Mocking Trump? Not Working, part II
Below is a link to an article in today’s NY Times entitled “Why We Must Make a Mockery of Trump,” by Howard Jacobson. I read it with some disbelief and that disbelief turned to scorn as I thought about Jacobson’s argument. I apologize for the scorn but it cannot be helped. Here’s why.
Well, if you want to make a mockery of Trump, go right ahead. Only it won’t undermine Trump. Rather, it will only make his stronger.
Consider what happened when Hillary Clinton labeled a sizeable portion of Trump’s supporters “deplorables.” At best, her charge fell flat and at worst it did more to damage Hillary than it did to damage Trump, except of course for those who already thought of Trump’s supporters as deplorable, thoughtless reactionaries.
Why didn’t Hillary’s broadside work? Why won’t mocking Trump work? Because both the broadside and the mocking of Trump fail to take account of the fact that both Trump and his supporters, both of whom can be labeled “insurgents,” are responding to a political setting that lends support to their politics because the established political order lacks legitimacy. The established political order has lost its claim to legitimacy by virtue of its all-too-obvious flaws and defects.
Simply “dissing” his supporters or mocking Trump gets you nowhere because they are responding to this setting and their response, however unacceptable to many people, is not unwarranted. Some response is needed to replace the now de-legitimized established political order. And if one is content to mock, without offering an alternative to Trump’s politics, then, weirdly enough, this just strengthens the insurgency. They have a politics and all you have is mockery. Guess who wins?
To defeat insurgents, it is necessary to either co-opt them – as Hillary tried to do with the “Sandernistas” at the Democratic national convention, with only partial success – or to provide a political alternative to their insurgency. Co-optation with the “Trumpsters” won’t work because for them that is surrender. And like any politically committed people, the “Trumpsters” would prefer defeat to surrender because then they can “live to fight another day,” ala’ the Goldwaterites after their crushing defeat in the presidential election of 1964. Remember Ronald Reagan?
And, apparently, so far the Democrats have no alternative to Trump’s politics or they are unwilling to embrace the alternatives that are available, such as that represented by Sanders and his “Sandernistas.” I suspect it is the latter more than the former. But in any case, this is really too bad because it means that Trump and his followers will continue to occupy the positions of power and all the “dissing” of his followers and the mocking of Trump himself will not unseat them.