The Republican national convention, seething with rage and contempt (“Make America Hate Again,” as The New York Times put it) provides a grand lesson in tribalism. The Trump Republicans have an intense distrust, even dislike, for any kind of unifying body, such as the United Nations, or the European Union, even the United States as, say, the founders envisioned it. Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
Not any more. No way.
Their distaste is based on tribalism; they have the perception that they are like others of their own special party or persuasion ‒ and unlike everyone else.
Their leaders, such as Donald Trump, layer on the myth that they and their followers are on common ground, share the same values, drink at the same bar, eat at the same table. It’s mistaken, just as their perception and disparagement of “big government” and “federal intrusion” is mistaken.
The notion that the wage earners and the retired, the farmers and veterans and other frustrated GOP delegates have more in common with Trump, a billionaire celebrity real estate baron, than the working class poor or the middle class wage earner or struggling graduate student, borders the delusional.
And yet, somehow, any fellowship with other disadvantaged or disenfranchised citizens is forsaken for alliance with a man who has built a fortune talking other people out of their money. He has merely converted citizens’ fear and resentment to issues, and is busy talking them out of their money and their votes. These delegates, from the conservative wards and precincts of middle America, believe they have much in common with a one-percenter who lives in a $100 million penthouse 66 floors above Manhattan, New York, when he is not lounging at his $200 million estate in Palm Beach ‒ and for whom helicopter is a verb. The disconnect is massive.
Donald Trump has succeeded in creating common ground where there is none, a presumption of shared values that echoes 1930s Louisiana under the demagogue Huey Long, or 1960s Mississippi and Ross Barnett, or 2016 England after Brexit with its absentee landlord, Boris Johnson. What will we call America after Trump, and who will pick up the pieces and mend the fences? Sarah Palin? Ted Cruz? Anyone?
‒ JOHN MARSHALL