Monday, March 14, 2016

Why Trump Can't Pivot

Josh Marshall on why the furies he let loose in the GOP primaries will follow Donald Trump on Talking Points Memo.

It may seem like I'm saying that Trump lit the fire but is now unable to put it out. But I'm not. It's not that simple. What we can see now is that Trump can try to 'pivot to the general'. But the primaries will follow him there whether he wants them to or not. Trump saw the tactical need to shift gears, as many of his fair weather supporters and opponents expected he would. But the momentum of events proved stronger. At a deeper level still, the cycle of reaction, revanche and provocation seems to be operating within Trump himself.

Yesterday I noted this article in the Times which looked at the backstory to Trump's presidential campaign. This wasn't just Trump's once a decade flirt with running for President, finally taking the plunge. It was a product of a half decade in the making quest to gain power and respect in the world of politics. According to the Times, Trump's humiliation at the hands President Obama and Seth Myers at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2011 played a key role in galvanizing this drive for power and respect. There was the additional irony that this potent confrontation occurred only hours after Obama gave the final okay for the bin Laden compound raid and while he waited to hear the fate of that mission.

We've discussed before that Trump has crystallized and made himself the leader of the revanchist core of the contemporary GOP, a group of people who are overwhelmingly white, largely older and believe that their country and a range of social realities they cherished have been taken away from them. They want both back. Jamelle Bouie writes that "white voters hope Trump will restore the racial hierarchy upended by Barack Obama." I am not sure I would phrase it quite so starkly. But I'm also not sure why I wouldn't. Race is at the core of what we are seeing unfold. Indeed, I've made similar arguments myself. What has only fully come into focus for me over the last week is that Trump is not only leading this but embodies it as well.

Trump was born very rich and ascended on his own to the level of the fantastically rich. He has achieved much but only known levels of privilege and entitlement few of us can imagine. And yet the early embrace of birtherism, the sting of the humiliation at Barack Obama's hands, the palpable psychic energy he derives from ramping up a climate of racial confrontation all suggest he is animated, even driven, by the same rage at upended privilege and cultural and yes racial loss as his followers. All of which is to say that it is not that Trump can't control the beast he's unleashed. He cannot control himself because the same psychodrama and politics of resentment that is playing out among his followers is playing out within himself. Trump can pivot to the general all he wants. But the primaries will follow him there. Indeed, he will bring them.

No comments: