by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
James Poulos devotes a Federalist column to the “correct” way to admire Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. But first, Poulos focuses on the “incorrect” way to admire the Trump phenomenon.
Trump is the ultimate businessman in the sense that he struck a deal the rest of us haven’t — actually profiting from the casual nihilism and the inherent irony that so often sap the stamina of lesser mortals.
We draw a bizarre strength from his bizarre strength. There’s something perversely salutary about basking in the radioactive glow of someone for whom this kind of achievement is second nature.
It’s not mere admiration we feel. It’s admiration conflated with sensationalism, and this allows us to partake in the admired person’s experience of his own personal exceptionalism. To get excited about Trump is to become more Trump-like.
As any media person can tell you, this psychodrama has a lot of economic potential. Stagnation appears to have gripped every sector of the economy; so much of public and private life is haunted by a sense of impasse. Our quest for money and meaning (this is what “having it all” means) spurs us to seek desperately the “breakthrough” experiences able to punch through these invisible barriers. …
… Trumposity (rhymes with pomposity) is so easily curated, aggregated, imitated, mocked, and parodied that for the pop-industrial complex, it is like manna from heaven. Never before has a brand run for president! Trump’s distinctiveness is so readily monetized because it gives us two bites at the apple of psychodrama. Not only are we all paying attention to him, the reaction he touches off in us emits a second shock wave of meaning-saturated feels — oh so many of which themselves can be processed into takes. Like Trumpness itself, our reactions to Trumposity are low-hanging fruit amid today’s incessant panic over the resource scarcity of breakthrough-level, reliably high-traffic content.
Everybody wins. Media people redouble their quest for money and meaning by counting on Trump to react to everything and the rest of us to react to each and every one of his reactions. Meanwhile, the rest of us redouble our quests for money and meaning as Trump restores our faith in the cult of personal branding. Work hard — on your brand, that is — and the sky’s the limit!