David James

“If Donald Trump had a selfie stick, we’d all be in the picture.” Americans might spend less time diagnosing a public figure and more time recognizing our own issues, like scapegoating an attack against perceived or imagined enemies.

Phrases like “pro-life” or “woke” or critical race theory (CRT) are presented as wounds that one group of left leaning Americans inflicted upon another group of “conservative” right leaning Americans.

Some Americans believe they have a birthright to determine the governmental policies by which we all should live. They feel threatened by political correctness, Muslims, immigrants, a black President or Vice-President, or any Democrat.

Trump has tapped into this resentment, and he is most effective when he is most awful or politically incorrect. For those who follow him, only he or his acolytes tell the truth. Some feel he gives them permission to be a more aggressive version of themselves, such as when Trump suggests they should “kick the crap out of those people.”

Those trapped in this “truth-telling” vacuum have highly selective memory and choose only historical facts (or non-facts) that validate their preexisting opinion. Unfortunately, many are unaware they are going down a proverbial rabbit hole when truth becomes distorted or irrelevant, even when this “truth” comes from a “news” source. History has been repeated that such a situation makes followers easily manipulated by someone of ill intent.

When Americans say, “I want my country back,” people in rural areas miss the 1950s America. Many feel hostage to progressive ideas, bringing more resentment and agitation they feel is tearing the country apart. Trump promises a cure. “The deep state” becomes the enemy, and the only truth that matters is what one's group believes, not what the “deep state” or any opposing viewpoint is.

It is why the purpose of each new Cabinet leader in the Trump administration was to dismantle their department.

This collective emotion brought on by a demagogue means Trump is not to be criticized because he speaks for the “unspoken”. As a leader of this movement, his statements, though factually suspect, can be considered true as “alternative facts”. People believe only those historical or contemporary facts that validate their preexisting opinions. Truth becomes irrelevant.

Trump has filled this political environment, assisted by a complicit Republican party and media advocates, such as FOX, with appropriate talking points. This reinforces their grievances. Trump uncovered a rage and fear of a forgotten, despairing white underclass who has had little reason to hope for a brighter future.

This is why Trump’s popularity is as much a reflection of Americans who have lost hope in democracy, and less about Trump personally. In a portrait of our time, we are all in the selfie stick.