Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 14, 2106--Searching for Trump Supporters

A friend who is remarkably up-to-date with reading the New Yorker, knowing I am always at least three months behind, sent me a link to the very, very long piece by fiction writer George Saunders, "Who Are All These Trump Supporters?" (Two parts July 11th and 18th.)

The first third touches the familiar bases--the people who attend his rallies are ill-informed (I'm being kind), make up their own facts, are undereducated (kindness again), semi-coherent, bullying, violent, and at least borderline racists and bigots.

So I skimmed through that. Been there, heard that.

The middle third is more nuanced, even empathetic, and thus gets closer to the complicated truth.

It does leave out one significant part of the diagnosis--how Trump followers (and Bernie's as well) feel duped, lied to, and manipulated by both political parties. What's the Matter With Kansas remains the classic statement of that insight.

I hung on until the end of the article though in the final part I began to glaze over--the same reaction I have to Saunders' over-mannered fiction.

But it does include a dense and brilliant quote from Norman Mailer's 1960 Esquire piece about the emergence of John Kennedy at the Democratic national convention--"Superman Comes to the Supermarket." Title aside, Mailer too was a better reporter than novelist.

I leave you with it at the risk of your plaintively asking as I do--where is Norman now that we need him?
American presidential campaigns are not about ideas; they are about the selection of a hero to embody the prevailing national ethos.  Only a hero can capture the secret imagination of a people, and so be good for the vitality of his nation; a hero embodies the fantasy and so allows each private mind the liberty to consider its fantasy and find a way to grow. Each mind can become more conscious of its desire and waste little strength in hiding from itself.
I love it as does Saunders who asks--

"What fantasy is Trump giving his supporters the liberty to consider? What secret have they been hiding from themselves?"

This, like so much else, is still to be determined. It may be that our very future depends on the answers to these questions.

Norman Mailer

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