After close to a week of dithering, Jared Kushner allowed Trump to stage a publicity stunt, where he waddled out of the White House down to the church the looters had burned the other night. In front of the cameras, Trump held up a Bible and said some things. They said it symbolized national resilience to the mob violence that is engulfing the nation’s cities. In reality, it was the perfect image for a presidency that is nothing more than live action role playing.
Trump holding up a Bible is as ridiculous as Democrats talking about the Constitution and the rule of law. Trump is famously not religious. His life has been one of hedonism and self-regard. He does not attend services and breaks into hives whenever he has to speak about religion. There’s a good chance he was worried that he may be struck by lightning out there. It was the sort of highly choreographed political stunt that symbolizes everything that people hate about democracy.
That said, it will work with the plan-trusters. Scott Greer took to Twitter to announce that Trump saved his re-election campaign. Lots of his fellow plan-trusters seem to agree, at least for now. Way back in the election of 2016, Trump said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” He took some grief for that at the time, but he was right. For his supporters, Trump is a vehicle through which they experience an alternative reality.
Under Trump, a new form of fantasy game has emerged. This new game is where Trump voters, and those adjacent, rush to social media in a crisis and start posting about “what Trump should do…” It’s followed by what is often a sensible suggestion, but one that will never happen. Then a long back and forth of various strategies about what he should do ensues. Sometimes Trump will goose this along with some tweets that are designed to encourage this form of role playing.
Of course, Trump never does anything. He’ll tweet out some outrage porn to the Left and make some vague threats, but otherwise he is all talk and no action. Right now, for example, he and President Kushner are trying to figure out how to win back the six black votes they were counting on this November. Now that “lowest black unemployment in history” has proven to be something less than the inspirational message they assumed, it is back to the drawing board.
In lieu of action, these internet fantasies fill the void left in these voter’s minds. They get to pretend that Trump will actually do something other than laugh at them. They look at Trump awkwardly holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Church and imagine it is a great moment where the country rallies around their hero. They get the same rush from the make believe as they would from the real. Trump pretending to do whatever it is he is promising is the same as Trump actually doing something.
In fact, they often believe it is real. Talk to a true-blue MAGA type and they will tell you Trump has clamped down on immigration and is now “draining the swamp.” If you point out the facts, they will call you a “libtard” and refuse to discuss it further. For example, many of these people not only think he is building the wall, but that it is already built, which why he no longer discuss it. The fantasy version of the Trump presidency is so fulfilling it has supplanted the real Trump presidency.
This is a form of false consciousness. Instead of workers unable to understand class reality and their own exploitation, it is white conservatives unable to process their diminished status in America. In the real world, they are at the bottom of the social hierarchy, slowly being eliminated from society. In the fantasy realm, they are still the top dogs. In the fantasy version of Trump, he is one of them, acting on behalf of their interests, when in reality, he is a tool of the ruling class.
An interesting off-shoot of this is that when you can get a Trump supporter to acknowledge that he has done nothing for them, they switch tracks. He stops being the God-Emperor and becomes Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. He is the sincere reformer being thwarted by the corrupt machine. In an instant, the main character in the fantasy goes from omnipotent leader to impotent victim. Trump fighting Washington is just another version of the fantasy.
Both sides of this fantasy have one thing in common. There is an unspoken, instinctive contempt for democracy. In the God-Emperor mode, Trump is issuing edicts and imposing his will on the nation. In the tragic hero version, the will of the people is thwarted by a corrupt system. In both versions, voting and debating, the core of democracy, have no role. One version is the hero slaying democracy and the other version is the hero being slain by democracy.
This form of false consciousness is not exclusive to Trump fans. His enemies now engage in their own fantasies. They imagine him as Orange Hitler and they carry on as if he really is a dictator. Further, they will convince themselves that Joe Biden is reversing all of Orange Hitler’s polices, once he is in the White House. Within days of Biden taking office, they will pretend Biden has swept aside all of the things they spent four years pretending Trump was doing.
The difference is that with the Left, they expect the fantasy to be made real and they get angry when it fails to happen. We saw this in the Obama years. They really did think he was the prophesied messiah, who would usher in a new era. As the reality of his administration became too hard to ignore, the Left got mad. When Trump won in 2016, they got super-agitated and have remained so ever since. The current round of riots are just a carryover from the disappointment of the Obama years.
For the normie right, anger and rioting are off the table, so they will continue to indulge in the fantasy game that is the Trump presidency. He will continue to monitor the situation and consider doing things. Maybe a symbolic executive order will be tossed in for effect. Meanwhile, his base will invent scenarios in which he drains the swamp and owns the libs. The less he does, the deeper the fantasy. Trump is the first virtual President, playing a role for the amusement of his voters.
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