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We need to stop making fun of Donald Trump.

June 20, 2015


Perhaps I should re-phrase that.  We need to change the way we make fun of Donald Trump.  Because the way most people make fun of him is doing him no end of good.  He’s loving it.  Most of the ways of making fun of him are like breakfast in bed on a silver platter as far as he’s concerned.  They set him up for the day.  Because he’s already written the script.

In a bold post Bourdieuian gesture of self-refashioning, Trump represents the calculated divestiture of taste, or cultural capital.  Born into money, he dresses up as a self made man.  By looking so terrible, he projects the message – “if someone who looks as horrible as me can make it – so can you?”  Remember those debates between Dubya Bush and John Kerry?  They were both born into very wealthy families and both received expensive educations.  But because Dubya looked as though he’d not benefited one iota from such an education, he looked like less of a snob.  And won.  Trump dresses up as the new kid on the block.  Who now owns the block.  The guy whose bad mannered bling offends snobbish vested interests.  Even though he’s never been anything other than a vested interest.

Trump was born into a very wealthy family and inherited millions.  Furthermore, his father’s wealth derived in no small part from federal funding during the depression which helped to fund the senior Trump’s house building efforts.  He invested in property during a bull market – arguably the laziest and least entrepreneurial way of increasing your wealth imaginable.  If there’s any skill at all in this endeavour, it’s in knowing when a crash is coming and getting out in time.  This skill, Donald Trump did not possess, and he lost vast sums, losing them, furthermore, with a kind of sang froid that only inherited wealth can manage.  Yet this is the man who can publish a best-selling book called How to Get Rich.

Why is Trump running for President?  He knows he’s not going to win, doesn’t he?  Well – that’s probably not the point.  He wouldn’t know what to do with the job if he ever got it.  What he wants to do is to demonstrate that he can afford to run. When you’ve enough money to gratify every appetite known to humanity and not enough hours left in the day or years left in your life to gratify them then it becomes important to find a new way to waste money.  Essentially, Trump, like other very very rich people, gets a significant thrill of publicising the fact that he can basically set fire to millions of dollars without noticing it while many people are perishing for want of a few dollars to purchase food and shelter.

This is a very aristocratic attitude to money, and informs a very traditional blue-blooded attitude to gambling.  Those with a sense of lifelong inherited privilege regard it as a pleasure and a responsibility to throw money away carelessly.  The few, the very few, the getting even fewer – who actually manage to work their way up from the gutter to a position of wealth, would never make hopeless run for the Presidency like Trump because they got where they are by knowing the value of money.

The Trump presidential bid wouldn’t matter – would be little more than an amusing sideshow – were it not for the fact that what Trump is buying and selling is a hyper-inflated version of the myth of meritocratic capitalism.  The world is going to hell in a handbasket at an accelerating rate because of the twisted and demonstrably false notion that those who are making all the terrible decisions got to make those decisions as a result of years of hard work and imagination.  Donald Trump’s shrill declaration that “anyone can do it” obscures the fact that our political masters, having shown the drive and initiative to exit the right sort of birth canal, have been screwing up ever since.  If the sort of people who wield economic and consequent political power are allowed to get away with claiming that they deserve to wield that power, then the planet will boil away into space even quicker than current projections suggest.

I’m a reasonable man.  Of course we’re going to keep making fun of Donald Trump – but can we change the focus?  No more the boor, the vulgarian, the brash swaggerer with the horrible hair.  Every snarky comment along those lines boosts his self esteem and strengthens his political influence.  Trump is passing himself as a “self made man” and he shouldn’t be allowed to.  We need to call him for what he is – an arrogant and strangely typical representative of an increasingly entrenched hereditary oligarchy.


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