It was during my research for this article that I came across a quote from Donald Trump that was so nauseating and weird that it made me wonder how anyone could possibly be voting for the guy.
No, it wasn’t racist. It wasn’t another gaffe, or idiotic statement about a government he doesn’t understand. It was something that was actually kind of scary.
This was said during the victory speech in Bismarck North Dakota, Trump said the following:
“I’ll give you everything.”
“I’m the only one.”
Y’all, this isn’t something an honest man says. pic.twitter.com/N46Z6ev6WT
— Brandon Morse (@TheBrandonMorse) May 30, 2016
I was trying to find the words that accurately described why this horrified me, and I realized it wasn’t the words themselves. Yes, they sound like the promises of an abusive boyfriend trying to win his black eye’d girlfriend back over, but any sane individual can see this phrase and immediately dismiss it. No one can promise you anything, and we’re smart enough to know that anyone who does is clearly lying.
But what scared me about it is that there are a good amount of people who do believe it. That somehow, he’s going to fix all our problems, and we will sail blissfully into a new golden age of America, where we’re all going to get everything we want, and all the jobs are going to come back, and all the SJWs will be gone, and every internet Red Hat from here to Britain will sit upon a golden throne for their service.
Trump’s entire campaign has been a Luke 4:6 moment, and this small utterance right here really showed me how frighteningly cult like his campaign has become. From those Red Hats, down to the average Joe who gets his political news from the many snippets the mainstream media support him, believe that Trump is talking to them.
And so they follow him without question. Making excuses, twisting stories, and flat out denying any wrongdoing he does, even if the proof is plain to see. When Trump said “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he was only half joking. If tomorrow he said he’s starting a compound out in Guyana, I’m pretty positive that people would follow him out there.
They will call him daddy, and he will be their father.
— Uma Kompton (@UmaKomptonBot) May 30, 2016
@realDonaldTrump love you daddy!
— ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ (@illegaIdrugs) May 30, 2016
@realDonaldTrump ilysm daddy ❤
— вecĸy ✖️ (@MsPatriarch) May 30, 2016
@realDonaldTrump Daddy pls accept me
— Coyote Dad (@CoyoteMyp) May 30, 2016
I’m having a hard time seeing how this is any different from the attitude we saw in 2008 when Barack Obama was running for President. He too made promises, was charismatic, and fed people tag lines like “hope and change.” He was deified.
Of course, like Obama, Trump can’t keep the promises to every person who buys the “make America great again” slogan. The racists aren’t going to see all the brown people deported. He loves their taco bowls too much. There will be no wall paid for by Mexico, for those who put immigration at the top of America’s problems. The people who want smaller government won’t see it shrink one iota. In fact, they will find it is growing even further. They might find a few of their constitutional rights under attack.
But despite the evidence that he’s not everything he said he is – including his own admission that every promise wasn’t really a promise at all – people will continue to follow him as if he is the political messiah we’ve all been waiting for. All he had to do was tap into the zeitgeist, and prey on one fear or another, and he reduced a party of individualism and conservatism into a populist mess that is more than ready to push a man into office who cares about neither.
Marx said religion was the opiate of the masses. He was wrong, it’s not religion. As C.S. Lewis said of Christianity, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
The real opiate is populism. Feeling like you’re part of something big, to be alongside your friends and allies as you push forward, that you’re on the verge of a movement bringing something new and exciting is a rush. We’re a pack animal, and the bigger the pack, the more right we feel about what we’re doing.
But America was founded on an ideal that counteracted populism. We developed a system that holds the mob, the angry reactionaries, and the cults of personality at bay so that we’re not swept up easily by men promising you the world if you give them power. We were a nation founded on the premise that no man should be worshiped, because no man is better than any other.
This is why his words make me feel more than a little uneasy. People – many in the Republican party in particular – seem to have forgotten that. They believe he will deliver on his promise to them, whatever promise that might be to each individual person. They defend him, as if they were defending themselves.
I feel revulsion because what others see as providence, I see as a cult. That so many rush toward the obvious false promises makes me want to back away quickly. It feels less like we’re electing a president, and more like we’re setting up a new church filled with its own promises of salvation, and a bright utopia.