Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Of Bullies, Demagogues and Dictators
I've been trying to put my finger on what it is that creeps me out about Donald Trump (other than his support for what will surely be called Trumpcare, abortion and a xenophobic immigration program). The fact that Trump bankrupted four companies, conned little old ladies out of their savings, and skinned his partners on deal after deal is part, but not all of it.
The fact that he's a silver-spoon trust baby who portrays himself as a "self-made" billionaire isn't it either. I could have made a billion if I'd started out with 300 million dollars for crying out loud. He's a bragger. So, what politician isn't? Then in one of those worthless debates with a gang of Trump acolytes that I keep getting myself into arguments with, I saw something familiar. It's Trumps followers, then, that clued me in to the psychological dynamic that I believe is going on between Trumps and the sycophantic minions that surround him. I remember that same dynamic well from junior high school.
Junior high, as most of you will remember, is an extremely tribal place usually dominated by the strongest members of the group. Bullies in other words. Bullies achieve power by picking out small skinny, nerdy kids to knock around in front of the others to establish their dominance. Then, once properly impressed with the bully's dominance, other weaker members of the group, desiring personal safety, a sense of belonging, and power, are drawn to the bully as a protector and for his or her approval. The bully appeals to his toadies' fear, paranoia and distrust of anyone different from themselves, as well as to their desire to share in his power, if only at second hand.
Voila'. You have outlined the same technique as used by every tin pot dictator and megalomaniac in human history. And it works like a charm. Those who use this technique are dangerous. Our current president has used this technique throughout what one television reporter accidentally called Obama's "reign". But Obama uses the technique ineffectively. Instead of attacking the weakest members of the culture, he has gone after some of the strongest: rock-ribbed conservatives. He has drawn acolytes, but these acolytes are the most malleable. They were already prepared to follow him when he appeared. They were looking for a liberal messiah and they shared his ideology. He's had less success at charming the demographic in the middle that form the swing vote. As his policies fail, he has not been able to bully the undecideds into submission.
Now let's look at "The Donald". He starts out with rhetoric attacking the weakest members of society - people that his target audience do not like; namely illegal immigrants. Trump claims he will run them all out of the country and punish Mexico for send them and make them build a wall to keep all those nasty Mexicans in. Then he goes after members they are frightened of. He tells us he will stop ANY Syrian refugees from coming into the country, appealing to the xenophobia of his potential pool of followers. Notice he doesn't "plan" to address immigration, he WILL stop it. Period. Very authoritative.
Next he makes all kinds of other vague promises without any real concrete plans for fulfilling them. He brags about himself proclaiming himself the deal-maker, military genius and financial wizard (no matter how many people have suffered financial ruin as he accumulated his own wealth). He says he can be trusted because he is rich without explaining exactly how his being responsible to no one but himself should be in any way reassuring. He also never mentions that, although he's never taken bribes, not being a politician and all, he certainly has handed out enough "donations" to them (mostly the Democrat ones). Someone explain to me how putting the briber in charge of things improves the situation.
Like the Wizard of Oz's fiery avatar, Trump says, "Pay no attention to that stuff behind the curtain. I am Trump, the great and powerful." And like the playground bully's band of toadies, the Trump acolytes defend him blindly against the terrible fearful menace of Hillary Clinton (who attended his wedding and whose previous presidential campaign and whose foundation he supported with huge donations).
Politically, Trump is simply a more successful political playground bully. Watch his response to anyone who challenges him. When Ben Carson surpassed him in numbers, he joined Democrats in assassinating Ben's character. No matter that it was entirely bullshit, it hurt him and restored Trump to the top. He's gone after every opponent of his systematically with accusations, innuendo and character assassination. His toadies approved of it all.
I don't mean to demean people who like Trump. I really don't. It's easy to fall in with the group. Everybody wants to belong to the herd. It's very human. We feel safe being like everyone else. America was originally settled by rugged individualists, but over time, the old latent gene pool began to assert itself and people who wish less for freedom and independence and more for a sense of belonging, safety and power became more numerous. These kinds of people are now a very substantial portion of the American population - a voting block of some consequence.
This particular cadre of individuals - people of the herd as I think of them - have long formed a dominant percentage of the population of the Old World. It's why the Old World is in the shape it's in and why dictators and demagogues do so well in the Old World and in former Old World colonies which grew for economic reasons rather than because colonists came to them seeking freedom.
At long last the herd has grown to a size and is doing what herds do best - following. All they need is the latest bull to step up and tell them which way to go. They are not interested in principled leaders who think things through, who exercise caution, wisdom and kindness. What they want is the biggest loudest bull they can get; someone who will promise them whatever it is they want. Trump appeals to the angry radical right and to so-called "moderates and independents" who are basically people who have no opinion of their own but stand around waiting to sway in whichever direction the latest and loudest bull says to go.
America is about to fall or at the very least to divide in a very violent and ugly way. It is sad to see.
Just one man's opinion,