Many of us are counting the days until the President of the United States makes his official exit from the American government. The hope is that a new era is dawning of more civilized humane inclusive equitable governance. And the United States will get on track again to be a more constructive leader of the free world.
To some extent, the basis of this hope is justified. But unlike other American presidents, Trump is not going to simply retire to the sidelines of the game of politics. We must remember that 71,000,000 people voted for him. And they aren’t going to simply disappear into the woodwork. The results of the November election demonstrate this. Even though the Democrats won the two runoff elections in Georgia, they will control the Senate by the slimmest of margins. And contrary to their own pre-election assessments, the Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives. So Trump may be out of office soon, but Trumpian ideas are alive and well, thank you.
Actually, to even name what Trump has to offer as ideas is an undeserved compliment. While there may be some consistent themes in his presidential actions like nationalism and racism, the most consistent theme is unpredictability. And constantly and arbitrarily challenging the status quo. The latter has been particularly present in his last days in office, as he tries to hold onto the presidency through every maneuver he can exercise.
In truth, though, the problem is not just him. Thousands of his followers carried out a violent insurrection on the day that Biden’s election was supposed to be certified. These extremists broke into the Capitol building with guns and rifles and bombs and who knows what else. They did it, because they believe that Trump was cheated out of the presidency. Wonder where they got that idea. Anyway, we are not just talking about the possibility of peaceful demonstrations here. We’re talking about insurrections with armed violence. And Trump, of course, was winking at this the day of Biden’s certification.
Plus, Trump is already talking about running for president again. As are many of his Trumpian followers. So the Trump posture is firmly positioned in the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. But why?
As I have discussed before, the problem with his followers is not simply one of ideology . How much coherent ideology does Trump have anyway? The problem is one of psychology. And one of the main causal factors has nothing to do directly with typical political issues. This factor is the excessive immersion in modern technological living environments and, in particular, modern consumer technology. Even people who live in rural communities in the United States have become totally captivated by the screen reality created by modern consumer technology. Their connection to the organic stimuli of natural environments becomes attenuated as their connection to the screen reality created by modern consumer technology grows. At any rate, people in modern technological society are sinking deeper and deeper into an experiential vacuum that has resulted in people becoming increasingly numb. And because this numbness is experienced as a kind of scary living death where people cease to feel that they have agency over their lives, they try different kinds of compensatory experiences to pull themselves out of the numbness. Experiences with sharp edges to them. Experiences with kicks. Like riding motorcycles and driving race cars. Like going to concerts where the music is so loud, it eventually causes hearing loss. Like opioids. Like experiences with violence as in mass murders. And like Trump. Trump is followed not so much because of the substance of his beliefs. Trump is followed because everything about him is constantly shifting. He takes his followers on a wild ride, as if he were a bucking bronco. He brings people out of their numbness and back to life.
Now as I have shown, Trump is not the only experience available that can pull people out of numbness. But over 70,000,000 people voted for Trump. That’s an awful lot of people who were seduced by his persona. And even if his antics do cause some of his supporters to feel buyers’ remorse, as in the case of the recent insurrection, an awful lot of them will be left. And even if Trump should disappear from the political scene, he has set certain things in motion such that his way of doing things will continue now and well into the future. Already, other Trumpian politicians are planning for a campaign for the presidency in 2024. Some of them, senators, were involved in slowing down the certification process for Biden. With the encouragement and pressure from Trump, some of them were involved as conduits for undermining the credibility of the presidential election. And thus for setting in motion the violent protests that occurred in Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, the Trumpian craziness will persist, because of the influence of something that is part of the modern landscape. Until we can find a way to reconfigure the fields of experience today, adding much more organic stimulation to the mix, and cutting down drastically on the immersion in screen reality, the Trumpian problem will persist. And it’s not just about Trump anyway.
© 2021 Laurence Mesirow