What Would Joseph Campbell Say About Donald Trump?

The executive producer of “The Power of Myth” reflects on Campbell’s teachings and how they apply to the hero’s journey that Trump claims he’s on as he tries to win the White House.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Joan Konner/billmoyers.com

Emphasis Mine

Like so many others, I’ve been puzzling over the Trump phenomenon for months. It seems like every journalist, pundit, psychiatrist, psychologist and armchair psychologist has something to say about the man. Understandably, they are trying to figure out what kind of person he is and why he is so popular with millions of Americans, including nearly half of the Republican Party. 

My own interest is undergirded by the work and ideas of the late Joseph Campbell, a foremost interpreter of world mythologies and author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces. It was said of Campbell that “he could make the bones of folklore and anthropology live,” as millions of viewers would learn in watching the classic PBS series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. [Disclosure: I knew Campbell from my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught for 35-plus years. Many years later I served as executive producer of the Campbell-Moyers series.]

Campbell’s gift was to interpret the themes and forces underlying myths, stories and legends and how they play out in our lives. He illuminated the interior pathways of the mind which guide human behavior and action — a psychological roadmap within each of us which is nonetheless dark and mysterious to most of us.

One of the dominant highways on that inner map is the Hero’s Journey. The hero appears as a universal character in all cultures, everywhere, throughout human history, in myths and legends. It is so universal a theme that Campbell, along with other scholars and psychologists, called it an “archetype.”

According to Campbell, the hero emerges from humble beginnings to undertake a journey fraught with trials and suffering. He or she survives those ordeals and returns to the community bearing a gift — a “boon,” as Campbell called it — in the form of a message from which people can learn and benefit. So, properly, the hero is an exceptional person who gives his life over to a purpose larger than himself and for the benefit of others. Campbell had often lamented our failure as human beings “to admit within ourselves the carnivorous, lecherous fever” that seems endemic to our species. “By overcoming the dark passions,” he told Moyers, “the hero symbolizes our ability to control the irrational savage within us.”

Drawn to Campbell’s work, George Lucas invited him to Skywalker Ranch to share his insights into Star Wars. The two became friends, and it was at Skywalker in the mid-1980s that we taped most of the conversation that became the six-part PBS series. Campbell grew animated as he talked about how Lucas “has put the newest and most powerful spin” to the classic story of the hero: “It’s what Goethe said in Faust but which Lucas has dressed in modern idiom — the message that technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough… We have to rely on our intuition, our true being.” He admired Luke Skywalker for finding within himself “the resources of character to meet his destiny.” Furthermore, Campbell said:

I think that Star Wars is a valid mythological perspective, and the problem of it is that the system and the state are the machines. Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity? Humanity comes not from the machine, but from the heart.

Darth Vader is an expression of the state and the system. [Darth Vader] isn’t thinking or living in terms of humanity. He is living in terms of the system [the dark side — which Carl Jung, the psychologist, would call “the shadow”].

This is a threat to our life. We all face it. We all operate in our society in relation to a system. Now, is this system going to eat you up and relieve you of your humanity, or are you going to be able to use the system for human purposes? …. Luke Skywalker is the hero, living as a human being within the system.

You see, this thing up here [he points to his brain], this consciousness thinks it’s running the shop. It’s a secondary organ. It’s a secondary organ of a total human being, and it must not put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body.

A myth is a metaphor, explaining one thing in terms of another. In this case, our politics and politicians are “the government, the state, the system, the machine.” Our leaders in Washington are “the elites” who have long thought they are running the show. But our leaders have not been listening to the whole body, the body politic, the heart and soul of America.

Framing this campaign in the Campbell construct, Trump casts himself as Luke Skywalker fighting the inhumane system. He says he wants to  destroy it and  replace it with whatever he alone envisions — again and again he says, in effect, “I Am The Man.” His supporters and followers get it. They project the hero image in their own psyche onto Trump.

But does this make Trump a hero? Hardly. There is nothing he has said or done that suggests he wants to use the system for human purposes.

Let’s look at his own narrative, as he sees it:

Donald was a humble boy, not born in great luxury. He was not rich, or at least not the richest in his own eyes. His father was a success but only in Queens, the poor relative of Manhattan — and Trump sets out to conquer it.

He meets obstacles on the way, but prevails. Donald Trump — always a winner. To accomplish this, he has sacrificedas he sees it, a sacrifice as great as losing a son in war. His sacrifice has been to make billions from building a business. So what if his successful father staked him in the beginning with capital to help make his journey easier and more comfortable? The elder’s sacrifice doesn’t count in the Trump version of his narrative, as it does in Star Wars.

Now Trump says he wants serve a higher purpose, to give his life to something bigger than himself — to the country, to history — by winning the presidency. If he prevails, he will show his country how to be great again by also winning. The message he brings back to his people: Everyone in Washington is stupid or corrupt. America should be like me, like Donald Trump.

No doubt many of Trump’s followers hate the system he’s fighting, one in which technology and trade have beaten them down, have made them losers. In their eyes Trump is a winner. He presents his own successes as a gift that others could enjoy if they elect him: his third wife, the fairest of them all — a virtual mannequin on which to hang his manhood; his children, who appear to be constructed by highly paid artists to make them seem perfect and who are following in their father’s own perfect footsteps, starting at the top; and, finally, his buildings all over the world — the most gilded (if not always the tallest), and bearing his name in capital letters.

(N.B.: it must be noted that many of Trumps supporters – perhaps the majority – are attracted by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny.)

But the truth is there is no hero there. Trump is the very personification of the system that enabled him to win — a white, wealthy, powerful male who dominates everything in his orbit, the white supremacist writ large who would make America over in his own violent image.

So the question arises: Is Trump, then, Darth Vader? It’s tempting to answer yes. Campbell said that “when the mask of Darth Vader is removed, you see an unformed man, one who has not developed as a human individual. What you see is a strange and pitiful sort of undifferentiated face.” When we look at Trump, we have to ask: Where is the humanity?

But Donald Trump is not Darth Vader. He may actually be worse. Darth Vader knows better than to want to destroy the system and set out instead to harness it to his purpose. Trump is on no hero’s journey. His is a journey of self-destruction, hate and cruelty. Unlike the hero who serves humanity, Trump is simultaneously serving his own self-destructive “dark side” while calling forth America’s dark side — bullies obsessed with money, power and materialistic success, absorbed with their own hubris and empire. Instead of trying to improve the system and make it better for all, he is trying to blow it up. The alternative he offers would be chaos.

Despite all of its flaws and failings, our democratic system has produced some of the best expressions of positive human effort and ideals so far in history. Most Americans want our government to work and we want to make it work better — but not by destroying it. We want to win over the dysfunctions of the system. We want to get our country back in order to get it going again — in the right direction, serving most of the people, most of the time. If only “the elites” — Republicans and Democrats and independents — would hear what the majority of Americans on all sides are saying, Trump would suddenly be irrelevant, exposed as Darth Vader was in the final scenes of Star Wars — a puny and pathetic farce.

As this campaign makes abundantly clear, no hero is going to swoop in to save us. We have to be our own heroes.

Joan Konner is Dean Emerita of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. A long-time producer of documentaries, she was executive producer of the popular PBS series, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/what-would-joseph-campbell-say-about-donald-trump?akid=14560.123424.pQJ0HM&rd=1&src=newsletter1062392&t=8

And just which chord was struck, Maestro?

Donald, Donald, he’s our man! If he can’t do it, the Ku Klux Klan!

Donald, Donald, he’s our man!  If he can’t do it, the Ku Klux Klan!

Multiple time Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum – appearing on Realtime with Bill Maher on August 5th – rather superciliously noted that Donald Trump has ‘struck a cord with voters’.  True that, but the questions to be asked are: which ‘chord’, and what voters?

Santorum – as have many Trump apologists – echoed the GOP wishful thinking that the voters to whom Trump appeals are lower income working class (traditionally Democrat voters),  that the chord which was struck was economic populism, and that Trump recognizes their plight and will address their concerns if elected.

In fact Trump supporters have a higher median income than the national average –  see http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps-working-class-support/  – which means his supporters are not lower income.  Which ‘chord’?

The ‘chord’ which has been struck is in fact not economic populism but rather racism, and its bedfellows misogyny and xenophobia: the deportment of his supporters at rallies confirm that these are their primary concerns.

“At the end of the day”, elections are won with voter turnout, and to defeat him, then,  we must register and turnout people of color, women, and those citizens who were born in ( and whose parents were born in) another country.  Despite his nodding toward working Americans, he has a historically anti-labor record, and labor must get out the vote as well.

N.B.: Trump read an economic speech in Detroit on August 8, and in summary: “I don’t know if Trump has tiny hands or not. But when it comes to the economy, he definitely has tiny plans. We were promised a bold new vision. What we got instead was, with one or two notable exceptions, a warmed-over version of the House Republicans’ standard-issue voodoo economics.”   Richard Eskow – http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-small-economic-vision?akid=14525.123424.w6yQX4&rd=1&src=newsletter1061756&t=18

N.B.:The first Presidential election in which I voted was 1964, and an unpopular person at the top of the GOP ticket  helped facilitate a Democratic landside: let’s do that again!  That candidate was Barry Goldwater: he carried his home state of Arizona, and the five states of the original Confederacy.

Donald, Donald, he’s our man!  If he can’t do it, the Ku Klux Klan!

(In 1964 it was Barry, Barry…)

 

 

Trump is a blessing. Together we should trample his candidacy and rebuild the Democratic Party

“He’s not moving a party to the left,” Volpe said, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

We The people
We The people

Source: Daily Kos

Author: Meteor Blades

Emphasis Mine

I voted for Bernie Sanders this morning in the California primary. Come November I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the “political revolution.” On the contrary.

That revolution is not the blood-in-the-streets kind that some stubborn anti-Sanders critics claim is the only kind there is, but rather a non-violent upheaval, a transformation that frees our system of billionaire, white-supremacist governance from the bottom up. Non-violent but never passive. Peaceful but not non-confrontational.

Bernie Sanders will presumably continue to be an important part of that transformation. Nobody, not even Sanders, expected he would succeed as amazingly as he has. Yet he will arrive in Philadelphia with more delegates than any insurgent campaign in a very long time. His campaign’s list of backers contains the names of 2.4 million people who have contributed more than $200 million to his campaign. On social media, he has some 9 million supporters. That’s a potentially powerful base, especially if those on it who were not already politically engaged before the campaign can be persuaded to stay engaged.

But Sanders didn’t initiate the transformation. And it certainly will not end when his candidacy ends, either tonight or next Tuesday in D.C. or in Philadelphia after the formal vote on the nominee is taken at the Democratic Convention.

Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ activists, 350.org, the Fight for 15, nurses and teachers organizing, the Moral Monday Movement, and Moveon.org arejust a few of the many movement elements of that transformation—some successful, some not, all of them feeling their way along, smeared by media narratives, hindered by internal divisions, and tactically flawed—though their various critics, left and right, have different views on what the specific flaws actually are.

These movement organizations are a big part of transforming both attitudes and policies and thereby the breadth of the national conversation. Without them, Sanders’ candidacy would not have been possible. The campaign built on their hard work, drawing volunteers and staffers from their ranks.

Since the issues that brought forth those movement organizations have not been resolved, they and other newly formed organizations will continue to mobilize people to fight for systemic change. Because the Democratic Party has for so long been moving in a bad direction in several matters, the fight to transform it will continue as well.

But for the next five months, we Sanders, Clinton, O’Malley and none-of-the-above activists have a golden opportunity. Because Donald Trump’s sketchy candidacy can turbocharge our efforts to knock Republicans out of office and reform our own party. However, we’ll have to suppress some of our differences, chill our internecine partisanship, and bite our tongues temporarily to make it happen.

After 50 years of moving the Republican Party ever more rightward, ever more whiteward, the logical extreme has been reached. Donald Trump, carnival barker and snake oil salesman, the first major party candidate about which The New York Times felt the need to discuss the “f” word—fascism—will be the GOP nominee unless he decides he’s tired of the act he’s been performing for the past year and abandons the party at the convention door.

Fascism is not a word to be used lightly. In the 1960s, some on the left practically made a joke of the label, promiscuously attaching it to anybody or any policy they disagreed with. So I’ve always applied it with extreme caution. Nonetheless, while Trump may not mesh perfectly with definitions of fascism, there’s more than a whiff of the brownshirt in his public pronouncements. Those along with his relentless lying, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and general know-nothingism make him a rich target for the kind of devastation Clinton and Elizabeth Warren have dished out recently. A full-bore crushing of his candidacy could inflict collateral damage on the GOP all the way down the ballot.

With wealthy donors saying they won’t support Trump, leading Republicans saying they won’t vote for him, and the candidate’s continual dissing of groups of people from which he might otherwise get at least a few votes, Trump faces an uphill battle against Clinton despite the high percentage of Americans who view her unfavorably.

With that in mind, supporters of Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley should join not merely in defeating but in demolishing Donald Trump’s candidacy and, in the process, damaging the Republican Party in Congress and the state legislatures by hanging the man’s contradictory statements around the necks of every candidate who says they support him. Defeating Republicans who might not otherwise be vulnerable this year can open doors for those desperately needed Democratic Party changes.

Bernie and those of us who support him can do a lot to help deliver this victory.

The senator should spend the months after the convention barnstorming in support of the best candidates, including the dozens that berniecrats.net has identified as being transformationally minded.

Each Sanders supporter should “adopt” a down-ballot candidate, a transformative person running for, say, a state legislative seat. We need to build that deep bench of experience in governing at the local and state levels anyway, and a presidential year like this one could mean significant gains in those arenas. These candidates should get our time, our money, or whatever support we can provide.

Sanders should continue to deliver his galvanizing, vital, and yes, angry message about the perniciousness of concentrated economic power. While Bernie has supporters in all age groups, the most avid are young people, including women and young people of color. If anyone can, he can persuade them not to make the mistake of staying home on election day even if that means many of them feel they must vote with a clothespin firmly in place.

All that, plus Sanders’ effort to get platform concessions passed or promised at the convention, is the inside strategy.

But as reformers have known from the time the Quakers went to Congress in 1790 seeking to end slavery, transformational change requires both an inside and an outside strategy.

Despite the “democratic socialist” label and an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America—an organization (full disclosure) of which I have been a member since 1982—Sanders himself is not a socialist, as many observers here and elsewhere have noted for the past year. He is  a social democrat and not even a radical one. The ideas he has pressed forward, like universal health care, paid leave, free college tuition, and a more substantive social welfare system are only radical in the United States.

Those ideas and others have resonated particularly with young people. A Harvard Poll taken in April concluded that political attitudes of American youth have changed in just the past year. John Della Volpe, the polling director, says Sanders is a big reason. “He’s not moving a party to the left,” Volpe said, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

Several organizations hope to capitalize on that leftward movement and do some moving of their own. Included among them are the Occupy Democrats, the Brand New Congress, the Working Families Party and the People’s Summit, an alliance of National Nurses United and People for Bernie,  which will gather in Chicago June 17 to 19.

On July 23, the day before the Democratic Convention begins, the People’s Convention will get underway in Philadelphia. The organization is developing and ratifying a People’s Platform that Sanders’ delegates will present to the Democratic National Convention. On the group’s website is laid out the intent:

The People’s Convention in Philadelphia [is] a grassroots attempt to reclaim our democracy by uniting behind a common policy framework, rather than a personality or party. Leading up to our first People’s Convention this summer, grassroots organizers from around the country will work together to formulate a People’s Platform: a unifying set of ideas, beliefs, and values that will help define the movement.

This platform will also serve as a critical mechanism to hold elected officials accountable; public representatives who pledge to uphold this platform, but fail to do so through their votes and other public behaviors, will no longer be eligible to seek endorsement or support from The People’s Revolution.

D.D. Guttenplan at The Nation wrote about the Brand New Congress:

Brand New Congress aims to give people a choice—in every district in the country. “Let’s run one campaign to replace Congress all at once (except those already on board) that whips up the same enthusiasm, volunteerism and money as Bernie’s presidential campaign,” says the group’s website. Zack Exley, who was the Wikimedia Foundation’s chief revenue officer before he started traveling the country to lead “Bernie Barnstorms” that trained thousands of volunteers for the Sanders campaign, is one of the group’s founders. They’re targeting the 2018 midterms because, Exley told me, “it takes a while to build the infrastructure to win elections—especially against entrenched incumbents.” The plan is to “recruit a full slate of candidates from people who are not politicians. People who never considered running for office. The majority will be women. A disproportionate number will be people of color. These will be people who are really good at what they do—nurses, engineers, teachers. People who have chances to sell out—but didn’t.”

That prompts lots of questions, beginning with how Brand New Congress can possibly win with progressive candidates in deep-red districts. Exley says the strategy is still up for discussion. And while the group may have set a hugely ambitious goal, I’ve met too many accomplished Sanders organizers in too many states who told me their only contact with campaign headquarters was “a visit from this guy Zack Exley” to dismiss the effort out of hand.

Ramon Ryan, a former organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who’s been working for Sanders in Nashville, said the campaign taught him “how effective we can be organizing ourselves in our own communities.” Tennessee was another tough environment for Sanders supporters, and after the primary “a lot of us have been struggling to figure out where we fit in,” Ryan says. For him, Brand New Congress—which aims to build on the Sanders network, letting local campaigns run their own show while giving them access to a unified national campaign and national online fund-raising—offers an alternative to surrender or a return to marginality. “We’ve seen how the nature of presidential campaigns has changed from Dean to Obama to Sanders,” Ryan tells me. “We want to take this model and apply it to Congress. I love the simplicity of being able to use one campaign to effect so much change.”

One big argument among left-of-center activists for what seems like millennia has been whether inside or outside strategy is the better approach. To reiterate, they both are essential. Both working in tandem has been the way almost all transformational reforms have been achieved.

Working together now to trample Trump’s campaign and spread the pain to down-ballot Republicans doesn’t mean the struggle to bend the Democratic Party in a better direction is over. That fight is existential, so it will continue.

But calling a truce while we pulverize the Trump candidacy benefits all of us. A Trump victory will harm us all. And not just a little bit. We should deploy this gift Republicans have given us like the wrecking ball it is.

 

See:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/06/07/1534536/-Trump-is-a-blessing-Together-we-should-trample-his-candidacy-and-rebuild-the-Democratic-Party?detail=email&link_id=16&can_id=d57025b8908d671dcc8edc84e5855f8f&source=email-gracefirst-major-anti-trump-ad-is-out-and-it-is-devastating-2&email_referrer=gracefirst-major-anti-trump-ad-is-out-and-it-is-devastating-2&email_subject=grace-first-major-anti-trump-ad-is-out-and-it-is-devastating

Why the Religious Right’s Love for the Donald Makes Total Sense

The religious right was formed to protect segregation, so it’s no surprise they’re drawn to Donald Trump.

Source:AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump’s triumphant performance in the Nevada caucus, “a testament to his broad appeal among Republican primary voters” as Salon’s Sean Illing writes,  is causing another round of media handwringing about how the giant orange circus clown can possibly be doing so well. Of special interest is why Trump, who has been married three times and likes to brag about how many sex partners he’s had, is doing so well with evangelical voters, who vote for him at about the same rate as other Republicans.

One theory is that they are generically “angry,”  like all other Republicans, and that makes them willing to overlook his many flaws.

Or perhaps it’s because they are forgiving, as Ralph Reed told Lauren Fox of Talking Points Memo. “Evangelicals have a long history of accepting converts to the pro-life and pro family cause at their word,” Reed argued.

But really, this evangelical fervor for Trump isn’t all that surprising when you consider the history of the religious right in this country, a history which suggests these voters are less motivated by faith than they are motivated by conservative ideology. “Jesus” is just the word they apply to their beliefs to make otherwise repulsive reactionary politics seem moral and righteous. Evangelical voting behavior makes way more sense if you assume the politic views come first and the Bible is just the rationalization for them.

Trump’s campaign motto is “Make America Great Again!”, which ties into his campaign theme of a country that’s lost its way and needs to be returned to some halcyon days of yore. What that means is pleasantly vague enough for pundits to project all sorts of narratives onto it, but I would venture that the simplest interpretation is probably the one resonating with the voters: This used to be the sort of country that would never elect a black man (or a woman) to the White House, and Trump is going to get us back to those days again.

His pitch is convincing because he’s successfully painted the rest of the GOP as people are too cowed by the forces of “political correctness” to say what really needs to be said, which is evident to voters in the other candidates’ relative unwillingness (with an eye towards the general election) to race-bait as blatantly as Trump does.

That this racially provocative narrative appeals to evangelicals shouldn’t be surprising, because this particular narrative has always been the motivating, indeed formative narrative of the religious right. It’s forgotten all too often, but the religious right as we know it formed in the South as a direct reaction to the civil rights movement, and its purpose was to use “Jesus” as a cover story to resist desegregation. In 2014, historian Randall Balmer published a Politico article on this quickly fading but critically important history, where he laid out how much of the infrastructure of the religious right was established by racists who were trying to preserve segregation.

As Balmer explains, after Brown v Board of Education, huge swaths of the South reinstated segregation by creating an elaborate private school system, which were deemed “segregation academies.” Jerry Falwell got his start as a religious right leader founding and defending such schools.

But in 1971, the federal government ruled that private non-profit schools could not maintain a tax-exempt status if they banned black students, and the organized efforts to resist this, by using religion as a justification to resist race-mixing, turned into what we now understand as the modern religious right.

To be clear, the religious right was swift in turning away from overt racism to overt sexism as its defining feature, first by fighting the Equal Rights Amendment that would ban sex discrimination and then waging the war on legal abortion, sex ed, and contraception access. But the disappearance of overt claims that Jesus disapproves of race-mixing shouldn’t be mistaken for a total abandonment of white resentment as an organizing force for the Christian right.

Ronald Reagan gets a lot of credit, for understandable reasons, for helping shape the religious right into a definable and powerful Republican voting bloc. He did this in part by feeding them the anti-feminist rhetoric they wanted to hear, but he also did it by pumping out an endless stream of race-baiting that fed directly into the political style of the religious right, which leans heavily on urban legends and rejects empirical evidence.

Reagan loved to thrill his racist audiences by telling tales of a “welfare queen” who bought a Cadillac off welfare or the “strapping young buck” buying T-bones with food stamps. He argued that the Voting Rights Act was “humiliating to the South” and opposed the Civil Rights Act. He kicked off his 1980 campaign in a town where civil rights workers had famously been murdered, and his speech focused on his support for those resisting desegregation. And he won the religious right’s vote, despite being a former movie star and the first (and so far only) divorced President.

Sounds an awful lot like the current front-runner of the Republican race, a man who enjoys tickling his audience with racially loaded urban legends and bigoted insinuations, and whose past as a decadent tabloid fixture and TV star doesn’t seem to ruffle religious right feathers, so long as he keeps the bigoted rhetoric coming.

And yes, while Trump’s history on reproductive rights suggests he’s not as opposed to them as the other candidates, it’s also true that his misogyny is unquestionable. The sad fact of the matter is that he doesn’t have to be against reproductive rights to prove his disdain for female independence, because contempt for women drips off him.

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the fact that Trump won the Latino vote at the Nevada caucus, but don’t believe the hype. Only 8% of the voters who turned out to the Republican caucus were Hispanic, compared to 19% in the Democratic caucus. Eighty-five percent of Republican voters in Nevada were white, compared to 59% of Democratic voters. If you want to understand Republican voters and why they thrill at Trump’s wink-and-nod race-baiting over the stylings of men named Marco Rubio and Rafael “Ted” Cruz, that might be the simplest answer. Yes, even for the ones who like to talk about how much they love Jesus, who they, after all, invariably portray as a white man.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte. 

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-religious-rights-love-donald-makes-total-sense?utm_source=Amanda+Marcotte%27s+Subscribers&utm_campaign=395339125c-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f2b9a8ae81-395339125c-79824733

 

 

Stop Comparing Trump and Sanders: The Two Candidates Aren’t Equal and Opposite Radicals

Both candidates’ supporters are fed up with their country, but the sources of their rage are radically different.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Matthew Rozsa/The Good Men Project

Emphasis Mine

This piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

As the 2016 presidential election gathers steam, it’s tempting to compare the Bernie Sanders surge among Democrats with the Donald Trump phenomenon among Republicans. After all, both candidates are marshalling support from the ideological grassroots in their respective parties (the left in Sanders’ case, the right for Trump), and both have successfully tapped into a deeper anger that animates their campaigns.

When you reflect on the nature of that anger, however, a crucial distinction between the two candidates emerges: Sanders is drawing on a compassionate anger, while Trump is fanning the flames of a selfish anger. This may seem like a small difference, but it’s one that will literally determine the fate of millions. First, a quick moment of clarification. When I discuss “compassionate” and “selfish” forms of anger, I’m referring to the underlying philosophy embedded in a given set of frustrations. Although both forms of anger tap into a visceral sense of outrage within their listeners, the former insists that they exhibit empathy for others, while the latter encourages them to focus on advancing their own interests at the expense of others. Thus – to use the analogy of a schoolyard setting – the practitioner of empathetic anger will demand that the rules be fair and the toys be shared, while the practitioner of selfish anger will raise a fuss whenever he’s losing the game or doesn’t have as many toys as he’d like… regardless of whether real cheating or unjust inequality is actually involved.

This brings us to the current election cycle. As the most recent Democratic debate demonstrated, Sanders is practically monomaniacal in his focus on the problem of income inequality in America. Whether he’s discussing the importance of raising the minimum wage, proposing a substitute for Obamacare that would guarantee free health coverage for everyone, or advocating policies that would lower college tuition and student loan rates, all of his positions are bound by a common thread. Sanders sees an America that, despite proclaiming itself the “land of opportunity,” is clearly rigged to offer better opportunities for the affluent than the poor.

Similarly, despite its nickname as the “land of the free,” Sanders vocalizes a widespread outrage at the notion that anyone can have a freedom worth having while languishing in insurmountable poverty. Listening to his rhetoric, one hears undeniable echoes of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Economic Bill of Rights:

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

Whereas Sanders’ campaign has been fueled by a consistent ideology of economic progressivism (or, as he likes to call it, democratic socialism), the Trump boom has gathered momentum by pitting various groups of Americans against each other. It’s easy to forget that when Trump skyrocketed to his current frontrunner status over the summer, it was by vilifying undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. Since that time, his campaign has wallowed in the depth of misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia, with Trump garnering headlines and gaining support by openly promoting the prejudices that have marginalized non-white males in the past. While it’s tempting to identify this pattern of bigotry as the common thread tying his campaign themes together, this wouldn’t be precisely accurate. The actual thread is Trump’s cynical awareness of the fact that, by shattering the so-called “politically correct” taboos against attacking traditionally oppressed groups of people, he can simultaneously speak on behalf of the privileged while making both them and himself seem like the underdogs.

Indeed, the evidence of this can be found not on the many occasions when Trump’s hate mongering has succeeded, but on the numerous times it has failed. Take his anti-Semitic comments during a speech in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition; when he declared to his appalled audience that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” he clearly intended to position himself as a brave challenger of a Jew-controlled status quo. This approach didn’t gain traction, so naturally he abandoned it, but structurally it was identical to the rhetoric he has successfully used against Mexicans or Muslims – insinuate that racist assumptions about those groups are correct, feed off of the media outrage regarding his remarks, and profit from the support that rallies behind him for “speaking the truth.” The same thing can be said of his efforts to mobilize a bigoted reaction against the Cuban heritage of his chief rival, Ted Cruz; when he urged an Iowa audience to remember that “not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba,” the goal was once again to politically weaponized what he hoped would be the racist inclinations of his own supporters. The fact that this tactic didn’t work against Cubans (and thus Cruz) simply proves that Trump’s strategy, though often successful, is still a hit-and-miss affair. Of course, because the hits yield such great rewards and the misses have yet to hurt him politically, Trump has no particular incentive to stop.

Even though Trump will probably never redeem the quality of his anger, though, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from his actions. If Americans truly want to elevate the quality of their political discourse, it is imperative to start by distinguishing between the type of anger that speaks to legitimate needs among the vulnerable and the type of anger that only sows seeds of dissent and hatred. This is an issue that transcends the Sanders and Trump campaigns, or indeed the 2016 presidential election entirely. At its core, this is about what it means to be a responsible citizen within a democratic society – something that Sanders clearly understands, and Trump just as clearly does not.

Matthew Rozsa is a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University as well as a political columnist. His editorials have been published in “The Morning Call,” “The Express-Times,” “The Newark Star-Ledger,” “The Baltimore Sun,” and various college newspapers and blogs. He actively encourages people to reach out to him at matt.rozsa@gmail.co

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/stop-comparing-trump-and-sanders-two-candidates-arent-equal-and-opposite-radicals?akid=13935.123424.2TWQRD&rd=1&src=newsletter1049911&t=8