Earlier this month, Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the Republican primary race, leaving Donald Trump the presumptive nominee. The day Kasich made his announcement, I turned the radio to my favorite NPR station, hoping to catch a little more news about his withdrawal. Instead, I tuned in just in time to catch the end of a news story about a man with stomach troubles who, frustrated with conventional medical treatments, attempted a DIY fecal matter transplant as some sort of homeopathic digestive cure-all.
I’m not a DIY fecal matter transplant expert, but from what the reporters said, the process involved soliciting donor poop samples, making gel caps from the sample selected, and consuming said capsule, thereby introducing “healing” bacteria from the donor poop into his guts. In other words, the guy ate someone else’s shit with the expectation that it would cure him of his ills.
Disgusting, yes. But it was also a remarkably apt story to hear on the day the world learned that a Donald Trump presidency could very well be in our future. It’s a solid metaphor for what I perceive as the mindset behind those who support Trump: through dissatisfaction with the state of our country combined with mistrust of the establishment, people are ready to swallow Trump’s BS, fully believing — despite a total lack of evidence — that Donald Trump is the one man who can solve our problems.
I cannot fathom ever being inspired to perform a fecal matter transplant, DIY or otherwise, to treat my very real and persistent GI problems. I equally cannot fathom ever being inspired to support Donald Trump as a person who can lead our nation through our very real and persistent socio-political conflicts and economic turbulence. It is next to impossible for me to understand how any reasonable person could be inspired by the person or politics of Donald Trump.
To be perfectly frank, Trump supporters are an enigma to me. They appear in my imagination as gun-toting bogeymen, who are either ignorant hicks, racist xenophobes, or opportunistic arseholes (or some combination thereof). After all, only people who don’t know any better, or who really hate brown people, or who care more about the advancement of their own ideals than they do for democracy or peace could support a foul-mouthed, disrespectful, unstable narcissist like Donald Trump.
It’s easy for people like me who live in progressive, diverse, and relatively economically secure communities to be dismissive of – or afraid of, or prejudiced against — those who find merit in Trump’s blustering confidence and so-called policies. In many ways, I come from a position of privilege. Society hasn’t failed me, or my family, and I don’t feel as though social changes have violated my core values: I don’t feel powerless in a system that is rigged against me. Donald Trump doesn’t appeal to me because I don’t need what he is selling.
Trump’s personality is a magnet for bullies and opportunists, for the Crabbes and Goyles of the world, and I feel no guilt in consigning a large number of his supporters to a category of people I cannot respect. But I also think there is more complexity among his followers than many of us would like to admit.
I was listening recently to an interview with a man who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary but who plans to vote for Trump over Hillary in the general election. To him, Hillary represents a corrupt status quo that has not and will never work for the benefit of the people.
In another interview, I heard a Trump supporter say that, although he did not agree with many of Trump’s policy proposals he did trust his strength of character. Trump’s brash self-confidence, and his fixedness of purpose were appealing to him, and they trumped whatever reservations the man had about the kinds of policies Donald would pursue.
Donald Trump’s popularity among so many people hasn’t come out of nowhere. We have been paving his road with gold for years now. The last few decades have been marked by upheaval on every level – in politics, in our economy, in technology, in communications, and in our social mores.
And as we have progressed through this upheaval, swaths of our citizens have become disaffected with our political system – a system that, I think, many of us increasingly fail to understand. We have also fallen into the habit of “otherizing” those who insist on taking a path that opposes our own. Rifts have become ravines, leaving a vacuum of space perfectly fitted to a person like Donald Trump.
And so, here we are, with a man despised by millions of people across the political spectrum dominating the American political stage. We tell ourselves that this guy is NOT American; that he does NOT represent who we really are; that he has vaulted into popularity in spite of us.
But, as much as I hate to admit it, Trump does represent us, and he is here because of us.
And that is what Donald has done for us: along with all his swaggering, all the cocksure, embarrassing BS he has brought to the forefront of national politics, he has brought something else too — he has given us himself as a mirror, and shown us that he is really nothing more than a reflection of who we are becoming. This is his gift to us.
It’s depressing for people like me to think that we have done anything to deserve Donald Trump as a candidate for president. It’s depressing as hell to think we might actually deserve him as a president.
But there is also a perverse sense of hope that arises when we accept responsibility for the Donald. It means that Donald Trump (and everything he represents) hasn’t invaded our politics in some sort of hostile takeover– we invited him in. And if we invited him in, we can kick him out.