It’s been a few days since the election and finally we have a definitive decision. Normally, I would be baffled by the continued support of Trump, someone so vile and self-centered that he was willing to put his own needs before the country by downplaying Covid in order to make sure the economy is intact before the election. While I am weary of the last four years of Trump and politics and prefer not to dredge up any more examples, I will say I am now less baffled as to why he still had nearly 50% support, thus making this election so close.
Prior to the election and for the last four years, for the life of me I didn’t understand why they supported him. Then it hit me after listening to an 8-minute podcast from one of my favorites, Sam Harris. It’s short and I highly recommend you give a listen.
In essence, his appeal is due in large part to the idea that you can be anything you want to be. A narrative so deeply ingrained in the culture that people connect to this like American Idol, a show that ran for eighteen seasons.
Trump knows this and does not apologize for who he is. Nor does he pass judgment on his idolizers—just as long as you support him. People idolize Trump, the top contestant in a popularity contest, simply because he tapped into this cultural narrative—be whatever or whoever you want.
I know this is a stretch, but try and put yourself in a Trump supporter’s shoes looking at the Democratic Party. What do you see? A party filled with people judging you for being homophobic, racist and transphobic among other things. As a Trump supporter you can barely speak your mind without getting hit with a judgment or called stupid. Trump, be whoever you want to be I don’t care. Or, stop being who you are and be who we are—you make the choice.
The American Dream, the land of opportunity for prosperity and success, achievable by anyone. Somewhere along the line it has been bastardized into, “You can do and be anything if you simply believe.” Proof? American Idol. Over the years millions of Americans lined up in cities across the country for the chance to be recognized for their talent. This despite the fact that 99.9999% had no talent. They simply believed.
Trump embodies this twisted ethos and why people flock to Trump rallies. These pep rallies are a twisted form of a collective therapy session in which everyone enables one another. You want eat what you want, go ahead. You want to be racist, go right ahead. You want to blame others, you can do that too. No judgments here.
American Idol, while the argument can be made that there were gatekeepers in the form of judges only allowing the cream of the cream of the crop to pass through, belief and over-optimism were the driving force where thousands lined up for days to get a less than 30-second shot at being what you believe yourself to be—a singer.
Imagine being a contestant on American Idol. Your name is called after waiting in line for two days. Your shot at fame. The opening note and subsequent notes out of your gullet out of key. The judges thank you for your time, even suggest you take singing lesson encouraging you to return next year. This non-judgement is what allowed for the popularity of American Idol to continue—This is Trump. What about Simon? He was an asshole. Yes he was—He’s the Democrat in the line up telling it like it is and not holding back judging you the second you step on the stage. He’s right, but still you don’t want to hear that! You want to be told that you can be whoever you want to be.