Saturday, May 7, 2016
Deconstructing Donald Trump–It’s Not What He Says But What He Means
The progressive Left and the conservative Right are nonplussed at the mania of Donald Trump. To the Left he is a misogynist, xenophobic, sexist homophobe; and to the Right he is a political anti-Christ, betrayer of the legacies of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley.
Of course he is none of the above. As a son of Hollywood and Las Vegas; a performer, vaudevillian, and big tent revivalist in the old American tradition, he doesn’t mean what he says. He says what he means. His is a political circus act with a semiotic foundation. Crazy as a fox and as smart as a whip, The Donald speaks a firestorm but is as rational – more rational in fact – than his opponents who speak in platitudes, shopworn nostrums, and old-fashioned appeals to ‘experience’.
No one but unreconstructed liberal elite take him at face value. Everyone knows that his call for expatriating all Muslims is purposeful hyperbole, circus act exaggeration, and vaudeville at its very best. Everyone but older Eastern progressives and young idealists understand that there can never be an impenetrable wall on our southern border. Everyone but academics who have insulated themselves from the world outside of Cambridge, the Upper West Side, San Francisco, or Chicago knows that there will be no mass deportations of Muslims, no electrified wire fences at Dulles Airport, no Gestapo on the Canadian border to keep them out.
Deconstructionism has had its day, although because of tenure there are many academics who will preach this secular animism until the day they die. All texts are equivalent, they say. There is no such thing as artistic genius, and the works of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Dostoevsky should be read only within the narrow context of race, gender, and ethnicity. Hamlet and Macbeth are nothing more than plays about political power, the corrupt nature of elites, and the alienation of the many to serve the powerful.
If one reads the text carefully, deconstructionists say, one will discover the true meaning behind the words which are mere and artificial constructs of individuals who can but express political zeitgeist and the particular configurations of social, economic, and cultural conflict.
So where are these deconstructionists when it comes to parsing the stump performances of Donald Trump? Why are they so literal in their interpretation of his words? How could they assume that his hot button rhetoric is anything more than getting sinners to walk up the aisle and accept Jesus as their personal savior?
This liberal myopia is not surprising, for despite progressives’ claims to objectivity, rationality, and on-the-one-hand-on-the-other tolerance and consideration of differing opinions, they intend no such thing. Their canon of diversity, race-gender-ethnicity, and social liberalism is as enshrined as any.
Such political and philosophical absolutism ipso facto requires blinders. In an a priori world where right and wrong are pre-determined and absolute there is no room for due consideration or rational debate.
Put more simply, the progressive Left has made up its mind about Donald Trump and nothing can change it. They believe that if elected President, Trump would become a Hitlerian dictator, consigning all Muslims to virtual gas chambers, purifying American soil in a vast ethnic cleansing, and condemning the poor and marginalized to Dickensian debtors’ prisons.
To be fair, most of us hear what we want to hear, make up our minds early and quickly, and use information to confirm or consolidate our opinions. Once we have concluded that a public figure is worth our attention because of his commitment to our causes, principles, or ideals, we stop parsing his speeches, analyzing his white papers, and listening to his debates.
How many women fall deeply in love with men who continually feed them a line about fidelity, respect, and intimacy? How many daughters continue to idolize fathers who have done nothing to merit their love let alone respect? How many of us fall hook, line, and sinker, for outrageous advertising claims because we have been brought up on Campbell Soup or Heinz ketchup?
We are not a nation of disciplined, rigorous rationality, and we fall for lovers and politicians equally. But those who have staked their reputation on rigorous contextual analysis and intellectual rigor and who pride themselves on coming to the right moral and ethical decisions based on this reason should be held to a higher standard.
It is very clear – except to progressive deniers – that Donald Trump will be a revolutionary president, even more so than Ronald Reagan. Reagan, it must be remembered, challenged the received wisdom of FDR, LBJ and the American liberal establishment when he said, “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem”, and went on to challenge the received wisdom of liberal America. He tossed liberal accommodation and concession aside when he stood up to the Soviet Union. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”, was a serious, principled, and and outspoken claim to American values .
Donald Trump will be as radical as Reagan in his challenge of the culture of entitlement, diversity, and cloture of free speech. He will be defiant of ISIS and Islamic radicalism, will call out its name, and will pursue it as an enemy. His pure, Wild West Americanism will be a final line in the stand. His refusal to bow to the arrogant claims of politically correct activists will finally deny those whose illiberal sentiments pass for righteousness.
A Trump victory will be welcome not only in political quarters who will applaud a final interment of liberal socialism; but in intelligent quarters who will be happy to see the last remnants of dire, extremist, post-modernism buried along with it.
The academic, post-modern, deconstructionist Left’s failure to understand the revolutionary populism of Donald Trump will be its death knell.
The Trump ascendancy gives lie to many things – the arrogance of the liberal Left which has always refused to acknowledge the realities of the white, working poor; the isolation of liberal academics who talk a great story about equality but who reject the legitimate claims of millions in favor of the blighted, oppressed, and put-upon minorities; and the absolute myopia of progressives who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of a conservative populist candidate.
We are all lay deconstructionists. We understand that what Donald Trump says stands for something else and is not license. We get it. He gets us. And we get him. We can read between the lines, and we like the narrative we find there.