Trump’s Beguiling American Fantasy

He tells Americans: Look at me – money, power, and of course a young and beautiful woman draped over my arm. What I have, you could have.

People rally as they take part in a protest against U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in New York, March 19, 2016.
AFP

His many supporters are angry, and he’s taken that angry bull by the horns and is leading it from victory to victory. That’s how everyone is explaining Donald Trump’s success, including Trump himself. What are they angry at? At “the establishment,” at “Washington,” at “political correctness.” But what is it about these vague ideas that so angers them and motivates them to action?

Conversations with Trump voters reveal feelings of rage and anxiety that seemingly contradict the reality of U.S. President Barack Obama’s America. After all, during Obama’s presidency unemployment was cut in half, and the financial crash at the end of the Bush era that had made masses of Americans miserable is a distant nightmare. Obamacare has made basic health insurance available to tens of millions of Americans for the first time. The stream of flag-draped coffins from Iraq and Afghanistan has stopped. All these accomplishments, along with others, would ostensibly position Obama as a good president. Indeed, he enjoys great popularity in his own political camp, which is why Hillary Clinton is trying to affiliate herself with him and his legacy.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pumps his fist as supporters cheer him after speaking at a campaign rally, Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S., February 3, 2016.
AP

But in the opposing camp, particularly among those who do not define themselves politically, the feeling is the opposite, and they are flocking to Trump. Why? In most cases their economic situation has improved in recent years, and they couldn’t care less about what’s going on in Syria or Ukraine.

The answer lies in the promise of wealth that sustains the rule of Big Money, especially its American version. This promise is delivered at every stage of life, and it has enormous power all over the world, including in Israel. It has been nurtured for generations by Wall Street, Washington and Hollywood. It’s the American dream, within everyone’s reach. If you just want it enough, work hard enough, and believe enough, the dream will be yours, because it’s just around the corner. It all depends on you.

And once you grasp it, the sky’s the limit – wealth, love, redemption. You’ll be strong, beautiful, attractive, successful and live happily ever after. That happiness around the corner is practically a constitutional principle, one of the three “inalienable rights” cited in America’s Declaration of Independence that the government is meant to secure – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not happiness, but the pursuit of it.

One who casts doubt on the American dream will suffer a bitter fate. To steal someone’s dream is an unforgiveable crime. So what if the infant mortality rate in the United States is higher than that of Cuba? If you’re poor, you’re a loser, and if you’re sick, you’re just lazy, and woe to those who try to bring satisfaction and comfort by means other than the relentless chase after the dream – through such drab and boring means as health services for all, providing jobs, and battling discrimination.

After all, such steps, which Obama adopted in part, means that the key to a better life is not just dependent on what you can achieve on our own, but what the society of which you are a part does together with you and for you. This sharing and caring approach threatens the old mercenary dream. It scares a lot of people because it’s depicted as a challenge to everything that’s right, good, and American – at least a certain type of American.

And then comes Trump – the ultimate winner, as it were – and restores the promise of happiness in a more glittering version than anyone previously dared. Republican leaders are appalled, but Trump is merely implementing their principles with a skill and cleverness they lack. Ayn Rand would be crazy about him. Look at me – money, power, and of course a young and beautiful woman draped over my shoulder. What I have, you could have, too. Wanna be a millionaire? Just make me the next president, and it’ll be just around the corner.