If Donald Trump beats Hillary Clinton, this election cycle may be the first one in modern memory that will have hinged on culture, rather than economics or foreign policy.
I did not fully understand why culture – or art, or music, or vague social forces – mattered at all until I read Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae years ago. One of the recurring themes in this book is the separateness, and complementary polarity, of the genders.
It is impossible to understand this point without taking a nuanced view of human nature. We do not disparage female executives when we acknowledge that, for the vast majority of women, things like feminine emotiveness and maternal instincts are grounded in nature.
The vast majority of men are and always will be attracted to feminine women – such as those featured in Donald Trump’s beauty contests over the years. The New York Times’ attempted hit piece on Trump failed because it castigated him for attitudes that could only disturb a lesbian gender studies professor (or someone who already dislikes Trump).
In the immediate aftermath of that article, why is Trump suddenly ahead of Hillary in the polls? It could be a random blip, or it could be because the subliminal forces framing this election are beginning to solidify.
When we peel back the layers of political platitudes, we see that Trump is an electric caricature of confident, patriarchal masculinity – exactly the kind of human being we are told should no longer exist in a progressive society. These also happen to be the traits that human beings, regardless of their stated political orientation, tend to look for – subconsciously – in a leader.
Hillary is the polar opposite: a weary-eyed (and chronically ill) archetype of the empowered woman, with a creepily transparent power-lust that obstructs her attempts to become a social chameleon. Watching Hillary speak, I feel mildly sad – and when she forces a smile, I wonder if she feels genuine joy, or whether she is driven ahead, robot-like, by a self-concept she invented to redeem herself for staying with the philandering and once-very-powerful Bill.
It is not that a woman cannot be charismatic. When your opponent is, for all of his faults, something of a force of nature – an ubermensch, perhaps – the bar is simply raised.
Trump gets culture, and he gets people. He does not need to get economics, for now. As a real estate tycoon, he is not a product of reality TV, but his success in that domain stemmed from the same kind of mastery that is on display in this election.
A word of warning: it is a mistake to analyze Trump in a vacuum. Like Obama in 2008, he is a case study in being in the right place at exactly the right time.
Thanks to Obama’s failed “change” agenda and many interrelated factors (including the menacing global rise of political Islam), our culture has reached a tipping point with progressive dogma that contradicts everything we instinctually know about humanity. Since this is the case, a man who in any other election would not have been nominated is dominating in the polls. In demeanor, in word, and in deed, Trump is the antithesis of wishy-washy cultural progressivism.
All further analysis of the Trump phenomenon may just be superfluous.
Dwelling in the esoteric echo chambers of economic logic and political philosophy is mentally stimulating. But it will not help us determine the outcome of an election. It will not help us predict the direction of history.
If one wants to have any impact on political life, it pays to be able to identify the forces of human nature at work. I concur with Andrew Breitbart’s dictum: Politics is downstream from culture. Subtle cultural undertones, including ones that have long been marginalized, ultimately wait their turn to capture the popular imagination and determine the direction of a democratic country.
Instead of a conclusion, I’ll leave you with an intensely amusing passage from Camille Paglia, remarking on the NYT’s “take-down” of Trump:
“Small and blurry in the print edition, the Brewer-Trump photo in online digital format positively pops with you-are-there luminosity. Her midnight-blue evening dress opulently cradling her bare shoulders, Rowanne is all flowing, glossy hair, ample, cascading bosom, and radiant, lushly crimson Rita Hayworth smile. The hovering Trump, bedecked with the phallic tongue of a violet Celtic floral tie, is in Viking mode, looking like a triumphant dragon on the thrusting prow of a long boat. “To the victor belong the spoils!” I said to myself in admiration, as seductive images from Babylon to Paris flashed through my mind. Yes, here is all the sizzling glory of hormonal sex differentiation, which the grim commissars of campus gender studies will never wipe out!”