Some months ago a bumptious, anonymous troll decided to “take me to school” about what constituted “good journalism.” In the course of this self-indulgent didactic the troll misspelled the word “journalism” twice in two different ways. I brought this to his attention before blocking him. I’m told by a friend that I’m still being stalked by this same troll months later, and that his invective has escalated – in length, in hysteria, and in the deeply personal nature of his insults – as befits an ego too weak to recover from a self-inflicted wound.
Yet for all this, my troll cannot touch Donald Trump when it comes to good old-fashioned, butthurt vindictiveness. Donald Trump never forgets a sling nor an arrow, no matter how inconsequential. Not even becoming President of the United States is sufficient to assuage his endless, bottomless need to be respected, praised and, above all, taken seriously. We are fortunate that we do not live in a world where failure to perform adequate obeisance to the “Dear Leader” is mandated by law, but that day would be inevitable if Donald Trump had anything to say about it.
Nowhere is Trump’s vindictiveness more in evidence than in his tweets. I point this out because it occurs to me that we of the left have been barking up the wrong tree for some time now. The narrative that Trump supporters are embarrassed by Donald Trump’s tweets, by their illiteracy, their simplistic take on border defense and climate science and, above all, their vituperative vindictiveness – may simply be wrong. Maybe someone else out there has said the same, but that voice has not been loud enough to penetrate the collective conventional wisdom.
When Barack Obama gently rebuked an angry crowd for disrespecting an elderly veteran who was heckling his speech, one wonders how Trump supporters saw that. As weakness? Did they think Obama should have encouraged the mob to throw the old man out, and, like Trump, offer to pay their legal fees?
Trump’s followers love Donald Trump because they are so much like him. They don’t mind in the least that the “short-fingered vulgarian” behaves like a classic schoolyard bully who is a coward at heart. Like my anonymous troll, they look at Donald Trump and see exactly what they have been looking for all along. They see someone just like themselves.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.