Trump World: A World of Losers
Below is a link to an op-ed that appeared in the NY Times, written by Frank Bruni, arguing that Donald Trump has an “existential pickle,” which he put himself in by using the term “loser” to describe his rivals and others with whom he disagrees. Bruni argues that this puts Trump in a position where he cannot lose without actually destroying his campaign. Once he becomes a “loser,” as he might by finishing second in Iowa, Trump is, Bruni thinks, finished.
There are at least two interesting aspects to Bruni’s column. First, he doesn’t seem to understand that the term “loser” as Trump uses it does not refer to actual events or whether a person is successful or not. For example, as Bruni points out, Bill Maher, Howard Stern, and Karl Rove are “losers” in “Trump world” and all three are and have been quite successful. No, for Trump, the concept of “loser” refers to character, to what a person is rather than to what a person does, to whether a person is successful or not. So, if Trump finishes second in Iowa, he doesn’t become, as Bruni thinks he will become, a “loser” because Trump, by self definition, isn’t a “loser” and cannot become one because he happens to be unsuccessful in a particular event or at a moment of time. “Losers” are losers whether they win or lose and “winners” are winners whether they lose or win, at least in Trump World.
But there is another aspect to Bruni’s column that, to me, is even more interesting, viz., that it is devoid of any criticism, sustained criticism, of Trump’s politics. As this is not unique to Bruni, as others quite frequently criticize Trump’s tone or his abrasiveness rather than his politics, this should give one pause to wonder why. Could it be that Trump’s politics aren’t as far from the mainstream as some want to think and, so, those in the mainstream, those who embrace mainstream politics like Bruni, cannot offer any sustained critique of Trump’s politics? Could it be that his politics makes Trump rather impervious to criticism, just as it was his politics that made Ronald Reagan the “teflon president,” as he was so often described? Both were much more mainstream than their critics realized, who then attributed to them a special something that protected them from meaningful criticisms.
Insofar as this makes any sense, it would mean that we need to question, to subject to criticism, sustained criticism, our mainstream politics. Could it be, as reflected by Trump’s success and his rhetoric, that our politics is best described as “mainstream extremism?” That would make for an interesting situation.