To answer the irksome questions — why Trump? why this year? why no implosion? — we need to look beyond his inane pontifications and instead unpack his entire surreal, demagogic narrative formula. How do his nearly content-free tirades, layering liberal-sounding feints to coarsely rehashing beaten down social wedges, bring life to sound bite corpses? With impassioned, unsubtle overkill, Trump executes what other politicians ignore: that coherent, shock-and-awe storylines, however off the wall, penetrate angry hearts better than preachy politics-as-usual win over befuddled minds.
Like all fuming prophets, Trump badmouths the facade of corruption while sneering loudly at huge majorities taken in by decades of chicanery (“what morons elected those yahoos?”). He then pushes the “America stinks” theme home with self-made melodrama, teeming with lurid antagonists: immigrant criminals, spineless, lying opponents, sneaky minorities, nasty foreigners, dismally-inept leaders, entrenched elites, plus all losers, protesters, and Trump critics. Here are the extremist Enemies List reborn, victimizing innocent “good people” starring the flawless Trump, his staff, his voters and rally fanatics from Palin’s “true America,” alongside the few benighted celebrity cohorts still talking to him.
This Trump storyline is grossly materialistic, positing great wealth alone endows his “trust me” wonderfulness. That such blunt, low-brow, billionaire arrogance mesmerizes his far less affluent marks as honest “straight-talk” is the first breakthrough in Trump malarky. That the mic-friendly, faux spontaneity of the TV con man conveys “genuineness,” despite torrents of lies, distortion and cheap shots, finalizes the one-two, sell-through punch in the gut.
It’s the Storyline, Stupid!
The outcome, for the nation’s most aggrieved one-sixth, is testimony to Donald’s genius for acid smoke and broken mirrors. After all, his monkey grinder has dished out equally-mindless, smirking story lines, like birtherism, for years. Except that this year, facing a mere 16 party “losers,” Trump’s faux outrage is the perfect hook for insurgents dying to tar and feather empowered party snakes. Talk about buyers’ remorse: the “kill the incumbents” war cry resounds from the same crazies who empowered extremism.
Unpacking how Trump’s pandering narrative works offers far more leverage than isolating individual fictions and falsehoods, delusions and mockery.The Trump clown show dramatizes simple-minded themes with fake suspense (America, on the edge) and cartoon characters (reduced to nicknames like “lyin’ Ted”). His authoritarian disgust and shaming counter his evil cast of enemies (high and low) and the inexhaustible, insurgent anger against the status quo.
Bingo, the solution could not be more obvious: elevate the honest, selfless Trump, master of the universe, who knows first-hand all the dirty tricks. How else does this hustler pull off his preposterous con — in which an elitist, billionaire publicity hound speaks for disgruntled masses — despite stardom in the rich and famous gang he now harshly berates? Beyond irony is the utter suspension of disbelief.
Bad Fables Vs. Stock Verbiage
Every other politician today declaims with high-minded speeches, preachy enough to express higher values and uplifting proposals. Conventional types shun shock carnival entertainment and blatantly paranoid mendacity (Cruz aside), talking up their records, career, dreams and goals. Born for the microphone, Trump’s phony spontaneity relies instead on his cult of smirking personality powered by tall tales. Propaganda need not be rational or realistic to corral multitudes awash in confusion and despair. Trump fables purposely, indeed belligerently hold testable reality in contempt. His autocratic mission is to convert the mob to his private cult, not encourage questions, thought, or analysis. Buy the con, buy the con artist.
Every campaigner rails against the insufferable status quo, without which there’d be no urgency. Why else promise to restore greatness by “taking back our country”? What Trump brings to the party is a novel merger of flimflam, negative prophesy informed with fantastic fables, as if equal to real-world proposals. And his every “solution” is no more than a crude cult of personality, “Trust me, I’m Trump. I’m rich. I know better.”
Knowing better doesn’t mean he knows politics. That’s why Trump need not study programs or policy, even delegate picking. He’s actually an inept amateur, good at one thing: using shock PR to imply wizardry and sell his magical, gold-plated wand. Trump not only has not refined his pitch, like normal polls: he’s coarsened his patter because that works this season of shameless prima donnas (along with Cruz). Who needs wit or subtlety when the peanut gallery cheers pratfalls and farce?
The Prophet of Profits
What Trump’s predatory storyline displays is the ultimate, materialistic demagogue, notably opposite to flocks of spiritual Jeremiahs who call upon grace, higher values or deities to fight evil. Prophesy is naturally apocalyptic, but what distinguishes Trump is the baseness of his cudgel: celebrity and chutzpah tied to bankable profits. Money alone — cash, gelt, lucre — is the Trump deity, the engine behind this prophet of profits. He with the most gold should make the rules and dominate the peasants.
Trump’s personal god recapitulates Mammon, Lord of Accumulation, celebrated in Wikipedia for “gluttony, excessive materialism, greed, and unjust worldly gain.” Mammon is depicted with eyes cast down, hunting that lost coin or gold nugget, certain like Trump real (estate) value rises from below, not descends from above. A Trump without treasure is not only an ex-billionaire, but a joke sans megaphone. Or as Brett Arends re-imagines a Trump Jesus, “Storing up your treasures in Heaven is for losers, because a man’s life consisteth solely in the abundance of the things he possesseth.”
Thus, let’s blast past the Politifact mindset — the point is not truth or confirmation but self-promotion (thus the DT whining, victim poseur). He who fabricates his own world cares not a whit what others denigrate as lying. Existence for reality TV stars is only a game, thus the propaganda for a false god (Trump) and absurd promises (infinite jobs behind that no cost wall). A true prophet connects with suffering outside himself: Trump suffers only when “unfair” arrows mortify his brittle narcissism.
Phony Art of the Phony Deal
Trump the Prophet of Profits will fix everything with his distorted business management model. Thus, big shots like Carl Icahn are glorified, having conquered fellow predators: the world is no more complex than building a hotel, doing a deal, or stomping on competitors. Who better knows how to exploit mere politicians and human resources than fat cat winners full of themselves?
That’s why Trump never rewrites his discredited themes and stories. If one fable fails, just create another; no independent creative genius must “correct” now outdated falsifications. Reality for Trumpsters comes down to only what they believe (like religious fundamentalists). Climate change is a hoax because he says so. Trump’s bad art smacks of the didactic sermon, spouting self-serving messages that defy all other views as corrupt.
In contrast, great novelists honor complexity, thus fictional worlds are fabricated not to deceive but entertain, enlighten, even expand consciousness. Good writing lifts the world of imagination for higher purposes; propaganda is dishonest, predatory storytelling, feasting on the lower self (fears, biases, and anxieties) while pushing voters to undermine their best interest.
Indict the Lying Storyteller
A demagogue is thus a deceptive narrator whose conserves power, profit, or control. Trump is an intellectual reductionist, entrapping the less worldly, less educated (who should flee his immorality). Plus, Trump is an intellectual fascist, pitching his racist scapegoating of immigrants to insular, misinformed, non-college folks struggling against changing times. Even the Donald’s rare backpedaling represents another con, conceding minor flaws to obscure far greater infamy.
As a standup, off the cuff entertainer, Trump’s great strength is strutting forth his persona as magician — the singular billionaire without hidden agenda, whose peerless negotiating prowess is gifted to all at no cost, his unselfish sacrifice to make America great again. The only way to defeat such a crock is a sustained public assault on his entire narrative form, a tissue of deceptions whose “plot” is all about surpassing the last whopper. Focus on the formulas and creepy assumptions, not just lying details.
Trump succeeds until sufficient critical mass unmasks his entire sham narrative as calculated predation, rife with contradictions, violent fulminations, and racist dog whistles. That comes when his “spontaneous” slew of nonsense is unmasked as nothing more than self-absorbed, twisted billionaire vanity. One defeats an immoral storyteller first by exposing the corrosive storyline, then the nasty, arrogant charlatan who presumes his black magic can gain him the riches of the White House.