The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride through
Donald Trump’s America
by Alexander Zaitchik
So I’ve been listening to all the debates about what the Democrats did wrong – what Hillary did wrong – to lose the election to the orange-haired psycho. I’ve heard Michael Moore talk about how the once bustling manufacturing states are now devastated. I’ve read both Listen, Liberal and The Limousine Liberal. I have been arguing with people since November about whether we could have won if only…
If only Hillary had spoken to the working people instead of just the minorities. If only she had not ignored the white people. If only she had gone to Wisconsin. If she had not ignored the unions.
And then I read The Gilded Rage.
Alexander Zaitchik is one of those people who wanted to understand the Trump supporter. Enough so that he went out to “Trump country” to meet and interview them. It was an eye opener, but not in the way you might think.
As promised, he met with a lot of really nice, reasonable people. They were not the mad hordes that were pummeling protesters and threatening media at the rallies. In fact, it was a bit embarrassing to hear about the angry anti-Trump protesters who shouted diatribes and blocked the road at some events.
But still, there was something decidedly off here. I’m talking about the capacity for logical thinking.
There was the couple who lived near the border, who talked honestly and rationally about how they had lived peacefully with both cartel and Border Patrol, even though both had broken into their homes and stolen from them over the years. Who knew that “the wall” was not something that would solve any problems.
There was the environmental activist in West Virginia who fought the coal companies after seeing children get sick from inhaling the soot that coated everything, and whose friends and neighbors had turned on him because they saw him as taking away their livelihood.
There was the woman in Wisconsin who had grown up in a middle-class family where the jobs were secure and paid the bills with money left over for a night out, where the benefits included health care and a decent retirement. Who now worried about supporting herself and her daughter because the jobs had gone to immigrants, or the factories had gone to Mexico.
The thing is, you’d be reading along, nodding your head, thinking you understand, and then they would say, “So that’s why I’m voting for Donald Trump.” And then your head explodes.
There was a guy, a small business man, who complained about illegal immigrants coming in and “getting benefits that legal immigrants can’t have.” Who then admits that he employs “illegals. Pay them cash…. I feel very guilty about it.”
What it is, is a huge disconnect. A line that begins to get drawn from point A to point B and takes a detour to a whole other alphabet.
And that leads me to wonder how on earth Hillary could have debated an argument that was so illogical.
I’m not saying that the Democratic Party has not made a huge mistake when it began, in the Clinton years and through the Obama presidency, to ally itself with bankers instead of unions. Bill Clinton has admitted he made mistakes, in his charmingly humble way. I don’t know that Barack Obama has yet admitted that he should have made the bankers criminally liable for their acts and worked harder to help those who were losing their homes.
I made excuses for Hillary’s alliances with Wall Street. I still do. It is the system we have. I know that our Democratic Party has been quaking in their boots since Reagan hijacked the country with his false promises. To this day, when most voters don’t know or give a damn who Ronald Reagan was, Democrats can still be counted on to bring him up as an American hero, caught in a political Stockholm syndrome. Shame on them for hiding in the center, hoping no one will notice they aren’t really who they say they are.
I do know that, in the face of Bernie’s wild success, and when confronted by groups like Black Lives Matter, Hillary listened. She changed some policy, like with trade agreements, and then took shit for changing her mind. But she was fighting for women and minorities AND she was fighting to raise the minimum wage. Even more than Bill and Barack, I believe Hillary’s heart is in the right place. Because she is a woman, she is better at listening, and because she is Hillary, she really wants to do the right thing.
Meanwhile, there were people who had good reason to be angry about being ignored by those in power, but whose anger was manipulated by the very people who were responsible for their losses. It was the power of celebrity and the power of the con artist. And no matter what paths of logic they took, they would always come to the conclusion that they wanted to come to: the billionaire was going to save them. He wasn’t afraid to say, well, anything. So that meant he wasn’t political. And, ta-da! that meant he would be fighting for them.
Actually, we have learned through hard experience that Donald Trump is exactly the same as those other sixteen republican candidates, just stupider and more impulsive. And his lies are bolder. And he is a showman. Unfortunately, that is a powerful combination in a reality TV world.
Gilded Rage is a short, quick read, and I think it is important to actually listen to the reasoning of these Trump voters. I don’t think they elected Trump. I think they were a part of a process that involved Russian hacking, FBI meddling, lies and cons, along with an election system that fails to count too many votes, and ended up with the loser getting three million more votes than the winner. The election also spoke to thirty years of lies and distortions about Hillary Clinton, so that even reasonable Democrats would shake their heads and say, “I just don’t trust her,” even though they couldn’t tell you a single thing she had been found guilty of. And, last but not least, the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman.
Under different circumstances, she still would not have convinced any of the people in Gilded Rage that she would do more for them than Trump. And it is possible she would not have been able to do much more for them than Barack Obama. The fact is, we live in a country in which the wealthy control the conversation, and people are too frightened and insecure to question those who wield the power. And, like the good people in the book, they will take themselves through all kinds of contortions of logic in order to get to the point where they can say, “I’m with him.”