It’s a sad reality of commerce that the gym some of you signed up to in January, as part of a resolution for the new year, depends for its very existence on your failure. It fearlessly bets against you, with the confidence of a casino, that you will not show up at the gym when you should, that is, at least four or five days a week for ninety minutes at a time, say. And the gym’s continued, thriving existence is all the proof you need to know it was right to bet you would fail. If everyone on its rolls showed up on time and regular, the gym would have gone out of business – for lack of accommodating resources – long ago. That is why contracts with your local gym are at least six months long, with the best deals to be had when those contracts are two years long. They are no dummies.
So it is with the Republican Party. The Party has no interest in the mass of its members. They can go to hell as far as the Republican mavens are concerned. Their allure to the rank and file, like the fitness guru in every gym, is that one day they can look just like them, if they work hard and buy into the lie that America is the land of opportunity, and success in a free market economy is all but guaranteed.
The lie that it’s easy to be rich and only the lazy fail is attractive to the simplistic, authoritarian mind of the Republican. And should the unthinkable happen and the Republican rank and file should discover they are not rich, why, they can blame the brown people for taking their jobs and ruining their economy.
That Donald Trump is a believer in the zero sum – that is, in order for one to succeed another must fail – is attractive to the Republican. He and she see it as a kind of justice, a reward for thinking a certain way, and a punishment to others for not thinking that way. Those that refuse to think the way Republicans do deserve their punishment. Except, of course, when one day these supporters of Trump awake to discover, as many soy bean farmers who voted for Trump recently discovered, that the punishment is suddenly being meted out to them, and in abundance, and there are no brown people around for them to blame. It is then that they become full of indignation on that account. Their indignation remains untempered by their hypocrisy. They cannot understand how it’s possible that they should suffer, even though they were willing, delighted in fact, to see others suffer. They simply do not see the contradiction or the evil of wishing pain on other human beings who never harmed them, while simultaneously expecting good things and riches and blessings to come raining down on them, to the expense and inconvenience and chagrin of their imagined enemies.
Many of these Republicans identify as Christian, and they wonder how those of us who do not identify as Christian can possibly be moral. They wonder this without thought or consciousness of how objectively evil it is to think that way. They are smug and white, and often protected from the harsh realities of life by privilege and a system of government and law enforcement that very much likes having them around. They have a certain pitying contempt for people who are not just like them. They think God likes them better, and with obviously good reason.
When Donald Trump lies, they simply cannot hear his lies as lies. When Donald Trump says the failing economy is the fault of the wicked “fake news” media – that is, that a trillion dollar for-profit business called the mainstream media is deliberately sabotaging America’s economy for the sole purpose of hurting Donald Trump – they don’t see that as the grandiose ravings of a megalomaniac, but as tangibly, palpably, perfectly obvious.
Donald Trump is rehearsing them for future lies, lies that become more and more outrageous each time he opens his mouth. It’s possible he’s every bit as amazed as I am, and every bit as amazed as you are, that he is believed. I don’t know. Maybe he believes his lies too. I don’t know. But I wonder what the Big Final Lie is going to be. Is it going to be that he won the 2020 election, even if he loses it, even if he loses by history’s biggest landslide? I don’t know that, either. But I wouldn’t be surprised.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.