Donald Trump realized that he needed to tamp down the heat of his campaign going into last week, not to forestall violence or do the right thing but for a very specific tactical reason. He is on the brink of securing the Republican nomination. But to have a nomination that is worth anything he needs at least the acquiescence of GOP party stakeholders. He told us as much. Thus the repeated calls to unity, the more sedate debate performance and even the rather bizarre invocations of the 'two Donald Trumps.' But that's not how it's ended up. And it's important to consider why.And then, as we saw, protesters confronted him and, well, he just couldn't help himself -- instead of coming off as a seemingly moderate general election candidate, he encouraged violence and whipped up an extraordinary amount of resentment in his voter base.
As I noted after last Thursday's Republican debate, Trump was notably more subdued and (to use that comically nonsensical adjective) presidential, particularly toward his rivals and with regard to mainstream Republican issue touch points. But he was the same Trump on two issues - protestor beatings and Muslims.
Marshall argues that Trump just can't stop, because "the cycle of reaction, revanche and provocation seems to be operating within Trump himself." He cites yesterday's New York Times article about the years Trump has spent nursing an unfulfilled desire to be a person of consequence in politics, a desire that's been met until now with frustration -- yes, Mitt Romney sought him out for an endorsement, but he wouldn't let Trump take questions at a press conference, and as the nominee he wouldn't let Trump have a prime time speaking slot at the convention. The Times story also stresses the humiliation of the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, at which Trump was mocked by President Obama, who'd just released his long-form birth certificate, and who was just about to announce the death of Osama bin Laden.
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.I think there's a lot to what Marshall says here. Trump resents the Kenyan Muslim socialist usurper for attaining the position to which Trump feels he's entitled. So he's not faking this resentment -- it's real, and his voters respond to it because it resembles what they're feeling.
But I don't think it's the same. Trump is a very rich man, and his resentment is a rich man's resentment. It reminds me of the anger that's driven a number of his fellow rich people to denounce Obama-era economic anger as the equivalent of Nazism -- remember?
Ken Langone, a major GOP donor, was among "the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation" who spoke to Politico for a piece published Tuesday and titled "The rich strike back."See also the Koch brothers, whose holy war against even moderately redistributive government programs continues, even though their net worth has more than doubled -- from $19 billion to $41 billion -- in the Obama years. Also see Roger Ailes, whose TV programming seems driven by an ongoing hatred of (fellow) elitists who happen not to share his political views.
“I hope it’s not working,” Langone told Politico, referring to populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”
... Langone had already been beat to the punch by Tom Perkins, the wealthy venture capitalist whose letter to the Wall Street Journal that called liberals' efforts to reduce income inequality a "progressive Kristallnacht" sparked a firestorm earlier this year.
Because they win so often in their lives, many rich and powerful men simply can't tolerate the small percentage of people who refuse to genuflect before them. The laws favor them 99% of the time, but they can't stand it that 1% of the time the laws aren't written their way. They have power, but they want all the power. They lord it over most people, but they want to lord it over everybody.
That's what Trump is acting out. Yes, he has some of the same enemies as his non-rich voter base, and he hates them for some of the same reasons. But his anger comes from a different source. Marshall is right to suggest that it's bone deep and that Trump is going to have a hard time making nice in the general election campaign; I think that's going to be the fatal flaw of his campaign. But I don't think Trump's resentments are the same as those of his voters. They feel they've had a moderate level of status and that the people taking it away from them are immigrants and non-whites. Trump thinks he's being denied a Putin level of power that he, as a superior being, deserves. The culprits are often the same. But Trump's resentments are deluxe.