Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WHO LOVES TRUMP? AND WHY?


Why do Republican voters like Donald J. Trump?  That is the question of the moment in the blogosphere.  The polling data suggest that substantive policy is not the answer.  With a phenomenon of this magnitude, there are clearly several correct answers.  Let me call attention to one answer that has cropped up in the discussion of the Trump phenomenon.  It is, I find, both plausible and especially disturbing.

Trump's rambling free-form public speeches give people permission to say openly things they have long wanted to say but feel they have been bullied into not saying -- things like "nigger" and "spic" and "anchor baby" and "illegal rapist drug-dealing Mexicans."  Trump has liberated, in millions of Americans, ugly, hateful, despicable sentiments that have been bottled up and forcibly suppressed.  It feels good to them to bring those sentiments into the sunlight, to hear a rich man say them unapologetically. 

What would Jesus say, were he to return to earth and walk once more among us as a natural man?  When I ask myself that question [as I often do], I am reminded once again of Matthew, Chapter 23, verse 27:  "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."  That is a remarkably accurate description of many of the good White Christian folk who flock to Trump's gatherings and cheer him to the echo.

Will Trump win the Republican nomination?  I suspect not.  If he does, he will guarantee a Democratic victory.  If he does not, he will so damage the successful nominee that the same result is all but certain.  But that is not the end of it.  Freud and the Sixties to the contrary notwithstanding, there is much to be said for repression.  The sentiments whose expression Trump is legitimating deserve to be repressed, they ought to be repressed, and no good can come from exposing them to the light, for although real sunlight may indeed be an effective disinfectant, metaphorical sunlight does not have that cleansing property.

There are fifty-five million registered Republicans in the United States.  Let us suppose roughly 30% of them support Trump, as recent polls suggest, which is to say more than sixteen million adult Americans.   That is a whole lot of whited sepulchres out there filled with uncleanness and dead men's bones!

4 comments:

Jim said...

Professor Wolff --

This reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s successful campaign for president against Jimmy Carter. Americans were quickly becoming tired of Carter’s exhortations and policy directives to turn down the heat, drive slower, mandate energy efficient automobiles, and simply adopt a general attitude of conservation through deprivation. By way of contrast, Reagan encouraged the use of gas-guzzling cars, higher speed limits, and a general attitude of consumption. Add to that Reagan’s promise that it was now “morning in America” as opposed to the “malaise across America” warnings from a dour Carter. At the time, the American electorate chose the indulgence of Reagan over that of the cautions parsimony of Carter. Although the current situation is not entirely analogous, let’s hope that the psychological liberation unleashed by Trump does not reach beyond those who have heretofore been repressed.

-- Jim

Martin Cothran said...

Wait, you argue against a guy who is taking it to the establishment partly by calling names by appealing to a passage from the Bible in which Jesus does virtually the same thing?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I do indeed. As the bumper sticker says, WWJD [What would Jesus do?] He sure wouldn't propose rounding up people with brown skins and muscling them across the border. Don't be taken in by false parallels.

William Cameron said...

I apologize for being a few days late in reacting to your excellent entry on the Trump phenomenon. I may seem to be nitpicking, but your statement that, "Freud and the Sixties to the contrary notwithstanding, there is much to be said for repression" needs substantial qualification, if only for the linkage of Freud with sexual license.

Freud would surely have thought the range of transgressions that we've come to characterize as "the Sixties" to be infantile and highly regressive socially. However much his work has fallen into scientific disrepute in recent decades, Freud, like his contemporary Lenin, was deeply conservative regarding social mores. One of Freud's truly interesting latter day disciples, Philip Rieff, a scholar and cultural critic whose relative obscurity these days is lamentable, states in "Fellow Teachers": "'No': that is the fathering word of our humanity." Some have called Donald Trump the id of the Republican Party. I take that, and the absence of any fetters on that id as it seeks ever more deviant political gratifications -- the absence of a super-ego, so to speak -- as being what you're getting at.