James C. Banks

The Candidacy of Reductio ad Absurdum

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2011 at 3:28 am

Donald Trump’s run for the presidency is something that I don’t recall having seen before: a candidacy as reductio ad absurdum.  I agree with Scott Adams that Trump’s candidacy is a ruse, though it may not be entirely self-conscious.  It is more likely that Trump has been playing his persona for so long that he no longer distinguishes between his showmanship and reality.  The notion is absurd that Trump could actually sell his political positions as being based on genuine conviction: can a man who appears in this video really be all that concerned about cultural or moral decay?

Trump himself is less interesting than the people who appear intent on supporting him. Come Election Day, I don’t think that he will receive a single vote (other than someone who might write his name in the ballot as a joke), but this is why I qualify with the word “appear”. Many commentators and talking-heads will, no doubt, make the case that their support reflects a high degree of “unseriousness” among the American populace.

I understand this argument, but I think that it misses the more pertinent point: These potential voters are not serious when they say they will support Trump, but when they say they will support Trump it reflects the seriousness and anxiety with which they gauge the nation’s challenges.

With spending out-of-control and war on two continents, a large percentage of the population is ready to say that they will take something—anything—other than the status quo. They are serious in the same way as a disturbed individual who only lightly slashes his wrist is serious: such an individual may not have ever meant to kill himself, but he did express genuine misery by his action.

According to Real Clear Politics, Donald Trump currently polls ahead of Mitt Romney at 17%.  Of course, this poll doesn’t mean anything this early in the electoral season.  But it is a considerable rebuke to the governing class who supposedly are serious about the American interest that a large swathe of the populace is willing to tell an online surveyor they support a practical joker for the presidency (and would probably say they would support Ronald McDonald were he to run). 

These elites should take note, because Trump’s popularity indicates that Americans are fast turning into cynical apoliticos and don’t mind saying they would be willing to elect one of their own as president. No one is expressing confidence in Trump, but with every voice that says it would support him, it is a vote of no-confidence in our current political order.

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