Trump doesn’t use his supporters, they use him for their own enjoyment. They cheer his brutality, cruelty, racism, and hatefulness at every rally. He owns the libs and they can’t stand the libs. In a very real way Trump’s worst flaws are what his followers enjoy most, which is why pointing out his flaws never seems to work.
This is also why people like Joe Biden are so hard to elect. He’s basically decent. It’s boring. There’s no enjoyment in watching Biden, except maybe in the anticipation of a gaffe. Trump’s success is built on basically the same principle as the Roman Colosseum. People love to see blood. Give them enough blood and they’ll ignore how bad he is at this job, and how his policies go against his followers self-interests.
Pay attention to when Trump’s crowd cheers. Tax cuts? Trade deals? Policy? … meh. But when he rails against the libs, blames immigrants, spews hatred, promises vengeance, and champions violence the crowd goes wild. That his policies go against their own interests actually adds to their enjoyment, and here’s why.
For most of his supporters, it’s very important that Trump should never really follow thru on the worst of his threats. This is crucial. It’s sort of like WWE: the act can never become fully real, fully realized. If Trump actually locked her up, it might provide a little momentary pleasure for a few of his followers, but most of them would be disturbed. It would ruin their enjoyment of the game. They don’t want anything truly bad to happen, which is part of why they reject the mainstream media, and refuse to accept the horrible things Trump actually is doing as real.
Now, here’s the thing…
The anti-Trump crowd is playing nearly the exact same game, only on the other side. Those who vehemently oppose Trump, get a similar kind of enjoyment from Trump’s awfulness, a feeling of superiority that, when coupled with their inability to make him stop, allows them to keep playing along with the same game. (I fully admit to being part of this). Inject Trump’s opposition with truth serum and many would have to admit their biggest fear is that he’ll suddenly transform into a kind and decent human being. This would wreck his opposition, and ruin their (mostly unconscious) enjoyment of the game.
It doesn’t matter, though, because Trump is never going to change. This fact turns out to be important. Their sense of helplessness to stop Trump doing the awful things he does (kids in cages, porn-star payoffs, stoking racial conflict, destructive policies, corruption and grifting) creates real anxiety in his opposition. They feel his cruelty on a personal, emotional level, and they can’t understand how Trump-fan can ignore the pain. But Trump’s fans don’t feel the pain. They’re watching FOXnews and have no idea what he’s really doing.
The two groups are having two completely separate and totally different experiences with regard to Donald Trump.
So, the anti-Trump anxiety does two things at once. It builds desire in the anti-Trump crowd to see Trump fallen. That’s why exposing his flaws, talking about them, hashing and rehashing his awfulness can almost seem like a fixation or addiction. At the same time, however, this fixation creates even more enjoyment for the MAGA crowd (this is where the “F-your feelings” and “I drink your liberal tears” memes come from).
The result is a situation in which the more Trump’s malefactions are exposed, the more enjoyment his followers get, and the more anxiety his detractors feel, building desire for both. This desire is only accelerating and becoming more extreme and dangerous. This isn’t a game at all.
We’re riding in a suicide machine.
The result is Trump’s ability to suck up all the oxygen in the culture. He’s a never-ending crack hit of what Lacan called jouissance (the enjoyment of being denied). By meeting this deep psychological need for those who love him and those who hate him, Trump has become nearly un-opposable.
For Trump’s part, I am not the first to point out that his desire is primal (somebody to love him and say they are proud of him because his father was a jerk). Yet, he can never let himself receive the acceptance he longs for, even from the MAGA crowd. If he accepted their adoration as a substitute for his father’s love, then he would lose the desire that fuels his entire life. He needs the conflict. He gets off on it.
The scary part is Trump is not a well person. His endless desire, coupled with his father’s fortune and abuse, has morphed into a malignant narcissism that feeds on this suicide machine. His complete lack of morality or wisdom, of any kind of shame or decency, means that there are no guardrails, no limits to what he will do in order to keep this game going. Trump will gladly burn our entire society to the ground in order to meet his own bottomless pit of need.
I know. It’s grim.
There’s only one way to move forward and everyone with an ounce of maturity knows exactly what it is: we have to move past Donald Trump together. If your cause is righteous — left or right — then it doesn’t need Donald Trump. If your intentions are good, then Trump can only thwart them.
Moving past Trump will require mature people of goodwill on both sides coming together and agreeing we need to wean off this crack-pipe, step down our addictions, and move on with our lives. We have to lay down our arms, take a step back, show Trump the door, and find a new way to carry on together.
This will require a willingness to depose not only Trump, but all of those — left and right — who gain power or make money off the Trump suicide machine. Both sides will have to give up some of their need to be right, their need for power.
In place of our desire for another hit from Trump’s suicide machine, we need to foment a new desire … a deeper desire for domestic peace and tranquility, a desire for a return to normalcy, a desire to shore up our democracy and the ties of brother and sisterhood that unite us all.