Trumpthiness

The media continue to point out the things Trump says which are provably not true, and, bizarrely, seem to continue to think that sooner or later some shit will finally stick, and ruin him.  A few look beyond; in the New York Post, Salena Zito recently wrote, “These voters knew who Trump was going in, they knew he was a thrice-married, Playmate-dating, Howard Stern regular who had the morals of an alley cat.”

What political and media elites seem persistently to misunderstand is that Trump’s voters don’t care whether or not what he says is true. He’s not their teacher, or their boss. Even if they care about the thing Trump is talking about, they believe that his words have no power to affect whether or not it’s true. Trump’s voters care about him doing what they want, which all the people now going on and on spent decades using both facts and “facts” to rationalize denying them.

Most vitally, though, Trump is not their pastor.  For elites, there is still a quality of moral leadership, of pontifex maximus, to the Presidency.  To them, the President is “the first man among us”, setting the tone and preaching to inspire America, while for non-elites, he has become only “the first man among elites”.  Rare elite leaders sometimes can talk to non-elites so easily that they transcend the two; Bill Clinton, whatever one thinks of his morals or his policies, was like that.  (A defining moment of his wife’s 2016 campaign was when Bill Clinton wanted to go out and talk with ordinary people in places where it was thought Hillary had no chance, and he was told no.)  But Barack Obama, for all his oratory and erudition, never could do it.

The really interesting thing, of course, is whether this is going to change politics itself.  Trump will one way or another be gone some day.  When that happens– or even before– will other American politicians do it?  I predict yes, if only as a function of the extremism brought on by self-segregation.