Trump and the politics of the Id

It is already an old story. Angry — and mostly ridiculous —- rhetoric trumps common sense.  We had a first glimpse in a movie called “Network”.. Remember this scene?

Then there was Michael Douglas in Falling Down

There are surely many more examples, but you get my point. It is entertainment as unleashed id.

It occurs to me that Donald Trump fits rather well into this trend.  Instead of ENTERtainment, it is “POLItainment” as unleashed id. Not quite politics, but politics and entertainment mixed together into a secret sauce. The ideas and words  that come out may make no sense (build a wall, really?), but that matters not. It feels good to a certain segment of the population that wants this style of public discourse. “USA! USA!”

Writing for Salon last November, Sophia McClennen struggled with this theme. Sophia’s problem is that sometimes anger is justified and sometimes it is not. Where do we draw the line? She concludes

Our job will be to fight to maintain a distinction between justifiable anger and personal temper tantrums. There simply isn’t going to be a political litmus test for anger that will help us decide who gets to be mad and who needs a time out.

Notice her careful choice of words. “Justifiable anger”is acceptable and perhaps even beneficial, while “temper tantrums” are not. But why? Is it the “justification” that matters?  Or is it that “anger” differs form rage? If it is the former, we argue endless about who is right. If the latter, we admonish those who cross the line, regardless of provocation.

It is tempting to think first about justifications. But regardless of how right one may be, once we move into the “rage” category, we are dealing with emotions that are out of control. We are no longer able to constructively express conviction. We are just lashing out. It may feel good, but it doesn’t build community.

And if we are honest about this, we are talking about a cultural problem where individuals grant themselves too much liberty to act out their personal issues, regardless of the effects that may have on community. When we allow ourselves to rage — even if justified —, we start breaking down the bonds that hold us together. And it appears that we have come far enough down this road that a blowhard like Trump actually appeals to a group who says “It’s now our turn!”

Well, they are having their day. And after that day is passed? Do we really think that post Trump, we can go back to a “rageless” politics? I don’t thin so, unless we address the underlying problem. We rage before we think. Indeed, we rage instead of thinking. Nicht gut!

Things do fall apart. And once they do, putting them back together again is not so easy.


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