Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Trump Store

The other day I was driving down River Road to go for a walk along Tonawanda Creek (this is in Western New York), and I spotted a "Trump Store" trailer full of Trump paraphernalia. This was my second sighting of it. I was mostly amused upon my first sighting, when the trailer was sitting there sadly by the river without any shoppers. But the other day, when I arrived to take a few snarky photos, there was a handful of shoppers. After five minutes, the cars started to roll in and a pretty long line developed, with shoppers ranging in age from about 8 to 80. 

Of course I was amazed that people were flocking to buy Trump gear on a not-terribly-busy street in a blue state after 3.5 years of continued mismanagement, especially now that he is at peak incompetence. Aren't the shoppers bothered by the 140,000+ dead, his bungled response to the George Floyd protests, or the economy in ruins, not to mention all the other stuff we've had to put up with? If I was a Trump supporter, I'd have a paper bag over my head, and yet here they were, showing their loyalty in open view, as if supporting a wannabe fascist is nothing to be embarrassed about. They were in line to buy flags of Trump gallantly standing on top of a charging tank, or signs that read "Keep Impeach-o-crats Whining" and "Trump 2020: No More Bullshit"--this last one the most galling, as Trump is the biggest bullshitter of them all, having just surpassed 20,000 false or misleading claims since he assumed office, according to Washington Post fact-checkers. (1)

But I chose to write this to wonder rather than to moan. What is it about us, or what is it about Trump, that would lead to a Trump store? There likely has never been an Angela Merkel store, nor a Boris Johnson one. Or a W. Bush or an Obama trailer. In North Carolina, I see so many (rather giant) "Trump 2020" flags. I don't recall seeing any Romney 2012 or Obama 2012 flags... I've had four years to read and think about this guy and yet I'm still mystified and grasping for explanations about why someone would be interested in wearing one of his hats. Yes, I'm troubled that people are still worshipping this guy after four years of nonsense, but it'd also be troubling if people were buying his shirts on Day One. And that's because it's unhealthy and dangerous (and unmanly I might add) to deify another man. 

My only guess is that American politics has become too religious, and I mean "religious" not in a Christian way, but in a broader monotheistic way. Our party is our church, and our leader is our messiah. This was as true for Obama as it is for Trump (though Obama's supporters retained their capacity for criticism, scrutiny, and ultimately apostasy). 

Politics doesn't have to be religious. Germany hasn't had a messiah politician in 75 years, and the U.K., perhaps due to the continued presence of the royal family, is unwilling to deify just another PM.
Part of me just wants American politics to be boring and led by competent and faceless civil servants. Let's get our rowdy entertainment from sports, telenovelas, and professional wrestling, not politics. But I just don't see how you can win an election without either inspiring or broadcasting a message of hope or doom. I can't imagine a quiet leader (a "Silent Cal") ever getting into office again, not when you need to compel 60+ million people to get off their sofas and vote for you. And when the country does have a lot of problems I suppose there's something natural about placing all your hope in an Obama or a Trump to singlehandedly fix them. Perhaps Biden, who's running on a few simple messages of returning to a better normal, is a healthy step away from our messiah complex. But this complex won't go away until the roots of our despair are pulled up, and I don't think they will be anytime soon. 


Scott said...

I'm reminded about a prediction of the future . . . that people will be in a perpetual state of sickness because medical care will continue its steady progress upward of diagnosing more illnesses and doing so earlier.

The progress of civilization will march on, but the awareness of societal ills will make people think we're sicker than we ever have been.

How many confederate statues and flags were removed during Obama's presidency? How many people knew then what they know now about the plight of people driving while black? The fight for rights that gay people had a decade ago are now the fight trans people have today.

Progress isn't linear, and it's not guaranteed, but as the ills of society are diagnosed with ever greater accuracy, we get a chance to be healthier.

Joey said...

I came across one of these on the VA/TN state line before the last election. What struck me about it was how it was clearly a carnie's operation. Calibrated exactly to rope in a certain caliber of sucker, whose mindset the proprietor understood deeply, and had tuned it for over a period of time.