Prof Danner looks at “The Magic of Donald Trump”

Summary: Here’s a gem amidst the flood of nonsense that is Campaign 2016. Berkeley Professor Mark Danner gives a sensible liberal analysis of the Trump phenomenon, with its strengths and biases.

“Like Hercules, Donald Trump is a work of fiction.”
— From “An Open Letter to Trump Voters from His Top Strategist-Turned-Defector” by Stephanie Cegielski at xoJane.

Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again
Available at Amazon.

A bien pensant Professor of English at Berkeley looks at Trump and sees only his biases — but he makes some powerful points…

Excerpt from “The Magic of Donald Trump

By Mark Danner
at the New York Review of Books

Review of Crippled America:
How to Make America Great Again


About the business of Campaign 2016

If television is the business of delivering audiences to advertisers, Trump has delivered audiences as no candidate ever has or could. Twenty-four million pairs of eyeballs mean real money. Trump brings those numbers, no one else. And if it is true that the networks have lavished upon him $2 billion worth of airtime in the jocosely named “free media,” then surely they’ve made it back and more. Television has covered him wall to wall, for he means money. …

About foreign policy

{Trump’s criticism of our allies} gains credibility for turning on its head the entire drift of post–World War II American propaganda that said the country acted to rebuild Europe and protect the free world not out of national self-interest but out of good old exceptional American generosity. Trump, a baby boomer who was born in 1946 and imbibed this story with his breakfast cereal, clearly takes this roseate version of history as gospel truth and regards any country that would act in such a self-sacrificing way as a sap. …

Trump’s world view

I … find myself struck by the odor of nostalgia for a stronger country emanating from {Trump’s op-eds} — the need for a national restoration to return us to a safer, greater world we had lost — that certain European leaders of the 1930s would have recognized. The sense of threat from the Other — whether it be Mexican rapists swarming over the border or Muslim terrorists posing as refugees … the sense of national decline that this signals (“We don’t win any more…”); the clear path to a restoration of greatness marked by simple, autocratic solutions (imposing tariffs, pulling out of NATO, bringing back torture, “bombing the shit” out of ISIS) — all of it springs from the populist toolbox, if not the fascist one, and the advertisements show that the roots of these positions and attitudes run very deep. …

The Professor looks at Trump and sees only his bias and preconceptions

{Trump} builds on and expresses loudly and clearly racist and nativist elements in Republican politics that have been central to the party’s appeal since at least the mid-1960s but that its leaders have preferred to signal rather than enunciate. Trump leaves the dog whistle behind, puts his fingers to his lips, and screeches.

Again and again when I asked rally-goers why they supported Trump I heard the word “honesty.” “He doesn’t slip and slide like all the others,” a retired accountant in his seventies told me. Or else: “I see strength in him, power. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks….” That he speaks clearly — that he is unafraid of the police of political correctness — itself bespeaks a power to cut through the corruption and the dealmaking, to fight and fight to get things done: to actually end illegal immigration, to actually repeal Obamacare. It suggests he has the sheer fighting power and energy to do what he says.

…{Trump’s} blithe refusal to let “political correctness” prevent him making sexist and bigoted remarks, and his fans’ euphoric enjoyment of their hero’s reveling in the pleasures of free speech. He says what he wants: he is rich enough, strong enough, to do what he pleases.

Editor note: note the complete lack of connection between the first and next two paragraphs above. People can value Trump’s honesty for other reasons than his racist and sexist statements — especially since our leaders so frequently lie to us, and our politics is a parade of lies. People can admire his refusal to kowtow before political correctness without being racist and sexist. Also, Trump talks about issues other than race and gender…

—————————- End Excerpt. Read it in full! —————————-

Mark DannerAbout Mark Danner

Mark Danner is the author, most recently, of Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War. He is a Professor of English and Journalism at Berkeley, and a Professor of Foreign Affairs and the ­Humanities at Bard. His writing and other work can be found at his website.

Other posts about Trump and Campaign 2016

“{Trump is} a fascinating intersection of celebrity and Neo Fascism.”
Carl Bernstein on CNN, 14 March 2016.

  1. Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.
  2. What the press won’t tell you about Trump and populism — See Walter Russell Mead’s famous essay about Jackson.
  3. Why the Left is missing the rising populist movement.
  4. Populism carries Trump to the nomination. He’s completed 1 of 4 steps to victory.
  5. The Right struggles to understand Trump and populism.
  6. Liberals look at Trump and populism, but see only their prejudices.
  7. Racism is the dark side of populism. Will it divide and defeat us?
  8. Populism arises amidst workers abandoned by the Left, seeking allies.

For More Information

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From “The Apprentice”, 10 November 2005

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