What fantasy is Trump giving his supporters the liberty to consider? What secret have they been hiding from themselves?
Trump seems to awaken something in them that they feel they have, until now, needed to suppress. What is that thing? It is not just (as I’m getting a bit tired of hearing) that they’ve been left behind economically. (Many haven’t, and au contraire.) They’ve been left behind in other ways, too, or feel that they have. To them, this is attributable to a country that has moved away from them, has been taken away from them—by Obama, the Clintons, the “lamestream” media, the “élites,” the business-as-usual politicians. They are stricken by a sense that things are not as they should be and that, finally, someone sees it their way. They have a case of Grievance Mind, and Trump is their head kvetcher.
In college, I was a budding Republican, an Ayn Rand acolyte. I voted for Reagan. I’d been a bad student in high school and now, in engineering school, felt (and was) academically outgunned, way behind the curve. In that state, I constructed a world view in which I was not behind the curve but ahead of it. I conjured up a set of hazy villains, who were, I can see now, externalized manifestations, imaginary versions of those who were leaving me behind; i.e., my better-prepared, more sophisticated fellow-students. They were, yes, smarter and sharper than I was (as indicated by the tests on which they were always creaming me), but I was . . . what was I? Uh, tougher, more resilient, more able to get down and dirty as needed. I distinctly remember the feeling of casting about for some world view in which my shortfall somehow constituted a hidden noble advantage.
From George Saunders’ “Who are all these Trump supporters?” in The New Yorker.