As the Donald Trump boomlet turns into the Donald Trump movement, I’m closing in on the “acceptance” stage of the grieving process.
Sure, conventional wisdom suggests voters are just flirting with the billionaire. But what if they run off to Vegas and get hitched?
This happens in even the best of families. Sometimes people get drunk and desperate.
“No one in this world, so far as I know … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” Mencken wrote that in 1926 — but he might as well have been writing about Trump in 2015.
It’s tempting to sneer at the good, salt-of-the-earth people who are fooled by Donald Trump. Resist the urge. Love the sinner, hate the sin, as they say. If I’m being honest, I can imagine a younger version of myself being seduced by Trump. But then, I put away childish things. And, along the way, I observed how populist demagogues manipulate the masses. What Trump is doing isn’t really terribly new. But maybe we need to go through this?
Is it a surprise that a society that values symbolism over substance would enthusiastically support an entertainer? Not if you’ve ever seen Idiocracy. My point is that, in America, we generally get what we deserve. That’s how I made peace with Barack Obama’s election (and re-election), and it’s how I’m grappling with Donald Trump’s continued popularity.
At the risk of sounding elitist and paternalistic, sometimes we have to be allowed to make big mistakes. And sometimes we do learn from them. Sometimes we have to wreck that car, break up with that sweet girl, throw that wild party when our parents are out of town — all mistakes I’ve made — so we can grow wiser.
But the key is to allow for small mistakes, while mitigating the potential for catastrophic ones. Sometimes we don’t just wreck the family car; sometimes we die in a fiery car crash. (It’s unclear yet which example might best describe a President Trump administration.)