see palpable improvements in living conditions. Many Americans, not necessarily followers of Trump, are trying to expose the moral vacuity of our contemporary society, both here and abroad, and the banality of its cultural output. Some are lamenting a civilization devoid of a constructive purpose. Many Trump supporters denounce their opponents as elitists and emphasize their own commitment to political equality and economic opportunity for ordinary white men, while at the same time whipping up the electorate’s feelings of superiority to African Americans and other minorities.
Whoever gets elected in November (hopefully next month and not in December), he/she will have the almost impossible task to win back the long lost confidence of the American people. So far none of the candidates is willing or able to accomplish that.
Pity the American people…