Why Is Trump So Bombastic?
The answer to this question is pretty simple: Because the established political order is so fragile. To explain.
Dissatisfaction – to say the least – abounds in the U.S. Large majorities of people tell pollsters that they no longer trust “their” government. These majorities are so large, the dissatisfaction so intense, that the legitimacy of the established political order – namely, that represented by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama and which may be called our national security state – is endangered. It might even, as did the Soviet Union some thirty years ago, topple over and disappear.
Something needed to be done and, low and behold, “the Donald,” who is promising to “make America great again,” appears. Why is this, why is he appealing? Well, first, this is what most Americans wish for, a restoration of “greatness.” There are few, very few Americans either among the liberals or the conservatives, who question whether greatness is desirable. They don’t question it because for them it means, allegedly, more security and more prosperity. They don’t realize, for example, that it was the pursuit of a restored greatness after World War II that led the French to defeat in Vietnam and Algeria. For these Americans, greatness is the thing, even the one thing that a nation should pursue. And they certainly don’t consider that our dissatisfaction stems from this pursuit.
And, second, one way or another, Trump will restore our greatness. He is doing it rhetorically ala’ his bombastic speech at the UN the other day, as well as by his blatant nationalism that makes it seem that the US need not be fearful and should act as it wants to act. This is why Trump’s bombast, despite its shrillness, resonates with so many – because it is rhetoric of the strong, of the powerful, announcing that “Yes, the US is back! And we will take names and kick ass!”
Another way Trump’s rhetoric restores America’s greatness is by reinforcing the myth, the story that the US became great by wielding its power freely, by asking quarter of no other nations, by taking what we wanted, the best part of Mexico, the Northwest territories, Hawai’i, the Philippines, the Panama Canal, Alaska, as well as markets throughout the Far East and even Europe, even while waging and winning not one but two “world wars” almost single-handedly. That is, for all of his alleged and self-proclaimed radicalness, Trump’s appeal rests on an overwhelmingly conventional and unexceptional view of American history. So, while he claims he wants to “drain the swamp” that is D.C., he actually thinks that that “swamp” was once the home of “super heroes.” Trump is so conventional that his thought relies on a comic book version of American history. Hence, the popularity of what seems at first glance to be his “outlandishness.”
Thus, Trump’s bombast works because there is very little in it that is radical. Despite being shrill, being bombastic and seeming to be unconventional, Trump is merely the latest version of Ronald Reagan, who took us driving on coastal highways while it was morning once again in America. Such “greatness” asserted is, as Reagan promised, greatness assured. And in this way, just as with Reagan, Trump’s alleged “restoration” of America’s greatness will be indistinguishable from reinforcing the status quo.