Outrage and Outrageousness: On Trump’s Popularity, Part 2

Enter The Donald—champion of the angry and disaffected.

Posted Mar 24, 2016

Trump Caricature/Flickr
Source: Trump Caricature/Flickr

Part 1 of this post attempted to portray the nature of Trump’s followers and to offer readers some basic insights into their various grievances. Now I’ll discuss how their hurts, fears, seething hatreds and acrimony induced them to espouse The Donald as their vengeful hero. And it's fascinating just how much of what pundits view as outrageous about Trump's positions and policies dovetail with their anti-establishment piques and prejudices (not to mention the arrogant, grandiose verbal displays of his blatantly narcissistic personality).

In general, Trump's backers represent a predominantly right-wing, less educated and lower-income mutiny against the felt inequities of the status quo. For the prevailing state of affairs reflects a system that his supporters view as both fraudulent and rigged against them. And, I might add, so do many Democrats who, in their own political ire, have turned to Bernie Sanders (vs. Hillary Clinton) as the outsider, socialist, and true Democrat most likely to challenge the powers that be—including the giant multinational corporations and the wealthy elite who are viewed (in pursuing every advantage possible for them) as hijacking not only our economy but our culture as well.

The enormous financial injustices that they see as existing between the rarefied multi-millionaire/billionaire class (i.e., the one percent) and themselves violate their sense of fairness or decency. Meanwhile, they experience themselves as living in a "compromised" democracy when, for instance, Wall Street opportunists escape indictment for illegal practices that contributed to the Great Recession. It feels as though these privileged individuals are exempt from laws they themselves must abide by.

Certainly they never got bailed out as did the financial industry, responsible for so much of their grief (from losing their jobs to losing their homes). Additionally, they've become increasingly aware of how huge corporations—because they play such a major role in funding political campaigns—have far greater political influence than they ever could. 

This is the lamentable status quo that so many people are now balking at—not to say, rising up against. And the outrageousness of Donald Trump’s anti-almost-everything rhetoric feeds beautifully into the Right’s  barely concealed outrage.

To political commentator E. J. Dionne:

Trump is running an angry, populist campaign focused on xenophobia and “I don’t care what you think” aggression against “the establishment” and “elites” of all stripes. . . . [He] is the Frankenstein’s Hair Monster, finally walking among us, who is the inevitable product of a decades long embrace of clown-show anti-establishmentism and the stoking [by the GOP] of xenophobic and racial paranoia (“Understanding What Makes Trump’s Supporters So Angry,” The Washington Post, November 29, 2015).

Consider what Trump so vehemently opposes and it should be fairly obvious why those representing the largely right-wing populist rebellion would claim him as their spokesman. Coinciding with their strong biases, Trump has taken an unabashedly contemptuous stand against corporate media (in his scorn, not even sparing Fox news!). And he’s inveighed against federal bureaucracy generally, and liberal programs and policies in particular. Take, for instance, the Affordable Care Act, which Trump denigrates and which so many conservatives regard as taking away their right not to have health insurance, or be implicated in its funding for birth control and abortions.

Moreover, the right’s typical antagonism toward minorities and low-wage immigrant workers—as undermining their financial bargaining power, at the same time these laborers fill the pockets of those capitalists happy enough to exploit them—only feeds into their disillusioned sense of desperation. Add to this all the union-busting reforms over the years and the outsourcing of so many of their jobs and it’s obvious that they can’t help but feel their livelihoods are threatened, as well as their conservative values.

To the extent that the movement toward greater religious freedom doesn’t equate with what many of them regard as their “entitled” Christian freedom to discriminate against non-Christians, this cultural evolution, too, has alienated them from the majority of their countrymen. And so they believe—as does Trump, their hero—that “tough times call for tough (read, aggressively defiant) measures.”

However crudely, Trump’s hate-filled, uncompromisingly militant discourse echoes these rancorous individuals’ own bitter feelings toward non-whites. His caustic, race-baiting language is no less strident than their own, which explains why he’s won the endorsement of white supremacists such as the Ku Klux Klan, whose former Grand Wizard, David Duke, he’d been suspiciously slow to disavow. In Trump’s defamatory, bellicose words—which refer to foreigners, minorities, immigrants, and beyond:

  • When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. . . . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. . . [i.e., savagely scapegoating them for much of the country’s failures].
  • I will build a great wall [between U.S.’s southern border and Mexico, to keep out illegal immigrants]—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—. . . and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words. [And note how Trump’s “billionaire-warranted” bluster and braggadocio color, if not dominate, his combative, inflammatory speech.]
  • [And of Muslims]: They’re not coming to this country if I’m president. And if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving, they’re going, they’re gone.
  • Donald J. Trump [i.e., himself ] is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on. [Note that such a discriminatory proposal is not only unconstitutional, it also willfully opposes of our most basic democratic principles.]
  • Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and Hispanics [a Trump tweet];
  • [After being told at an event that two men beat a Hispanic, 58-year-old, homeless man in Boston and—in his name—broke his nose and urinated on him] I will say the people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and want this country to be great again.
  • [At one of his rallies] "Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat. And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work [although several well-researched reports on this “enhanced interrogation technique” have repeatedly shown that it doesn’t work].
  • [On ISIS] I would bomb the s--t out of them.” [And also, on defeating ISIS] You have to take out their families [too].
  • [Addressing his audience about a protester at one of his rallies—seen by many pundits as inciting his followers to feel free to use violence against any dissenters] I’d like to punch him in the face. [And when another protester was sucker-punched in the face while officials removed him from the auditorium] I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.

NOTE 1: Part 1 of this 4-part post focused on the various “gripes and grievances” of Trump’s followers. Part 3 will go into the outrageous language used by Trump, their trusted, yet “brazen-bully” spokesman. And finally, part 4 discusses the “political incorrectness” of so much of Trump’s language (particularly its sexism), and then sums up the various reasons for the unprecedented phenomenon that Trump’s campaign represents.

NOTE 2: If you’d like to check out other articles I’ve written for Psychology Today—on a broad array of topics (many of them focusing specifically on the subjects of anger and narcissism)—click here.

© 2016 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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