I wish I could muster the energy to be surprised that Donald Trump is doing as well as he is — that he is the apparent GOP frontrunner. But from our national obsession with celebrity to our state’s relationship with Gov. Paul LePage, I can’t. I’ve long been used to the idea this was possible.
The conundrum, of course, is that to discuss this frankly is to fuel the fire. That Trump has captured hearts and minds as fervently as he has evokes scenes from “Idiocracy,” the dystopian comedy in which a professional wrestler is president and all interactions are sponsored by corporate brands. Of course, such a comparison sets up Trump and his supporters to write off the media as being out of touch with real people.
I know how this works because it’s nothing new to any Maine-based observer. It is a paradigm perfected by LePage. We think his outrageous behavior will only alienate. Instead, it ends up emboldening his base to the point where his language becomes evidently strategic.
What is especially unsettling is that the frustration and anger that fuel Trump and LePage certainly are valid — just misdirected.
People are frustrated with the media in general, likely because there is legitimately a sense that the billionaires in the highest ranks are more concerned with ratings and entertainment than information. We are, rightfully, skeptical of many corporate news outlets. They helped to sell us the Iraq War. Many of their owners don’t have our best interests in mind. The same feels true of the two political parties, which both present options many associate with specific and alienating dynasties.
The GOP was presenting another Bush as its viable candidate? Are they high?
But many are angry and don’t know what to do next. How do you take on a multibillion-dollar infotainment machine? How do you take down a party system? You could get involved, I guess. But where do we start? Civics class was so long ago, if we even had to take it. Are there alternatives to the media we feel are out of touch?
Oh, we don’t know. We’re overworked and angry and frustrated. Burn it to the ground.
This isn’t to make excuses for Trump’s more hateful supporters, which have been well documented — literally, hate groups. But I know of plenty of people who are angry and frustrated but feel unequipped to do anything, so they’re happy just to tear it down. To them, Trump is the personification of doing exactly this.
If you happen to be a Trump supporter, I humbly ask that you do me one favor before you write me off as being another out-of-touch media elitist. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt — perhaps at the risk of being too generous — and acknowledging that maybe you don’t support him because of the hateful things he has said but because you like that he is sticking it to a system you believe to be out of touch and stacked against hard working people.
I ask you to consider this: Is the best way to burn it all down to throw support behind a billionaire media darling? Is this not a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” or a case of the guerrilla uprising against the dictator paving the way for yet another dictator? After all, the entire operational narrative of consumer corporatism is that you have a problem, and we can sell you a solution.
The sick joke on which this never-ending model is constructed is that the person selling the solution was probably also complicit in creating the problem in the first place. Trump is the very face of this trend.
Don’t allow Trump to make a sucker of you. If you’re angry at the party system and the media and everything that has gotten you to this point — mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore — there are plenty of options for you that don’t involve allowing a rich media personality to use your support to boost his brand. Taking action doesn’t necessitate doubling down on what you purportedly hate.
Trump is a billionaire who, for having been handed a fortune, has done little but merely sustain his wealth. He manipulates the media, profits from the worst parts of capitalism, resonates with hate groups and on and on and on.
That can’t possibly be your anti-establishment messiah, can it? I’m sorry, but that guy is the personification of the system at its very worst. If you’re angry at the media, turn off your TV and support alternatives. If you’re angry at the GOP, don’t vote for its candidates. Write yourself in. Don’t let someone take advantage of your righteous anger as a means of filling his own coffers. That’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing closing in and readying itself for yet another kill.
Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Cornish.