Tribal Trump

Tribal Trump December 21, 2015

Kim R. Holmes argues in an essay at Public Discourse that “The Donald is very much a child of contemporary American culture, including its multicultural offshoot, identity politics. Although he rejects the leftist ideology of multiculturalism, especially the hypersensitivity of political correctness, he is operating well within its value system. He actually represents a new hybrid version of it—a mirror image, if you will, of the very culture he claims to despise.”

That is to say, Trump is a tribalist: “He advances without apology or qualification the interests and values of his supporters. As a group, they possess the identity of people put-upon by their opponents. It may not be correct to say they are all one ethnic group, although many are indeed white; but it is true that Trump’s ‘tribe,’ regardless of its demography, identifies with him as one of their own because of his unique political style. Like members of the politically correct left, Trump and his supporters see themselves as immune from criticism not because of the strength of their arguments, but because of the distinctive characteristics of ‘who they are.’ They are defined by their grievances.”

Holmes sees other features of Trump’s persona and candidacy through the lens of contemporary culture. He represents the apotheosis of the “me” generation, the triumph of unfiltered authenticity, the adherence to broad narrative that trumps specific facts. 

This means that however much Trump seems to his supporters to be a solution to our cultural dilemmas, he is in fact the opposite: ‘‘He invokes atavistic notions of a pre-multicultural, ethnically pure America; but when it comes to weaving conspiracies, he’s no different from President Obama, who believes the National Rifle Association is behind the high murder rates in America. Obama and the multicultural left have, in fact, given the whole country an excuse—a cultural permission slip—to be paranoid. Since liberals seem to believe it is acceptable to indulge in conspiracy theories when it suits their cause, they should not be surprised that Trump’s fans are doing the same thing.‘‘


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