It’s not only Trump supporters who can understand Trump’s allure

In a recent interview, Bernie Sanders explains why he believes people are preparing to vote for Donald Trump. I think he hits it right on.

In America, we currently have a rising cost of living, absurd college tuition prices, relatively stagnant wages, a lack of health care and insert-your-own-grievance-here. All of these things fuel frustration and contempt for the status quo. This is not news, but when Trump’s nihilistic platform to radically change (if not destroy) these institutions comes along, it allows for an at least temporary relief of the anxiety provoked by such issues. Sanders sums this up by saying, “Why not?” Why not vote for Trump? Maybe he will ruin all these institutions that are causing me stress and pain.

I am a member of Gen Z, the generation just out of college now entering the workforce. While much of my generation leans left politically, a lot of Trump supporters’ frustration with American quality of life is present in me and my peers. Many of us are facing large college debt; the job market, while fine now, is incredibly competitive; and the prospect of buying a house back in my hometown of Yarmouth is ridiculous. These challenges are all manageable and may appear trivial to those looking on, but they do often run deeper than just plain young-adulthood whining.

The emotional refuge that Trump offers is what births a “why not” attitude, and more potential votes – especially when placed in contrast with President Biden. The Biden administration has been fine, but all its success – whether you feel it’s been successful or not – falls by the wayside if we want to examine the emotional frustration that extends beyond party lines to all American people. Biden, to many undecided voters, is seen as an institutional candidate, almost regardless of party affiliation. He’s a politician through and through. Trump is not. If he is, we can at least agree that he is atypical.

Biden’s reputation then provides little assurance of change to the institutions of America that cause many Americans stress or pain, leading people to say “why not,” and give Trump their vote. The trouble is, I believe that while Trump’s campaign makes promises that allow these feelings of anxiety to be assuaged, the feelings also become amplified.

Examining emotional frustration, the “why not” attitude and Trump’s popularity are more than a pseudointellectual exercise. More than once, Trump has said to his supporters “I am your retribution.” This is an overt signal that he is a vessel for the contempt that Americans hold for the status quo. This is the mark of a cult of personality. Trump offers a safe harbor for Americans’ frustration – he has become a walking emblem of American civil unrest.

Martin Luther King Jr. said in a 1967 speech known as “Beyond Vietnam” that: “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of autopsy must read ‘Vietnam.’” The same connection could be made with Trump, a symptom of a diseased and frustrated America.

To understand why people are swinging towards Trump is to understand what holds us together as Americans. Acknowledging that our feelings of contempt or care for our country naturally extend beyond party lines just may be a step in the right direction.


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