It is often said that appearances can be deceiving. This is nowhere more true than in politics. Many critics of Donald Trump are intent on criticizing the style of his presidency rather than taking on the substance or the content. We all know the litany: Trump is an oaf, he talks dirty, he fights dirty, he hates women, he tweets too much.
It’s completely obvious why the anti-American Left hates Trump. He and his political decisions represent everything that the Left is against: national sovereignty, a strong economy, and individualism, to name a few. Without a doubt, “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is real and it’s pernicious.
What is curious—and bizarre—is not so much that the Left suffers greatly from this disorder but that many self-styled conservative intellectuals seem to have caught the contagion, too. They aren’t called NeverTrumpers for nothing. According to them, everything Trump does is wrong. Even if they agree with Trump on some issues, inevitably they will find some flaw in his presentation. They hate the fact that such a clear and American thought can come from such a man. In the words of Mollie Hemingway, they are united in their belief that “Orange Man Bad.” That is their mantra.
Focusing either on Trump’s personality or what he tweets is an easy way to dismiss him. This kind of criticism is often presented as a way of questioning his morality as a man versus the morality of his actions as president. Generally, critics of Trump like to invoke the maxim that character matters (Roger Kimball superbly addresses this criticism in an excellent piece here at American Greatness).
Yet the same people who criticize Trump with their moralizing seem to have no trouble themselves engaging in outright hate. As Daniel McCarthy points out, “For all their armchair psychoanalyzing the president, it’s hard not to notice the degree to which many of the president’s haters suffer from the very affections they diagnose in him: pathological self-regard, a lack of empathy, intolerance, incuriosity, and red hot rage.”
Although Kimball and McCarthy do not mention this explicitly, their discussion of the president’s character and style suggests another issue central to politics, namely the aesthetics of politics and the presidency. The critics are obsessed with Trump’s style, which they suppose is not in line with how a president should act. But does style equal morality?
The answer, I think, is two-fold. On one hand, a dignified air can be an expression or an extension of an already good and just person. But on the other hand, it can also be a falsehood, a mask that conceals the truth about a person. In other words, the aesthetic expression of a political leader (or any person for that matter) may be beautiful on the surface but also in stark contrast with a deeply unethical character.
More often than not, politics is theater. Many who are involved in it wear a variety of masks, exchanging one for another depending upon the situation. But the current political scene which is driven by the globalist ideology is nothing like the Greek theater in which ethics and aesthetics came together for the purpose of educating its citizenry.
On the contrary, the current political moment is a mise-en-scène in the Theater of the Absurd. Although its purpose was to wake up the slumbering masses, the Theater of the Absurd ultimately wallowed in nihilism, disorientation, deconstruction of beauty, goodness, and truth, and a perpetual feeling of powerlessness without relief.
If we use this as a metaphor for the current political and ideological climate, we see that the actors on this political stage who are fighting Trump have become a bit too comfortable in their costumes and masks. They have worn so many masks that, in Nietzsche’s words, they have infinitely duplicated. The line between the actor and person is impossible to discern. Appearance trumps reality.
Whether or not Trump is aware of this metaphor is irrelevant. What matters is that he understands the difference between the appearance of virtue and its reality. Ever since he became the president of the United States, he consistently has been unmasking the false aesthetics of American and world politics. He speaks clearly, plainly, and truthfully. He may not be eloquent in his speech, but the beauty lies in his affirmation of the order of things and the sovereignty of America.
Yes, Trump fights. Yes, Trump attacks his enemies because they are the enemies of the American people. The truth is, if you want to “drain the swamp,” you have to wade into it and get slimy. The swamp cannot be drained by some dainty pontificating observation from above. It requires thrust and concrete political decisions, not pretty words that in reality promote only the status quo and further destroy America’s founding principles.
It also doesn’t matter whether Trump’s primary motivation is grounded in self-interest and focused on securing his own place and legacy in American history. What matters are his actions themselves and, so far, they have been geared toward the good of this country, her people, and most importantly, the independence of America.
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